Our buddy Leo is Filipino. Back when Neil and I were in college, Leo would welcome us to his house and cook an amazing homemade Filipino meal every time we visited. Some of the most memorable dishes were fried plantains, paella, and fresh spring rolls. I had spring rolls at Vietnamese restaurants, but never really understood the art and time that is poured into these beautiful rolls before meeting Leo. He taught that they’re not that hard to roll once you get the hang of it. First, you want to make sure your mise en place is set up properly. Hot water, rice sheets (found at most global or asian grocery stores stores), cooked chicken (or other protein), and plenty of veg.
Place the rice sheet in a bowl and pour hot water over it. Let it soak for about one minute, using your fingers (don’t burn yourself!) to carefully loosen it up in the water.
Once again, I should have gotten a manicure before shooting this post. Sorry, y’all.
Next, lay the wilted rice paper out on a flat surface. I know, it looks weird, it feels weird, let’s just acknowledge it now and get over it.
Okay! Moving on. Lay it out on a flat surface and begin to build your wrap.
The sky is the limit here. We always include some sort of protein (most often chicken), and various crunchy veggies for a nice contrast in textures. The next few pictures could be presented in flip book format. (Ah, I used to LOVE flip books!) For this recipe we used chicken,
… and cilantro. Again, the sky’s the limit. Kale, sprouts, roasted pork, bacon, sauces, whatever. Load it up!
Then it’s time for the most technical part of the spring roll- WRAPPING. Welcome to How to Wrap 101. If you’re a perfectionist when it comes to holiday gift wrapping, you will be a pro at this. If not, well, keep practicing. Okay, starting at the bottom of the wrapper, bring it up to the middle of the wrap and around your fillings.
Tuck it in tightly. If your wrapper is sticking, simply rub it with a bit more hot water to help it along.
Next, grab each side corner of the wrap and bring them toward the middle, sticking them down as close to the middle as the filling will let you stretch.
If you can, meet both sides in the middle and press gently so the rice paper sticks to itself.
Finally, as you roll the spring roll over itself, tuck in the ingredients very tightly. Fold until all of the wrapper is rolled.
Place each spring roll on a plate and cover each layer with a damp paper towel to separate and keep fresh. Serve with our peanut sauce. This sauce has been featured in a few of our recipes, and honestly, I could take a bath in it. It’s the perfect combination of creamy and sweet, finished with a hint of heat.
Fresh Spring Rolls with Peanut Sauce
For the Spring Rolls:
20 rice paper sheets
1 lb. chicken tenders
1 red pepper, 1/2″ thick strips
1 cucumber, 1/2″ thick strips
1 carrots, 1/2″ thick strips (shredded carrots work well also)
1 handful cilantro, chopped
For the Peanut Sauce:
1 cup smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon red pepper flake (optional)
1 lime, juiced
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
5-10 tablespoons hot water (until desired consistency is reached)
Preheat oven to 350°. Place all chicken tenders on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook 15-20 minutes until cooked through. Cool and cut into thin (1/2″-ish) strips.
Set up the mis en place (bowl of chicken, red pepper, cucumber, carrot, cilantro). Place one rice paper sheet in a shallow bowl and cover with hot water (about 150°) for one minute. Use your fingers to move the rice paper around and loosen the gluten. Once wilted, place on a flat surface (a cutting board works well).
Place chicken, red pepper, carrot, cucumber, cilantro, and any other toppings just below the center of the rice paper. To fold the roll, first bring the bottom of the roll to the center and around the ingredients. Tightly tuck the wrap under the ingredients. Next, bring outside left and right edges of the wrap to the center and gently press. Roll the wrap forward over itself to complete the wrapping process. Press all edges of the wrap to seal.
To make peanut sauce, place all ingredients except water in a food processor and blend. Add hot water one tablespoon at a time and continue to blend until desired consistency is reached. Some like a thicker sauce, some prefer a thinner sauce.
Dunk spring rolls in the sauce. Repeat. Makes about 20 spring rolls.