Summer Rolls / Spring Rolls

July 24, 2022 at 4:32 pm (Alma's faves, B plus (3.5 stars, like a lot), Cruciferous rich, East and SE Asia, Monthly menu plan: dinner, My brain, Quick weeknight recipe, Salads, Spring recipes, Summer recipes, Tofu, Winter recipes) (, )

Summer rolls (the non-fried rolls, which we usually just refer to as spring rolls) are delicious, healthy, fresh, kid-friendly, and most importantly, a perfect springtime antidote to winter-induced “vegetarian mush syndrome.” It’s amazing how quickly spring rolls can be made. If I restrain myself, and prepare only a few items for fillings, I can have dinner on the table in under 15 minutes. (Of course, depending on how many fillings you make it could take hours!)

Spring rolls are versatile as well. Although they’re typically served as appetizers, I generally use them as a main course. My sister was visiting recently and when I told her I was making spring rolls for dinner she was skeptical that they would be filling / satisfying enough for a main course, but after she tried them she was pleasantly surprised. Spring rolls also work well as a light snack, and they can be made the night before and packed in a lunch box. You can also prep some fillings and sauce and leave them in your fridge for several days, making yourself a spring roll whenever you need a quick bite to eat. Alternatively, if you have leftover filling and don’t want to make spring rolls again, just throw them in a salad.

Update Jan 2023

Ever since we had spring rolls at our neighbor’s house back in 2020 we’ve been making spring rolls part of our regular lunch and dinner rotation. I put a cake pan out with some water in it, a stack of spring rolls, and various fillings, and everyone rolls their own.

Alma (at 8 years old) prefers the following fillings:

  • tofu, sliced into rectangles and pan-fried, then cut with scissors into thin strips
  • bell pepper, julienned
  • cucumber, julienned
  • carrots, julienned
  • peanut sauce (I often make this Cookie and Kate recipe)
  • a little bit of fresh mint

Other fillings Alma sometimes adds:

  • apple, julienned
  • pomegranate
  • edamame
  • basil
  • crushed peanuts

My favorite/essential fillings:

  • tofu, as prepared above
  • mint
  • assorted julienned raw veggies (I’m not so picky. I like anything that adds crunch, including carrots, bell peppers, cucumbers, green and red cabbage, radishes, kohlrabi, bean sprouts, ….)
  • peanut sauce or other tangy sauce (like the zucchini dressing I posted a while back)
  • avocado, cut into thin strips (not strictly essential but I like the creaminess it adds a lot)
  • toasted sesame seeds (not as essential as the ingredients above, but really tasty)
  • lettuce (not essential, but a very nice addition)

I add these ingredients less often but I sometimes include one or more of the following ingredients:

  • basil
  • cooked cabbage (often cabbage cooked with miso and scallions)
  • shiitake mushrooms (cooked with soy sauce and sesame oil and seeds)
  • scallions
  • winter squash baked in a miso glaze (very yummy, but takes a bit longer to prep than the other ingredients)

Derek doesn’t really love spring rolls, so he often just eats the filling with a sauce in a bowl. If I have leftover rice or pasta he will add that to his bowl.

If you are worried about the spring rolls not being filling enough, I suggest providing at least one cooked option as a filling, like sautéed cabbage with miso and scallions. If you’re serving mostly cold or lighter fillings, then you might try starting your meal with a bowl of soup, maybe sweet and sour soup or tom yum or miso soup.

Our typical combinations mostly stick to an east asian theme, but I imagine Indian, Ethiopian, and even Mexican fillings could also be delicious. Think outside the wrapper. If anyone has any creative filling ideas to share, please post a comment below.

Update Feb 28, 2020

Wow, I can’t believe it’s been 13 years since I’ve updated this post! Our neighbors invited us over for spring rolls a few weeks ago and it was such a nice dinner! I forgot how fun it is to have spring rolls for dinner. They had tofu and shiitake mushrooms and vermicelli rice noodles, but also a number of non-traditional fillings, including a simple salad made from grated celery root and grated apple. It was so refreshing. Hit the spot. I made a peanut sauce (following this Cookie and Kate recipe I think). Everyone liked it except Alma.

Then tonight I was trying to figure out what to make for dinner, and I had a little tofu to use up, a ton of grated cabbage, and some mint. I thought “Spring Rolls!” I cooked most of the cabbage with a carrot, roughly following this recipe for cabbage with miso. (I didn’t have any scallions though.) I left a little cabbage raw, cut up a red bell pepper, pan-fried the tofu into long strips, got the sprouts out of the fridge, and whipped together a peanut sauce. Alma quite enjoyed the spring rolls. She wouldn’t try the peanut sauce though (despite loving the peanut sauce at an Indonesian restaurant we went to this past week). She finally tried the mint in her last spring roll. Derek said the spring rolls were very tasty. He especially loved the fresh mint and the peanut sauce (which is good because I have a lot of peanut sauce left over.)

Update Dec 24, 2007

I decided to make some vegetable soup for dinner, and started sautéing a leek and 8 ounces of mushrooms in a little olive oil. It looked so good, however, I was hesitant to dilute it by adding more veggies and making soup. So I added a little white wine and some butter, along with salt and pepper (sort of like Kaya’s white wine french style medley. It was delicious, but a little rich and strong tasting to eat by itself. Derek suggested serving it over pasta, but the veggies were done and I didn’t really want to wait 20 minutes for water to heat and pasta to cook. When eyeing the pasta, however, I spied my spring roll wrappers, and the solution was obvious. The leeks and mushrooms made delicious, if somewhat sloppy, spring rolls. The filling was enough for 4 large, quite filling rolls.  Two made a tasty dinner, with a little raw tofu with yeast and soy sauce on the side. I think this combo would also make a nice winter appetizer, perhaps with just a touch of something fresh, maybe scallions. Next time, however, I’d cook the liquid down more so that the spring rolls don’t drip (ooze?) quite so much.

Update May 25, 2006: I made spring rolls for Derek and his parents and served it with the carrot ginger dressing, and everyone enjoyed that combo. When Katrina came over we made a peanut sauce from my co-op days. I thought the peanut sauce was delicious, but that it did overpower the spring rolls a bit. I couldn’t really taste the filling as well. Also, the peanut sauce did not go with avocado I though. Also, this time I couldn’t taste the sesame seeds as well, but this might be because I didn’t toast them enough. They need to really get dark I think.

Original post from May 9, 2006

Today I decided to try an allergy-free spring roll version for dinner. I made four large spring rolls:

  • 1/8 cabbage, shredded, raw
  • 1/8 cabbage, briefly sautéed in veg. broth
  • 3 shiitake mushrooms and 5 crimini mushrooms, sautéed in veg. broth
  • 1 Tbs. toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 scallion
  • 8 sprigs watercress
  • 1 radish, julienned
  • 1/3 avocado

The spring rolls turned out great. They were big and satisfying, with great flavor. I was worried about not having a soy- or peanut-based dipping sauce, but turns out they had enough flavor on their own. The essential ingredients for the flavor were 1) the sesame seeds 2) the shiitake mushrooms 3) the avocado 4) salt. It’s essential to salt the cooked mushrooms and cabbage well if you’re not using a dipping sauce. The other ingredients added crunch but less flavor. The only addition I didn’t like was the watercress, since it’s kind of stringy and is hard to bite through. They might be fine without the stems, and chopped, however.

A tip for serving: if you’re going to have people roll then own, then give them separate little bowls for any sauces you serve. Otherwise the sauce get’s all over their plate and makes a mess when they try to make their spring rolls. Or better yet, tell them to put the sauce inside their spring roll!

Rating: B

As written here, this isn’t a very spring-like recipe, but if you use spring carrots, baby green onions, fresh sprouts, spring mushrooms, and delicate spring greens you can make lovely spring rolls, truly deserving of the name. Also, they will be extremely fast to prepare.

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