These bad boys get the "big fat" prefix because they're usually a bit more dainty than mine when served in Thai or Vietnamese restaurants, where they're also sometimes called Summer Rolls. Whether yours end up bitty or bulging is up to you; either way, they're easy to make and wholly available to improvisation. They'll also impress the pants off of dinner guests or picnic companions. Served alongside my Slow-Cooked Pho, they make for a perfect meal-- light, healthy and satisfying-- and because the Pho essentially cooks itself, you'll have your hands free for stressless fresh roll assembly.

I usually botch the first in a batch, but then muscle memory kicks in and I'm off and rolling. Don't get discouraged by sticky mistakes as you first begin this process. Just take a breath, say "Rice paper is my friend," and get back in the game. You'll get the hang of it, and you'll be glad you powered through. Fresh rolls are simply amazing! I'm really oh-so-excited to introduce them to your summer repertoire.

Click read more for the what and the how.
What You'll Need

  •  One package rice paper wrappers (they might say "spring" or "summer roll wrappers," and come dried, flat and stacked.
  • ½ lb. medium-sized shrimp (about 15 of them), peeled, deveined and cooked in whatever way you like (I saute mine in a dollop of sesame oil, but you can also boil, steam or grill them).
  • A fist-full of dried Pad Thai rice noodles, cooked according to the package's directions
  • 1 bunch each of basil, mint and scallions.
  • 1 cup grated carrots (about 4 or 5)— a food processor will take care of this in seconds… Aaron refers to our Cuisinart as my “hot rod.” I love that thing. If you don’t have a food processor, go get one. They’re like inanimate little soux chefs.
  • 1 red pepper, julienned
  • About ½ c. mung bean sprouts
  • Anything else you want to throw in or substitute—some ideas: thinly sliced tofu, jicama, seeded cucumber, greens… whatever looks good at the farmer’s market.
What You’ll Do

1.       Clear a space on your counter and set up two plates—one for rolling, and one for your finished products. Prep all of your ingredients (everything after the rice paper wrappers above), and set within easy reach of your workspace.

2.       Fill a large bowl with hot water and place beside your plates.

3.       Dip a rice paper wrapper (turning it however you need to so it gets nice and doused) in the water for five or ten seconds. It’ll start to soften, but if it collapses over your hands, you’ve gone too far. Play with a few sacrificial wrappers to find their ballpark happy place.

4.       Lay the softened wrapper flat on your rolling plate. Place a large basil leaf (or two small ones) just a little left of its center, and lay a small amount of each of the remaining ingredients on top of it, arranging them vaguely in the right shape for a fresh roll (see photo above)… Not a circular pile. I usually use about two shrimp per roll.

5.       Fold your rice paper wrapper over the fresh roll’s contents by first folding the top and bottom borders up over the contents, and then grabbing hold of left side, folding that over the two folded flaps, and then carefully rolling the whole shebang over onto the right side of the wrapper. This side will end up covering a good portion of the fresh roll, thereby containing its contents and wrapping job. The rice paper will stick to itself, so you’ll find that this creates a pretty secure little package of yum.    … In the event that your fresh roll insides are falling right out, you’ve probably put a little too much inside, and you need a little more practice rolling. Like I said, you’ll get the hang of it. Give it a couple more tries and then come talk to me.

6.       Serve and enjoy! I serve these with San J Sweet and Tangy Polynesian Dipping Sauce, because it’s easy and bottled and good (feel free to throw me a lifetime’s supply, San J).

Did you make ‘em? Did you improvise or go by the Alt-Mama book? What’d you serve these with? Aren’t you completely in love with Big Fat Fresh Rolls? Me too, mamas, me too.

06/23/2011 14:13

I made these last night, but I used some left-over rice as one of the fillings instead of rice noodles. I had hoisin sauce already so I used that for the dipping sauce. My partner and kids thought I ordered take-out! They all ate their vegetables without even thinking about it... Sometimes it's all about the wrapper. Thanks for making the recipe so easy to follow, and fun to read!


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