In an effort to use some of the Thai basil that I grew this year and have not had a chance to use yet, I made fresh spring rolls a few weeks ago. It was one of the hardest recipes I’ve ever attempted. If you attempt this at home, you’ll want to get all your ingredients ready to go before you start rolling. Boil water in a soup pot on the stove while you get everything ready to go.
My spring rolls included medium shrimp (cooked and cut in halves down the center), avocado (thinly sliced), lettuce leaves (iceberg works best), Thai basil and mint leaves, Taiwan style Bean Thread (also known as cellophane noodles), and Spring Roll Skin (also found in Asian section).
Once you have staged all your ingredients, you can prepare your first Spring Roll Skin. They are round like a tortilla but stiff, translucent and very fragile. Handling these was the hardest part of the recipe. Submerge the skin in the boiling water for about 10-15 seconds. Remove it from the water using tongs or a spoon without letting it stick to itself if possible. The skin will be very hot and you will have to be gentle as you flatten it out on a clean surface and get it ready for the fillings. Try not to tear it.
Begin placing your ingredients on the skin about two-thirds of the way down. The easiest way to get all your ingredients to fit neatly in to the skin is to wrap it in a leaf of iceberg lettuce. So place maybe three or four shrimp halves, a few slices of avocado, a pinch of noodles and a few basil and mint leaves into a leaf of lettuce on the spring roll skin. Then roll it like a burrito.
I tried a different approach on my first time making these, using shredded romaine instead and rolling the ingredients in gradually, but the skin is very fragile and so too much tugging will tear the paper. Once you’ve successfully tucked all the ends, place the spring roll on a plate or something. Do not let the rolls touch one another until they’ve dried or they will stick to one another and tear when separated.
For my sauce, I mixed Hoisin sauce with some peanut butter, soy sauce, chicken broth and chili sauce (the kind that looks like pepper flake jelly…you’ll find it in the Asian section). This creation was almost as good as my favorite Thai restaurant, Flavors of Asia, but for the amount of work and the cost of the ingredients, I think next time I’ll probably consider paying the $4 for two spring rolls from Flavors rather than go through this painstaking process. Here’s a video to help you along the way.