The first dinner party Steph and I ever hosted was a rice paper roll night! I remember Steph being very relaxed while I was the complete opposite. It was the first time we had ever done something like this, so I was naturally a train wreck. Rather than make the rolls ourselves, we chose to lay out all the prepared ingredients then encouraged everyone to make their own rolls with of course a demo from yours truly. And…. it was a success! Our friends were smashing roll after roll. In between rolls people would look around and laugh at all the failed attempts at a simple roll. By the end of it, many belts had to be loosened and recently acquired food babies had to be nursed away!
Ever since that day this dish has become my “go to” meal for parties and pot luck dinners. It is a very versatile dish. It can be tailored for carnivores, omnivores and vegans. It can also be served as finger food, a starter or a main. I strongly recommend this to anyone new to hosting dinners, since absolutely everything can be prepared beforehand. This creates a stress-free environment where you can enjoy the company of your guests without having to worry about the cooking.
Before I created this post I googled rice paper rolls for some inspiration and was astonished to see the number of variations people had created. The fastest growing trend that was clearly popular with the foodies was rainbow rolls. These rolls were filled with colourful raw vegetables, arranged in a way to look like a piece of artwork. Admittedly, I was impressed by the visual aspect of it all but was a bit sceptical of the taste.
Hence, this is partly the reason I am putting my rice paper roll recipe up on the blog. My rolls are not overly colourful, nor are they a work of art. But I can assure you they will deliver on taste. My recipe consists of pork, prawn, rice noodles and a lot of veg. I use a hoisin dipping sauce instead of the traditional nuoc mam because I prefer it sweet but not tangy with this dish. But in all honesty, rice paper rolls are one of those foods where you make it however you like it. I personally love a lot of rice noodles in mine which I get ridiculed for since it is the cheapest ingredient out of the lot! So, why don’t you give it a go and find out what makes your ultimate rice paper roll.
Vietnamese Traditional Rice Paper Rolls - Goi Cuon
- Roughly 1.5 L of water for boiling
- 400 – 500 gm pork belly rashers (see Note 3 and 4)
- 15 – 20 cooked prawns of your choice (see Note 4 and 5)
- 240 gm of dried dongguan rice vermicelli
- 1 head of butter lettuce
- 1 continental cucumber, cut into strips
- 1 bunch of Thai basil
- 1 bunch of coriander
- 1 packet of bean sprouts
- 1 packet of rice paper
- 1 bunch of garlic chives
- 1 bunch of mint
- 2 mangoes, cut into strips
- 1 can of chopped pineapple
Hoisin Dipping Sauce (Preferred)
- 2 cups of reserved pork stock (water used to cook pork) (see Note 4)
- 1 cup of hoisin sauce
- 1/2 a tsp palm vinegar or white vinegar
- 1 tbsp of water
- 3 tsp of cornstarch
Nuoc Mam Dipping Sauce (Traditional)
Please see my Nuoc Mam blog post.
Preparing the filling
- Add the water to a pot and bring to the boil.
- Rinse the pork under a tap and add it to the pot of boiling water. Allow the pork to boil for 15 – 20 mins or until cooked.
- Peel the cooked prawns, then cut each prawn in half length ways with a sharp knife and remove the vein (see Note 1).
- Take the pork out of the pot, reserving the stock. Once the pork is cool enough to handle, cut into thin slices.
- Strain the pork stock and add the pork slices to the pot on a low setting. This will keep the meat warm and moist before serving.
- Wash and prepare the vegetables / herbs. Use a salad spinner to remove excess water or pat dry with a paper towel.
- In a pot, boil plenty of water and cook the rice vermicelli noodles as directed by the packaging. Once cooked, drain and leave aside to cool. Do not rinse the noodles.
Making the hoisin dipping sauce
- Add the pork stock to a fresh pot on medium – low heat.
- Add the hoisin and vinegar and stir through until completely dissolved.
- In a small bowl combine the water and cornstarch and stir until completely dissolved.
- Add the cornstarch mixture to the sauce pot and stir until the sauce starts boiling.
- Take off the heat and put aside.
(See also slideshow above.)
- In large bowls add half cold water and half boiling water. Soften the rice paper by submerging it for a few seconds in the water (see Note 2).
- Place the noodles towards the bottom of the rice paper.
- Top with the meat and vegetables.
- Roll the rice paper from the bottom and upwards.
- Once you’ve rolled over the filling, fold in the sides then continue rolling all the way to the top.
- My tip for cutting prawns in half is to have the tail pointing away from the knife and positioned towards your body. Pinch the the two ends of the prawn together and begin cutting the prawn through the backside. Be careful of your fingers as the knife cuts through the tail. Try to use a freshly sharpened medium sized kitchen knife and avoid using any knife with a serrated edge.
- Do not over saturate the rice paper. It will cause the rice paper to wilt too much and lose its elasticity. The rice paper will continue to soften once you take it out of the water.
- For a leaner option, substitute pork belly with leaner cuts of pork, or use chicken breast.
- For a vegetarian option, substitute fresh fried tofu for the pork and prawn. Replace the pork stock with plain water when making the sauce. Unfortunately, there is no vegetarian option with nuoc mam since it is based on fish sauce.
- If you decide to roll the rice paper rolls for your guests or for a potluck dinner, then use baking paper as the divider. It is very important that you do not let them touch each other or you may find you have created the world’s largest rice paper roll.
- If you want to keep costs down, then omit the prawns and replace with more pork or chicken. This will significantly reduce the overall cost of this dish.