Ever notice that customizing your food makes it taste better? There's something about being involved in the process and making choices for yourself... it's no wonder places like Chipotle and Yogurtland are doing gangbusters. So why not use this basic human psychology for your next lunch party? After the jump, see how to put together a Vietnamese Summer Roll spread so people can make their own, maybe learn something new and definitely have a blast!
First, you'll need to assemble your ingredients, most of which you can buy in a regular grocery store except the wrappers and rice noodles.
The Herbs: Green Onion, Mint, Basil, Cilantro Other options: chives, parsley, perilla leaves
The prep involves a lot of chopping and cooking different components, but is pretty straightforward - just boil the noodles per the directions on the package, julienne the vegetables, rinse and chop the herbs and cook the protein with simple salt and pepper seasoning.
Put everything out in pretty bowls on a long table. At the head of the table, set up two pie pans filled 3/4 full with hot (but not boiling) water and the dry spring roll wrappers. It's helpful to have a kettle of simmering water going so you can top off the pie pans when the water cools to lukewarm.
Here's how to prepare the wrappers for wrapping!
1) Fill round pie or cake pans with water that is very hot but that you're able to put your fingers in without getting burned.
2) Submerge each wrapper in the hot water for 20-30 seconds until it just starts to soften.
3) Use both hands to carefully lift the wrapper out of the water and transfer immediately to a flat dinner plate. Don't worry if there are a few stiff areas, the wrapper will continue to soften as it sits on the plate.
Now it's time to wrap! I like to put EVERYTHING in my summer rolls but here's where you and your guests can go crazy with your customization. Just pile everything near the bottom of the wrapper, roll up tightly halfway, fold the sides in and continue to roll (just like a burrito). I like to start with the shrimp, then follow with herbs and lettuce so that the shrimp shows prettily through the wrapper. Your first few rolls may not look perfect, but they'll taste great =)
Finally, put out some hoisin sauce and spicy peanut sauce (recipe via TheKitchn) to dip your creations. Encourage your guests to try different combinations of meats, vegetables and herbs. Hold a little contest for the prettiest and ugliest summer rolls. Have fun!