Vietnamese summer rolls rightfully earn their name—the combination of fresh greens, tangy pickles, and grilled seafoods or meats that fill their thin rice wrappers certainly delivers seasonal flavors.
For these particular summer rolls, I marinated shrimp in a ubiquitous Vietnamese combination of fish sauce, sugar, garlic, and black pepper. Next I grilled the shrimp over high heat until just cooked through, then laid three out on top of a softened sheet of rice paper. I then topped each with quick pickled daikon, carrot, and cucumber, followed by rice vermicelli, bibb lettuce, cilantro, and mint and wrapped them up. I repeated that for the all shrimp I grilled and then served them alongside a peanut dipping sauce.
The shrimp had a slight salty and briny flavor from the marinade, with a touch of added sweetness. They served as a light base that got a lot of freshness from the herbs and lettuce, and a contrasting tang and crunch from the pickles. They were fine on their own, but even better when dipped into the nutty peanut sauce that heightened their complexity and added the right amount of extra moisture to really make them awesome.
Why this recipe works:
- A fish sauce, sugar, and garlic marinade adds a sweet and salty flavor to the shrimp
- Quick pickled cucumber, carrot, and daikon give these rolls a tangy crunch
- Lettuce, mint, and cilantro provide a contrasting freshness to the shrimp and pickles
- For the Quick Pickles
- 1 cup rice vinegar
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 hothouse cucumber, julienned
- 1 medium carrot, julienned
- 1 small daikon, julienned
- For the Marinade
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon water
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons freshly minced garlic, about 2 medium cloves
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 24 medium shrimp (about 2/3 lb), shelled, deveined, and tails removed
- 4 oz rice vermicelli
- 8 8-inch rIce spring roll wrappers
- 1 large bunch fresh mint, washed and dried
- 1 large bunch fresh cilantro, washed and dried
- 1 head Bibb lettuce, washed and dried
- 8 wooden skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes prior to use
- Type of fire: Direct
- Grill heat: medium-high
To make the pickles: Whisk together vinegar and sugar in a small bowl. Place cucumber, carrot, daikon in a jar or container. Pour in enough vinegar and sugar mixture to fully submerge vegetables. Cover and let stand for at least one hour, or transfer to refrigerator for up to a week.
To make the marinade: Whisk together fish sauce, water, sugar, garlic, and black pepper in a small bowl. Place shrimp in a resealable plastic bag and pour in marinade. Seal bag and place in refrigerator while preparing vermicelli and grill.
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add in vermicelli and cook for 3 minutes. Drain in colander and run under cold water. Set aside.
Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over entire surface of coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Skewer shrimp and place on grill. Grill skewered shrimp over direct heat until shrimp are opaque and cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer shrimp to platter and remove from skewers.
Fill a large, shallow bowl with hot water. Place 1 spring roll wrapper in water and let soak until soft and pliable, about 15 seconds. Transfer wrapper to a work surface. Place 3 shrimp in center of wrapper and top with lettuce, vermicelli, pickles, a few mint leaves, and a few sprigs of cilantro. Fold bottom of wrapper over filling, fold over sides around filling, then roll wrapper shut. Repeat with remaining 7 wrappers. Serve immediately.