We all have that go-to meal – the one Grandma used to make, the one we bring to parties, or the one we whipped up using leftovers that turned out to be a keeper. In this series, we’re sharing our community’s go-to recipes, along with the memories and stories that make them worth making again and again.
We all have a favorite local restaurant that brings us back to a specific time in our lives, creating fond memories while sharing food with friends. For Partner Success Coordinator and Alabama native Caleb L., it’s Pho Lee, a fantastic Vietnamese restaurant frequented during his college days at Auburn. As part of their Sunday night ‘family dinner’ tradition, Caleb and his roommates decided to try making their favorite dish by hand – spring rolls.
“Social cooking has always been an important tradition among my friends. Creating food with people you love really brings you closer together. The first time I tried to roll a spring roll, I was awful! It’s gotten easier over time. I give credit to my roommate, Grace, who taught me real technique,” says Caleb. “Grace introduced me to a whole new world of Asian dishes and seasonings thanks to her Korean heritage. This is a dish with a lot of fresh ingredients, so there is flavor in the spices. I’m really just the sous-chef to her master chef.”
Spring rolls are a fresh, colorful, healthy dish, perfect for a summer night dinner. Part of the fun is assembling them with loved ones and adding your own unique twist. This is a pretty flexible recipe, and you can mix and match the ingredients to your taste. In Caleb’s case, that means opting for salmon rather than the traditional shrimp and adding bell peppers for extra crunch. While it’s fun to experiment with different toppings like cucumber and avocado, Caleb’s classic spring roll isn’t complete without vermicelli noodles, lettuce, shredded cabbage and carrots.
“My biggest technique tip is to take it slow. When assembling your spring roll, keep the roll as tight as possible, pulling the ingredients towards you as you wrap over them,” says Caleb. “Part of the fun is finding humor in the difficulty and accepting it might not look perfect every time. Especially with your first roll, that will be your trial one and that’s okay. Accept the flaws, then eat them!”
Vietnamese-Style Spring Rolls (Gỏi cuốn)
Makes 6-8 rolls
Caleb says: When it comes time to roll, have the lettuce closest to you on top of the rice paper. Add the smaller ingredients inside the lettuce, followed by the larger ones (like your fish), then slowly roll away from yourself. When you get to the end of the roll, tuck the two end corners (just as you would a burrito) before you finish rolling. And ta da! Spring has sprung.
- Core Ingredients
- 2 cups of vermicelli rice noodles
- 6-8 rice paper wrappers
- 1 filet of salmon
- 1 dozen cooked and peeled shrimp
- 6-8 large lettuce leaves
- Optional Ingredients
- 1 avocado
- 1 half red cabbage, chopped
- 1 cup carrot, shredded or julienned
- 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 cucumber, thinly sliced
- Herbs & Spices
- Gochujang, Korean chili paste
- Chili powder
- Garlic powder
- 1 bunch of cilantro or basil, chopped
- 1 bunch green onion, diced
- 1 lemon or lime, juiced
- Chop your chosen vegetables. Lay them out in individual bowls for easy assembly.
- Bring water to a boil in a pot, seasoned with chili paste and a pinch of sugar, to taste.
- Add vermicelli noodles, allow to boil for ~2 minutes until soft. Move noodles to pan and fry until lightly browned.
- Caleb tip: I like to throw some ice in the pan, so they cool while I’m preparing the meat.
- Season filet of salmon with chili paste and garlic, to taste. Add a small amount of oil to a pan. Sear salmon on medium heat until slightly toasted but still pink. Squeeze citrus juice on top of salmon as it cooks. Cut salmon into a 1 inch by 1-inch chunks.
- Fill a large dish with warm water. Slide the rice paper into the water, starting at one side until the entire paper is coated in water and the texture has softened. Spread your hands evenly under the paper, remove from water and stretch over separate preparation plate.
- Place lettuce at the bottom edge of the rice paper and fill with a handful of vermicelli noodles. Lay 2-3 pieces of salmon or shrimp laterally on the rice paper, above the lettuce (further from your body). Fill space around meat with toppings such as avocado, cabbage, carrots, bell pepper, basil or cilantro as desired.
- Starting at the end closest to you, roll the rice paper along with the lettuce, wrapping vermicelli into the lettuce. Wrap and fold the remaining ingredients on top of the lettuce. Before reaching the end of the rice paper, tuck the ends (burrito style) wrapping them into a completed spring roll.
- Caleb tip: If you’ve handled with care, you should have a nice display of brightly colored ingredients visible through the rice paper!
- Top spring roll with green onion and sriracha for an added kick. Pair the rolls with a small bowl of peanut sauce (or sauce of your choice) for dipping, and enjoy!
Got a burning question for Caleb? Comment below!