Prep Time 5'PT5M
Total Time 10'PT10M
Our Vietnamese-inspired vegan summer rolls are light, flavourful and quick to put together. Serve with our tasty bergamot dressing for a refreshing final touch.
Spring, summer or all seasons?
The official name for these light and delicate rolls is Gỏi cuốn. They are a traditional Vietnamese dish. Although there are many different varieties from region to region, they all have a few things in common.
The key components seem to be a range of brightly coloured, crunchy raw vegetables and other fillings, wrapped neatly in rice paper.
Unlike some other delicious foods, summer rolls are also blessed with good looks. The translucent rice paper reveals the rainbow vegetables and herbs within. The whole dish looks just as fresh and aromatic as it tastes.
In the West, Gỏi cuốn go by a few different names. Curiously, they are called both spring and summer rolls, according to different people. To avoid confusion with the much-loved deep-fried version of Chinese spring rolls, we’ve gone with summer rolls here. However we also think it's a better reflection of the flavour. This is exactly what you want to eat on a hot day: substantial, yet somehow also light, fresh and cooling.
Much like our Hawaiian poke bowl recipe, our vegan summer rolls are inspired by a dish which is usually made with fish (or meat).
If you’d like to add in some extra protein to your dish, you could easily add in prawns or pork, the two most traditional fillings.
However, summer rolls don’t need a meat component; in actual fact, they’re really all about the vegetables. To add in a bit of extra flavour and texture, here we’ve chosen to add in some sliced plums which add a lovely sweet element.
A handful of chopped nuts adds texture and protein. Here, we’ve chosen almonds, but peanuts would also be a great choice if you’re not sensitive to them.
You might be wondering why the summer roll itself doesn’t contain any dressing or sauce. The reason is because the rolls are so delicate that too much moisture immediately causes them to fall apart. Worse still, leaving the rice paper exposed to too much moisture for too long results in a gummy texture.
Hence, the two components of the dish - the rolls and the dressing - should be kept apart until the moment of eating.
The dressing is just as important a component of the meal as the summer roll itself. It’s imperative to choose a light, zesty flavour to complement the fresh veg. Ours, which is made with orange juice and our Organic Bergamot Juice, brings the flavours bursting into life!
As mentioned in the recipe itself, you will need a little bit of sweetness to balance out the acidity of the citrus. We’ve used rice syrup here as it’s quite often used in Asian dishes, however you could swap it for honey, maple syrup or date paste.
One thing to bear in mind is that rice syrup has a very high glycemic index (GI) score. For reference, the score rates foods between 0 and 100 for how much they raise your blood sugar after eating.
Rice syrup scores a whopping 98 out of 100 on the GI scale.(1) Therefore we recommend that, if you are trying to maintain a steady blood sugar level, you switch to honey, which scores 58, or maple syrup which comes in at 54.(2)(3)
Handling rice paper
If you haven’t used it before, rice paper can take a little white to get used to. You can find it in larger supermarkets or in specialist or Asian grocers. In the packet, they look like very thin, rigid white discs, with almost the consistency of a wafer.
They’re often given a patterned texture, which disappears when they come into contact with water.
When dry, rice paper is very brittle and snaps very easily, so handle with care!
There are a few different methods for softening rice paper. Some chefs prefer to dip their fingertips in water and pat the liquid over the rice paper. However that can leave some drier areas which - you guessed it - snap when you try to roll them up!
We prefer simply dropping them into a bowl of warm water, which ensures all the rice paper is covered evenly. This way, you’ll get a nice, even roll.
Watch out: there are lots of different brands of rice paper out there, and they do take slightly different times to soften. If you’re new to rice paper, we recommend erring on the side of caution. If your rice paper isn’t soft enough, you can always put it back in the water.
However, if it has stayed in the water too long and become gummy, there is - alas - not much that can be done with it.
Luckily, there are usually a few more rice paper discs in the pack than you need, so you can always have a ‘practice run’ before you start making your rolls.
Soak one disc at a time. If you pop them all in the water at once, they will inevitably stick together and become impossible to separate.
Erbology Bergamot Juice
You would be correct in thinking that bergamot is more of a Mediterranean than an Asian fruit. However the traditional dressing for summer rolls often involves a punchy citrus flavour (think lime, lemon or yuzu). Bergamot brings an aromatic flavour all of its own, creating a rather special ‘fusion’ dish.
If you haven’t tried it before, it has a flavour a bit like bitter orange. It has a wonderful flavour and fragrance, which explains why bergamot oil has been prized in perfumery for hundreds of years.
Bergamot juice is high in vitamin C, which has all sorts of benefits for your health. It helps support your immune system, acts as an antioxidant and can even help you build collagen to keep your skin plump and bouncy.
We love using it in zesty dressings like this one, or try mixing with olive oil for a rapid salad dressing.
Alternatively, it makes a lovely drink, either on its own or poured into still or sparkling water. It would lend itself brilliantly to a summery cooler, such as our bergamot cocktail.
With your summery drink in one hand and these vegan summer rolls in another, you’ll feel as though you’ve been transported to sunnier climes - whether or not the weather is cooperating!Mains