Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls Are Fresh, Healthy Snack

The impossibly thin rice paper covering enveloping seasonal fresh vegetables, herbs like Vietnamese basil, coriander and mint plus a protein like seafood, meat or tofu – Vietnamese Summer Roll is a marvel of engineering. Logic says that such a minute sheet of rice shouldn’t be able to encase so much flavour and texture, and yet there they are. Though they look simple, the amount of technique that goes into creating the right balance of textures and contrasting flavours is an art form in itself, and when done correctly, a bite feels like so much more than the sum of its parts. 

But even though the flavours in the modern summer roll are very identifiable as Vietnamese, their origin actually is much further afield, in China to be precise. As you might have guessed, Summer Rolls are actually an offshoot of Chinese Spring Rolls – a snack created to celebrate the Lunar New Year and the coming of spring.

China may be the starting point, but this dish has come a long way since. The flavours and seasonal vegetables used are very typically Vietnamese and differ considerably from region to region. For example, rice paper in Hanoi tends to be thinner and more delicate, but in the south of Vietnam, it’s thicker and chewier because of the addition of tapioca starch.

The dipping sauces also vary from region to region with the north favouring a mix of fish sauce, lime, garlic, chilli and water, central Vietnam opting for a peanut sauce and the sauce leaning more towards pungent sauces with fermented bean paste and fermented anchovies. 

Even though it may not be historically Vietnamese, there’s no doubt that the Summer Roll is culturally Vietnamese and a treasured part of global cuisine.


  • 60 gms rice vermicelli 
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 cup lettuce, chopped
  • 1 cup very thinly sliced red cabbage
  • 2 medium carrots, julienned
  • 2 cucumbers, julienned
  • 2 medium jalapeños, ribs and seeds removed, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced green onions
  • ¼ cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
  • ¼ cup roughly chopped fresh mint
  • 8 sheets of rice paper 


  • Bring a pot of water to boil and cook the noodles just until al dente. Drain, rinse them under cool water, and return them to the pot. Off the heat, toss the noodles with the sesame oil and salt, and set them aside.
  • Fill a shallow plate with an inch of water. 
  • Combine the green onion, cilantro and mint in a small bowl, and stir.
  • Place one piece of rice paper in the water and let it rest for about 20 seconds, carefully lay it flat on a towel.
  • Leaving about 1 inch of open rice paper around the edges, cover the lower third of the paper with a few pieces of butter lettuce, followed by a small handful of rice noodles, some cabbage, and a few strips of carrot, cucumber and jalapeño. Sprinkle generously with the herb mix.
  • Fold the lower edge up over the fillings, rolling upward just until the filling is compactly enclosed. Fold over the short sides and roll it up. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.