Spring Roll Lessons

Since we filmed the first Three Many Cooks video during a Nor’easter I was half expecting another disaster the day Diane Chu and Todd Porter filmed our second one.

Instead, their red-eye landed at Kennedy on a clear, sunny late September morning. It was warm with an almost undetectable chill in the air. After a little rest from their long flight, I thought Todd and Diane would be ready to start work. As it turns out, they were. If you didn’t know better, though, you’d have sworn they were asking us on a play date.

All afternoon we talked a lot, got to know one another, told some jokes—even got a little raunchy. We cooked a little, laughed a lot. Mid-afternoon, Diane suddenly got bright-eyed and with child-like enthusiasm said, “Let’s make fresh spring rolls!”

When you’ve got someone offering to shop and give you a free cooking lesson, you just say, “Yes!” We made a shopping list and in a flash, we’re all making fresh spring rolls (uh…some better than others).

At first I felt like Steve Martin spastically clapping and singing off-key in The Jerk, but Todd and Diane are good teachers. They complimented all our lumpy uneven efforts while confidently demonstrating the right technique so that eventually we caught on to making these pretty little rolls.

I know they’re called “spring” or “summer” rolls, but I’m thinking these light, fresh nibbles are right for the upcoming fall and winter holidays too. Just look at them. They’re light, fresh, colorful, (LO-CAL!).

If you’re serving raw vegetable and dip platter this holiday, fresh spring rolls are way better. There’s no comparing a baby carrot dunked in Ranch and a fresh spring roll dipped in hoisin sauce. Think some of your crowd might be a little spring roll shy? I purposely tested them on a confirmed picky eater—notorious vegetable hater even. He devoured them.

Todd and Diane (pictured left) are vegetable spring roll pros. Fortunately I’m not, so I worked out an assembly method that will work for the less-confident.

Some rice papers are thinner than others, making them more difficult to work with. The longer the rice paper has been soaked, the more fragile it is and therefore easier to tear. Rather than soak the rice paper in warm water and then start assembly, I found it easier to build the filling (see illo), set it on the just-soaked rice paper, then roll. If you didn’t roll the filling tight enough the first time, simply roll it in a second sheet of rice paper!

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  1. Maggy says

    I never thought I would be able to make fresh spring rolls, but honestly – it’s no harder than rolling up a burrito. These are delicious and healthy and are always gone in a flash, so be sure to make a lot!

  2. Cherie says

    I love summer/fresh spring rolls. I make them all the time in the summer. The mint is absolutely necessary for this dish, and, for a not-so-lo-cal twist, add a slice of avocado. Yum!

    • Maggy says

      Hey Dorothy,

      For now the video is on the USA Weekend site, but we’ll be running it on our site very soon. Thanks for checking in.

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