Makes about 3 dozen
For the Seared Mushrooms
1 heaping tablespoon minced fresh gingerroot
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Several grinds cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 pound portabella mushrooms, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 head green leaf lettuce, separated into leaves, ribs mostly removed
1 seedless cucumber, cut crosswise into thirds and then into thin strips
3 peeled and shredded carrot (This tool simplifies the job)
1 large red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 handful fresh cilantro sprigs
1 handful fresh mint leaves
12 large sheets rice paper (and up to 24 sheets if you need to double wrap)
For the mushrooms, mix ginger, garlic, sugar, oil, pepper, and fish sauce in a medium bowl. Add mushrooms; toss to coat. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until wisps of smoke start to rise from the pan. Add mushrooms; without stirring the first couple of minutes, cook until golden brown and liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Up to several hours before serving, prepare, lettuce, cucumber, carrot, pepper, cilantro sprigs, and mint leaves for assembly and fill a medium bowl with hot tap water.
Working 1 at a time, lay a couple of pieces of lettuce leaves on a work surface. Top with a few pieces of mushrooms, followed by a couple of strips each of cucumber and red pepper, and a bit of shredded carrot (there really are no exact proportions here). Top with a few cilantro sprigs and a few mint leaves.
Dip a sheet of rice paper in the warm water for about 5 seconds. Lay on work surface, and then transfer topped lettuce to lower third of the softened rice paper. Lift bottom of rice paper over filling and roll as tightly as possible to form a taut tube. Roll in a second soaked rice paper if spring roll is not rolled as tightly as you like the first time. Repeat with remaining rice paper and ingredients. (Can be covered with vegetable spray-coated plastic wrap and refrigerated for several hours.)
When ready to serve, trim off each spring roll end on the diagonal, then third each spring roll, cutting them on the diagonal.
Serve with Todd and Diane’s fish sauce and/or 1/2 cup hoisin sauce mixed with 1 tablespoon sesame oil, and 2 tablespoons peanut butter.