vietnamese pork summer rolls

Summer might be over, but Vietnamese pork summer rolls are an easy weeknight meal year-round. Try it tonight!

Despite my best attempts to force it along with chili recipes and apple hand pies, fall has been slow to come here in Northern Virginia. Last week, with weather inching upwards of 80 degrees, I gave up. I can wear all the fleece leggings and long cardigans I want, but it is not attractive to sweat profusely while wearing them.

Instead, I whipped out some rice paper to make an easy, hot weather dinner out of DIY Vietnamese pork summer rolls. We’re lucky to live in an area where access to Asian ingredients such as rice paper are very easy to come by. (Of course, there’s also always Amazon. Good ol’ Amazon.) I spread out all the fixings for our Vietnamese rolls (or “Vietnamese tacos” as my kids like to call them) and let everyone choose their own adventure by assembling their own.

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Summer might be over, but Vietnamese pork summer rolls are an easy weeknight meal year-round. Try it tonight!

The key to making a good smorgasbord of fillings for Vietnamese pork summer rolls is to make sure to have lots of the fresh ingredients on hand. For our summer rolls, I julienned some carrots and baby cucumbers, then amassed a heap of leafy green lettuce, mint, Thai basil and chopped scallions (by the way, have you seen this amazing pictorial graphic of salad greens assembled by Bon Appetit? I’m kind of obsessed). You can rinse, chop and arrange these things as you cook some rice noodles, which are an essential filling for summer rolls. You need the rice noodles to add gravitas to the roll, which might just float away without any real sustenance otherwise.

Summer might be over, but Vietnamese pork summer rolls are an easy weeknight meal year-round. Try it tonight!

Another important part of the whole do-it-yourself party is to make sure you have shallow bowls or dishes set aside with water in them to wet your rice paper. I picked up one of these handy bowls at a Vietnamese market near my house recently. but if you don’t want to invest in one (and I totally understand why you wouldn’t, because it truly is a single-use item that takes up way too much space), I’ve found that a large dinner plate with just a little bit of a recessed part in the middle holds just enough water to do the trick. Soaking the rice paper takes mere seconds — you want it pliable enough so that you can roll the rice paper, but not so soft that it disintegrates in your hands. Once you get the hang of it though, it’s easy.Summer might be over, but Vietnamese pork summer rolls are an easy weeknight meal year-round. Try it tonight!

We taught Ge Ge how to roll his own Vietnamese pork summer rolls. After a few total fails, he caught on. Soak rice paper until just bendable. Add julienne carrots and cucumbers. Sprinkle ground pork mixture on top, then add greens and noodles. Fold in the tops, then roll from one side to the other. Pictured above is Ge Ge’s own handiwork. He insisted that I take a picture and post his creation. Not bad, right?

Summer might be over, but Vietnamese pork summer rolls are an easy weeknight meal year-round. Try it tonight!

The best part of DIY Vietnamese summer pork roll night is that both cooking and cleanup are minimal. The only actual cooking that took place was boiling the rice noodles and sauteing the pork mixture. Everything else just got rinsed, spun through a salad spinner, and arranged on plates. Plus, I didn’t have to spend time cajoling the kids to try the summer rolls. For whatever reason, involving them in the assembly process made them more apt to try them.

As a sidenote, I know I talk all the time about how great my kids are at eating, but that doesn’t mean that they’re always up for eating whatever I make all the time. Because I try three to five new recipes every week (many of which don’t even make it onto this blog), I’m bound to have dishes that the kids just flat-out refuse to eat or tell me, very pointedly and loudly, that they DO NOT LIKE. This always, always, always makes a little piece of me die on the inside, even though I know that not every dish can be a winner.

So that’s why the Vietnamese pork summer rolls came as such a surprise to me. I thought for sure that, with all the crazy greens and the ground pork, I was going to lose one, if not both, of my tiny critics. When they both gave me “a hundred stars” for this dish, I figured I’d better share this recipe with you right away, just so you, too, have the chance to try your hand at it before the weather finally cools down on us.

Alternatively, you could just bundle up and make these summer rolls anyway. After all, rules are made for breaking, right?

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vietnamese pork summer rolls

Time35 mins
Servings12 rolls
These Vietnamese pork summer rolls are an easy weeknight dinner. Lay out some fresh ingredients, boil up some rice noodles and make a quick saute of some ground pork, and you’re good to go!

Ingredients

  • 1 approximately 16-ounce package of rice noodles
  • 12-16 rice paper sheets (preferably Vietnamese, approximately 8.5″ in diameter)
  • 3 medium carrots (peeled)
  • 3 seedless baby cucumbers
  • 3 cups loosely packed leafy green lettuce
  • 4 scallions
  • 4-5 sprigs mint
  • 4-5 sprigs basil
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 clove garlic (minced)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons fish sauce (for the dipping sauce)
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar (for the dipping sauce)
  • juice of two limes
  • 1-212- teaspoons of water
  • optional: dried red pepper flakes (bean sprouts)

Instructions

  • Make the noodles: boil a large pan of salted water over high heat. Add rice noodles and cook according to the package directions. Drain and immediately rinse with cold water until cool.
  • Assemble the fixings: wash all vegetables and greens arrange on a tray for serving. Cut the carrots and cucumbers julienne style (into matchsticks). Roughly chop the scallions, reserving one of the scallions for the ground pork.
  • Heat a skillet to medium-high heat and add olive oil. Heat olive oil until it is shimmering, then add garlic and stir for one minute. Add pork, 2 tablespoons fish sauce and 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and saute until brown and cooked through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add 1 chopped scallion and stir thoroughly. Transfer the pork mixture to a serving bowl (it’s okay if the pork cools to room temperature).
  • Make the dipping sauce: Heat the fish sauce in a small sauce pan over medium heat, then add the lime juice, brown sugar and red pepper flakes (if using). Stir constantly to dissolve the brown sugar and bring the mixture to a boil. Immediately remove from heat and taste the sauce. If it tastes too strong (i.e., too fishy or salty), add the water, a little bit at a time, until the flavor of the dipping sauce is mellower.
  • Arrange the vegetables, greens, pork, and dipping sauce on the table. Place the rice paper sheets on a dry dinner plate along with small bowls filled with water. To make this a do-it-yourself summer roll bar, provide each diner with one large dinner plate with a dried rice paper sheet.
  • Dip your fingers into the bowl and quickly rub water all over to soften the rice paper sheet slightly. If your dinner plates are recessed, you can drizzle a little water into the plate and then slide your rice paper sheet all over it to moisten it slightly on each side. When the rice paper sheets are pliable but still a little stiff (i.e., not completely soggy), arrange desired toppings on the rice paper sheet. Fold the top and bottom inwards about 1.5-2 inches, then start rolling from one side of the rice paper sheet, folding the filling underneath you as you roll. It’ll take a few tries to get the hang of it, so don’t give up!

 

Summer might be over, but Vietnamese pork summer rolls are an easy weeknight meal year-round. Try it tonight!

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About me

I’m Ann, a mom / wife / lawyer / certified culinary enthusiast. I share recipes, travel guides and home life tips while living overseas. Currently based in São Paulo, Brazil.

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