Baked Spring Rolls

There certainly is little debate about spring rolls being one of the best finger foods ever created.  The perfect combination of crunchy and tender, harmonizing perfectly with veggies and spices.  Personally, I also love them because they are always piping hot–a clear indication that they are straight from the kitchen into my belly. 

With all of that said, actually making spring rolls has always been intimidating to me.  How on earth do you get all of those ingredients wrapped so nicely into that tiny little delicate paper?  More importantly, how do you do that without the paper ripping and the ingredients exploding everywhere?  Mysteries.

We gave homemade spring rolls a go and they were a resounding success!  Who knew?  Not only did we make them once, but they were so good we made them again the next day.  Additionally, we managed to get the same crunchy texture by baking the spring rolls instead of deep frying (we tried and that was no bueno) or pan frying.  Fine by me!  The healthier the better.  The only thing I will do differently next time is to add fresh basil.  Aside from that they were perfect–actually they were perfect in the first place.

My advice: don’t be intimidated by these little guys.  They really are easy to make.  You will be so impressed with yourself afterwards and everyone else will love them too.  I promise.

Baked Spring Rolls:
Inspired by this recipe in Food and Wine.

For the Rolls…

  • 1 medium shallot, minced  (the second time we made these, we didn’t have any shallots left so we used the white parts of 5 small green onions…I couldn’t tell the difference)
  • 2 cups of thinly sliced (and then sliced again) green cabbage
  • 3 tablespoons of Asian fish sauce, divided (warning: it smells like feet, but doesn’t taste like it)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar
  • a little more than 1/2 pound of ground turkey
  • 6 or 7 medium shrimp–shelled, deveined, and minced
  • 1 largish yukon gold potato, skinned and sliced into matchsticks
  • a package of rice papers or tapioca sheets
  • 1 Thai chile, minced
  • a number of healthy shakes of the crushed red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • next time I am going to add chopped fresh basil

For the Sauce…

  • 2 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 small Thai chiles, minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons of Asian fish sauce
  • 1/3 of a cup of water

Make the Sauce…

  1. Add all of the ingredients to a bowl and stir.  Adjust for taste. 

Make the Rolls…

  1. In a large skillet, heat a glug or two of olive oil.  Add the shallot and Thai chile and cook over medium heat until the shallot begins to soften, about 2 minutes.  (Be careful or it will burn quickly.)
  2. Add the cabbage.  Cook and stir until the cabbage begins to wilt, about 3 or 4 minutes.
  3. Add 1/2 tablespoon each of the fish sauce and the sugar.  Mix to incorporate.
  4. Transfer the cabbage mixture to a large bowl.
  5. Add another glug of olive oil to the skillet.  Add the ground turkey and cook on medium-high heat until the ground turkey is completely cooked through.  While cooking, break the turkey apart.
  6. Use a slotted spoon and transfer the turkey to the bowl with the cabbage mixture.
  7. Back in the skillet, add the shrimp and cook until pink.
  8. Add the remaining 2 1/2 tablespoons of fish sauce and 1 tablespoon of sugar.  Stir to dissolve the sugar.
  9. Scrape the shrimp mixture into the cabbage bowl.
  10. Set a bamboo steamer on top of 1/2 inch of water in a skillet sized so that the steamer fits perfectly on the rim.  Bring the water to a boil, add the potatoes, and steam until tender–about 3-5 minutes.  (If you don’t have a bamboo steamer, a regular steamer in a saucepan will work fine too.)
  11. Remove the potatoes from the heat and let cool slightly.
  12. Add the potatoes to the bowl with everything else.
  13. Add the red pepper flakes and salt and pepper to taste.
  14. Preheat oven to 410 degrees.
  15. Fill a shallow but wide in diameter bowl with water.  Add one rice/tapioca paper to the water and use your fingers to submerge it until soft.  (We found that once the papers were softened, it was easiest to transfer them to a cookie sheet that had been flipped upside down.)
  16. Add a heaping tablespoon or so of the mixture to the paper.  Tightly roll up burrito style.  Repeat until the filling is gone.
  17. Place close together (but not touching) on a baking sheet lined with nonstick tinfoil.
  18. Bake for 10 minutes or so or until the outsides are crispy to the touch.
  19. Serve with the dipping sauce.
  20. ENJOY!

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