Here’s some: It’s SPRING! We’ve made it through the coldest, darkest, snowiest months of the year, and the scales are tipping daily towards warmer, brighter days. As a sucker for heat and sunshine, with a job that’s mostly performed outside, to say I’m thrilled is an understatement.
To celebrate, I’m sharing a very appropriate recipe for fresh spring rolls (sometimes called summer rolls), Vietnamese in origin but tweaked here to suit my tastes and pantry/fridge staples. Thin rice paper wrappers are softened in warm water, piled up with baked chicken, crunchy vegetables, creamy avocado, and tender herbs, and then rolled into tight little packages and dipped into a peanut sauce that will enhance most any meal.
I love how customizable these are. If you want to replace the chicken with cooked shrimp or tofu, or leave it out entirely, go for it! Don’t have some of the fresh ingredients I used? Sub in cabbage, butter lettuce, cucumber, pineapple, strawberries, or cilantro. Want to make it a little heartier? Add quick-cooking vermicelli noodles. Spicier? Try minced jalapeño. The world is your oyster with these fresh little parcels, so use whatever you’ve got, or better yet–invite a few friends over (once we’re in the clear to gather again!) and let them build their own.
Fresh Spring Rolls with Chicken, Mango, and Avocado
Servings: 2-3 entrees or appetizers for a group
1 cooked chicken breast (or 20 cooked shrimp)
1 bell pepper (red, orange, or yellow)
10 rice paper wrappers
1 handful fresh basil
1 handful fresh mint
1/4 cup creamy peanut (or almond) butter
1 garlic clove, grated
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon Sriracha
Juice of half a lime
Prep ingredients: Chop chicken breast, bell pepper, carrot, mango, and avocado into similarly sized thin strips.
Make peanut sauce: Add last 8 ingredients (from peanut butter to lime) to a small bowl and whisk until smooth. If it feels too thick, add more lime juice or water, 1 tablespoon at a time.
Prepare for assembly: Fill a large bowl (or circular cake pan) with warm water and place a clean cutting board next to it.
Make rolls: One at a time, submerge rice paper wrapper in water until softened, about 20-30 seconds. Transfer to cutting board and layer chopped ingredients down the middle of the wrapper. The order doesn’t really matter, but mine was: veggies, mango, avocado, chicken, herbs.
Roll em up: Think burrito! Pull bottom half of wrapper over ingredients and then, folding sides in, continue rolling upward until you have a tight little package.
Serve: Whole, if eating them as an entree, or sliced into halves or thirds, if serving as appetizers. Don’t forget the peanut sauce!