By Suzette Martinez Standring
When I take a flavor-packed bite of this Vietnamese specialty, the fresh tastes transports me back to the dragon rocks and cerulean waters of Ha Long Bay.
What dish can hit all the high notes for vegans, vegetarians, and gluten-free food lovers? Palates will sing with fresh Vietnamese spring rolls, easily adaptable to all preferences, as I learned during a cooking lesson in Vietnam. I was on a vintage ship cruising along Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Outside, colorful houseboats bobbed on the blue jade waters of the Gulf of Tonkin, amid some 1,000 limestone islands overgrown with jungle. Inside the ship’s wood-paneled stateroom, trays of fresh and crunchy produce tempted us cooking students to try our hands at making fresh Vietnamese spring rolls. The result was a vegetarian revelation, stunning but simple.
After returning stateside, I was eager to replicate Vietnamese spring rolls using local produce and herbs commonly found in Asian grocery stores, such as Kam Man Marketplace in Quincy, the Oriental Food Market in Fall River, and at other Asian stores in nearby Rhode Island locations. Other than specialty grocery stores, such ingredients are available in the Asian section of many large supermarkets, such as Market Basket.
The main obstacle to creating these super easy appetizers is the unfamiliarity of a few key ingredients. For example, the spring roll wrapper used is a thin round of Vietnamese dried rice paper, such as Banh Trang Que Huong or Asian Boy (E.B.Q.) brands. Any brand will do, as long as it is made from rice flour, tapioca starch, and water; they generally come in a pack of 50.
Kam Man Marketplace
219 Quincy Avenue
Quincy MA 02169
Oriental Food Market
399 Quequechan Street
Fall River MA 02723
Suzette Martinez Standring is a writer who lives on the South Shore, and fresh, clean, healthy food is a big part of eating well.