Salmon summer rolls are a simple and stunning upgrade to classic Vietnamese summer rolls with shrimp and pork. Filled with pea shoots, rice vermicelli, and salmon, they’re dipped in a scrummy peanut-hoisin sauce that makes everything even better.
Flavorful, healthful, and beautiful to look at, these salad rolls make perfect appetizers, an unusual first course to kick off an Asian meal, a great lunch-box addition, or easy picnic fare for a summer outing. And with leftover salmon on hand, they are quick to put together. What goes into the salad roll depends on what you like and what you have on hand. Sometimes I use watercress instead of pea shoots, add shredded carrots, and use mint instead of cilantro. The dipping sauce is terrific, but if you are short on time, bottled peanut sauce will work, too.–Diane Morgan
COOK’S NOTES FOR SALMON SUMMER ROLLS
Rice vermicelli are thin, round rice-flour noodles that commonly appear in the cuisines of Southeast Asia and southern China. They are often used in soups, salads, spring rolls, and stir-fries. You need only soak them in freshly boiled water for about 5 minutes before use. Look for them in well-stocked supermarkets or in Asian grocery stores.
Sometimes labeled “spring roll wrappers,” rice paper wrappers (bánh tráng) are thin, translucent dried sheets made from ground white rice, water, salt, and usually a little tapioca flour. They come in various sizes and shapes (round, square, or triangular) and are softened in warm water before using. They are typically rolled around fillings and then served fresh or deep-fried. Look for them in well-stocked supermarkets or in Asian grocery stores.
Pea shoots (doumiao) are the delicate, crisp tendrils and small, tender leaves of pea plants, typically snow peas and less commonly English peas. They taste like a cross between peas and spinach, with a hint of spicy watercress. Look for pea shoots in the produce section of natural foods stores or Asian markets, and pinch off and discard any tough tendrils before using. If the pea shoots appear to have many tough tendrils, buy extra to ensure you have enough after trimming.
Salmon Summer Rolls
For the hoisin peanut dipping sauce
- 2 tablespoons chunky natural peanut butter warmed slightly to soften
- 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
- 1/4 cup cold water
- 1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
For the salmon summer rolls
- 2 ounces dried rice vermicelli*
- 8 round rice paper wrappers* (about 9 inches (23 cm) in diameter)
- 2 ounces pea shoots* (or substitute watercress)
- 1 (12-ounce) piece grilled or broiled salmon fillet skin removed, fish flaked
- Scallions including green tops, halved lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 4-inch (10 cm) lengths
- 24 sprigs cilantro (or substitute mint)
Make the hoisin peanut butter dipping sauce
- In a small bowl, combine the peanut butter, hoisin, water, fish sauce, ginger, and red pepper flakes and mix well. Cover and set aside until ready to serve. (The sauce will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.)
Make the salmon summer rolls
- Bring a small saucepan filled with water to a boil over high heat. Remove from the heat, add the rice vermicelli, and let soak until tender, 3 to 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the vermicelli. Drain in a colander, rinse under cold running water, drain again, and pat dry. If desired, grab a pair of scissors and make a few cuts through the noodles to make them less gangly and more manageable.
- Have ready a large bowl of warm water, a clean dry kitchen towel, a platter, and the rice paper wrappers. Dip a wrapper into the water, turning to dampen both sides, until sorta soft but still sorta firm. The exact timing will depend on the warmth of your water and the brand of rice paper wrappers but could be as little as a matter of seconds. Place the wrapper on a damp towel or cutting board and assemble the first roll by laying a small portion of pea shoots horizontally on the bottom third of the dampened wrapper. Top with a small mound of noodles, spreading them horizontally. Place some salmon, a couple of pieces of scallion, and three cilantro sprigs horizontally on top. (You want to use 1/8 of the total amount of each ingredient for each roll.) Roll the edge of the wrapper nearest you over the filling just a little, tucking the filling inside and creating a tight cylinder. Roll it halfway over again and then fold in the sides of the cylinder, envelope style or, if you prefer, burrito style. Continue rolling the wrapper, keeping the filling tightly packed in the cylinder. (It’s important to roll the ingredients into a snug cylinder. If it’s not snug, the filling will fall apart when you cut or bite into the roll.) Place the roll, seam-side down, on the platter.
- Repeat with the remaining rice paper wrappers and filling ingredients. Cover the summer rolls with a damp paper towel and then with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for up to 2 hours.
- Cut each summer roll in half on the diagonal. Arrange on a platter or on individual small plates, making certain that the summer rolls don't touch or they'll stick together like crazy glue. Serve with little bowls of the dipping sauce.
Recipe Testers' Reviews
These salmon summer salad rolls were fun to make and are quite adaptable. I followed the recipe for this exactly and in about 35 minutes, all hands-on time, I had 8 cute little salad rolls. I ate some for dinner that night and have eaten leftovers for the past two days. They keep fairly well and would be quite portable for lunch or a picnic. The sauce is really important. The rolls are quite dry without the sauce. I wonder if adding a little sauce to the filling might help. I have some leftover wrappers and noodles and am looking forward to making different types of rolls.
The beauty of fresh salmon summer rolls is that once all the ingredients are prepped, the rest of the dish comes together quickly and easily. Such is the case with this dish. Almost all of the work is prep and, if done in advance, can make this a great weeknight option. I threw the dipping sauce together before heading to work for the day in about 5 minutes and spent a good 30 minutes chopping and organizing all the filling before getting ready to roll.
I opted to pan-roast the salmon so I could continue to prep during its short stay in the oven. I seared it, skin side down, in an ovenproof skillet and flipped it before finishing it in a 375°F oven. I'd say this took about an hour from start to finish, including the rolling of each roll. If you had a helper in the kitchen, this could come together in a snap. What I like about this dish is that you can use up what you have in the vegetable drawer. I didn't have pea shoots available that day, so I used arugula, poached asparagus, mint, and cilantro.
My rice papers were a bit larger, more like 12 inches in diameter, so I got about 7 large summer rolls, enough for 2 people to enjoy as a healthy entrée with a salad with enough leftovers for lunch for 2 people the next day. The perfect amount. Rolling spring rolls can be daunting, but practice makes perfect and the first one of the batch is almost always the ugly one. Embrace it. It's still delicious!
Originally published June 08, 2016