To Soften Rice Paper: A Step-by-Step Guide to Preparing and Rolling


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To Soften Rice Paper

Use these helpful tips from Cameron Stauch’s Vegetarian Viêt Nam for making your very own rice paper rolls.


Here’s a list of helpful tips for preparing and rolling rice paper rolls

1. Cut ingredients like tofu and vegetables into thin strips of varying thicknesses and lengths

2. Prepare all of the filling ingredients before you begin rolling

3. Select soft, buttery large leaves from heads of lettuce such as Boston, Bibb, or butter leaf and tear them into palm-sized (3- to 4-inch; 8 to 10 cm) pieces

4. Pick off the upper delicate stems of cilantro and other herb leaves from tough stems

8. Soften rice paper in warm to hot tap water for about 5 seconds
(It should be warm but cool enough to comfortably stick your fingers in it.) When the water cools you have two options: heat the water on a burner until warm or discard the cold water and refill the frying pan or shallow container with warm tap water. Dip the entire rice paper in the hot water for 3 to 5 seconds. Any longer and it will become too soft and easily tear. The rice paper should remain slightly firm when removed from the water. As it rests on the cutting board it continues to absorb moisture.


9. Layer and evenly spread out the ingredients

Lay the soft lettuce leaves and rice noodles down first, to act as a protective barrier, and to prevent any harder ingredients from piercing the rice paper. Evenly spread the ingredients the length you want the roll to be. Leave sides of the rice paper uncovered to facilitate the rice paper sticking to itself and to make the rolling easier.

10. Roll the rice paper rolls snugly

Use your index and middle fingers to guide and hold the filling in place. Rolled too loose, the filling will fall out. Rolled too tight and the rice paper may break.

11. An extra pair of hands is helpful when rolling a large number of rolls

Or better yet, prepare the filling ingredients in advance and have a party where you teach guests how to assemble and roll their own.

12. Serve rice paper rolls with a well-balanced flavourful dipping sauce

In most of the fillings there is little or no salt or seasoning. The sauce seasons the roll and brings all of the elements together in one bite. Serve the sauce in individualized condiment bowls or in a single bowl with a small spoon so that diners can drizzle some sauce into their rice paper roll.

13. Store the rolls in a single layer on a plate or tray

Cover with a lightly dampened clean dish towel and wrap in plastic, then leave in the fridge for up to several hours before serving. Cut large rice paper rolls in half or into thirds or use smaller rice paper for hors d’oeuvres.