Goi Cuon: Heaven in a Wrap

Written by Luisa Davis on . Posted in food

If you cannot get enough of Vietnamese dishes, then you fall in love with Goi Cuon, which happens to be one of the best wraps that you will ever come across. This summer roll also goes by the name mix salad rolled. Given by this definition, you can already picture that there are many ingredients which go into its making and you are not wrong on this. Foods in play include shrimp, pork, herbs, rice vermicelli, and other components all under one rice paper wrap.

If you have had Chinese egg rolls, you should know that these snacks are nothing like that.

For one, people enjoy Goi Cuon when cold. Secondly, whereas you may think that the best way to enjoy this snack would be when fried, you could not be further from the truth.

Vietnamese Summer Rolls

To better bring out the fantastic taste of these summer rolls, you need to make a dipping sauce. Usually, this mixture comprises garlic, hoisin sauce, water, and peanut butter. You boil these ingredients until they blend evenly and there you have your sauce. It is quite a simple process. You could also choose to use a combination of sugar, garlic, fish sauce, carrot, and lime.

Both sauces taste great and are quite easy to make.

One thing that you will love about making this delicacy is that you can play about with the ingredients as much as you wish. There are only a few things which you cannot vary, and you can think of the rolls as a mix and match affair. Making them with guests is a lot of fun because they get to choose what they want in their summer rolls and this makes the process all the more satisfying.

You start by laying out a variety of suitable ingredients, and the rest of the process plays out based on preference. To make it easy for you to make the variations, I will outline the steps by number.

Step number eight involves the rolling technique, and this is something that you cannot vary as it is critical in achieving great summer rolls. The same goes for step number two which describes how to make the sauce, a process that is instrumental in enjoying these snacks. As for the rest of the steps, you are free to let your creativity come into play and make as many substitutions as you deem necessary.

I find that it is much easier to have more than one process happening at a time, especially when you have someone around to help you out. Let’s suppose that a given stage involves boiling water. You can have the water heating as you look through the other steps and find what else you could do as you wait for the water to come to a boil. As long as a stage does not call for all your attention, feel free to save time by accomplishing other things.

That said, be sure to have your eyes on everything that is going on in the kitchen and everyone who is helping with the cooking, especially when dealing with first-timers. If you can, I advise you to get your friends involved as the process will be that much more fun with a busy kitchen.

I have enjoyed summer rolls for as long as I can remember and over time, I have realized that there are many fun versions of this snack. The versatility mainly owes to the freedom that people have to choose what they want in their summer rolls. I have tried making this dish with friends, and it always ends up being a funfest. The process is quite engaging, and you will find yourself interacting on levels that you never knew you could. What’s more, you can make as many summer rolls as you want within a short time and you can lay them out even when having tens of guests at your place.

The great thing about them is that you can skip the rolling by having everyone get in on the fun. All you have to do is make the preparations and show them how to roll. Once they get in on it, your work is over. Most of the fun comes from checking out how their rolls came out and knowing that they cannot blame you for it.

Goi Cuon Recipe

The first step involves getting the ingredients ready. You will notice that most of the ingredients listed in the method lie on the vegetarian side.

As such, though most Goi Cuon recipes use fish sauce when making the peanut sauce, this is not the case with my method. However, I have used shrimp in the procedure. The great thing about this recipe is that you are free to alter most of the steps to get what you like most so this should not be a problem at all.

The quantities listed below are for servings for five people. If you wish to serve more people, you can adjust the amounts accordingly, and the results will be just as sweet. When choosing the lettuce, you can go for the romaine type, the red leaf type, the butter type or any that you would not find in a regular salad.

Experimenting with different tastes will enable you to get the most out of this snack. Some people like using either the pineapple or the star fruit when making the rolls. I generally prefer having both to bring out the sweetness in the meal.

The peanut butter in play can either be smooth or chunky. Either way, it will not affect the taste of the summer rolls.

Vietnamese spring rolls ingredients

  • Half a head of soft lettuce
  • One cucumber
  • ¾ bunch of coriander
  • ¾ bunch of basil
  • ¼ bunch of green onion
  • ¼ of pineapple
  • One star fruit
  • 1/3 package of dry rice noodles
  • Six large eggs
  • Half a giant brick of tofu for frying
  • ½ lb large shrimp
  • ¾ package of rice paper
  • Half a cup of peanuts

For the sauce, you will need:

  • 6.25 ounces of peanut butter
  • 6.25 ounces of hoisin sauce
  • ¼ a bunch of garlic
  • Half a lime
  • Hot sauce if you wish

The ingredients listed above are pretty standard, and you should feel free to substitute them with what you think would work for you.

Getting saucy is the next step which I stated that you could not alter no matter how great the urge is. This sauce can make or break the dish so be sure to follow the instructions to the letter. You will thank me later.

Start by getting 2.5 ounces of peanut butter, 1/5 jar of hoisin sauce, half a cup of hot water and minced garlic from 1/8 bunch. Combine these ingredients in a pan and place them over medium heat. Let them cook as you stir until you achieve a blended and smooth mixture. You do not have to boil the mix to get this consistency. However, the hotter the combination is, the easier it is to blend the ingredients, and if you find that boiling helps you in achieving this, then you can go down this route.

Once the sauce gets a blended appearance, you will notice that it will have thickened to a given extent. If it is not at the consistency you wish to have, do not worry as it will thicken more once it starts cooling. However, if you feel that it is too thin, you can add some peanut butter to the mix.

More water comes in handy if you think that it is too thick.

Taste the sauce, ensuring that you do not burn your tongue in the process. Based on its taste, you can choose to add some hoisin to get rid of the bland taste. Some salt should come into play at this point. Proceed to add juice from half a lime and combine it in the mixture once you remove the pot from the stove.

Adding some chili sauce to the mixture is another great way of bringing out the many flavors in play. A teaspoon or so of a good chili sauce will do. Be careful when adding the chili such that you do not end up adding too much. It is much better to have some on the side such that if your guests feel inclined to have some added spiciness to their meals, they can add the sauce directly to their Vietnamese pork spring rolls.

It’s now veggie time. You will notice that most of the ingredients when making summer rolls tend to revolve around fresh vegetables. This stage involves chopping them to small pieces which will not tear into the rice paper during the rolling phase.

When dealing with hard vegetables such as cucumbers, an excellent way to go about it is to have them in small spears. Softer veggies such as lettuce are much easier to deal with, and all you have to do is cut them into manageable pieces. The peanuts too have to be smaller in size. They will come in handy when sprinkling the rolls and the sauce for that beautiful appearance. This stage is pretty easy to handle, and you can bring in as many of your favorite veggies as possible.

There is something about fried tofu that brings out the best in this meal. You can picture it. Tofu fried to the golden brown stage such that its outside is crisp and yet its insides are soft. The thought of this almost has me running to the kitchen to get me some fried tofu.

Start by chopping the tofu into chunks ranging from half an inch all the way to three-quarters an inch. Next, place a pan over medium heat and add about five tablespoons of canola oil to it. You can get more flavor if you add some sesame oil to the pan. Once the oil is hot, add some of the tofu pieces such that they cover the bottom of the pan. Allow for the tofu to sizzle and add some salt for flavoring. Keep turning them on a regular basis to ensure that the chunks brown on at least two of their sides. Repeat the process until you fry all the pieces and set them in a bowl.

It’s noodle time! Start by placing a large pot over high heat and add water to half the level of the pan. Once the water comes to a boil, add the noodles and reduce the heat to a medium. Noodles do not cook for much time, and you should stand by to ensure that they do not overcook. In this case, do not let them become very soft and get them out when they are still in their al dente stage. Put them through a strainer to get rid of the excess water. Next, rinse them with cold water as you will not be enjoying them when they are hot.

What’s a great wrap without some eggs in play?

It’s quite easy. All you do is scramble the eggs and add some seasoning to them. Add some soy sauce to the eggs if you want to bring out a lot of flavor. Otherwise, some salt will serve just as well.

Start by cracking the eggs into a mixing bowl. Add your preferred seasoning together with the salt and mix in the ingredients using a fork. Start by frying a quarter of the egg mix and once it starts to solidify, scramble it until you achieve bite-size pieces. Add another layer and do the same thing until you cook all the egg mixture.

Goi Cuon is not the same without shrimp, and I would not skip this step. There are many ways in which you can do this, and my method is quite simple. Peel and de-vein your shrimp before putting it in brine to help in bringing out the pop once it cooks. This process should take about half an hour.

Drain the liquid and place the shrimp in boiling water until they begin to change color. Taste to see if they are ready and get them out once they cook to prevent them from developing a rough texture. Toss them in a bowl with some basil and juice from half a lime. Add some salt, and your work is over.

You are almost there. The secret to a good roll is not too much and not too little. In this way, you will avoid stuffing too many ingredients in one summer roll which makes it hard to eat. Dip rice paper in warm water before laying it on a plate, ensuring that you do not soak it. Add the ingredients based on your preference and tuck the ends for a neat look. You can now enjoy your rolls by placing some sauce on your plate and digging in.

Vietnamese Spring Roll

Tips and tricks

If you are leaning towards a healthy direction when making this meal, you could always work in reducing the fat. As such, instead of going with the pork belly, you can choose other parts such as the loin or the shoulder. The spring rolls will taste just as good, and you won’t have to spend as much energy burning off the calories. I prefer the pork belly as it has a much juicier outcome but now and then you will find me working with less fatty parts; especially when the holidays are around the corner.

Either way, the results will have you licking your plate in glee.

Rolling is a pretty demanding task, and it can be quite overwhelming for someone who has not tried such a recipe before. I find that it is easier to make the spring rolls when I have someone helping me.

If I have guests over, I have them sit with me around the table as we sip on some drinks and do the rolling. It’s a fun way to cook, and we get to catch up on lots of stuff as I teach them a thing or two about making Vietnamese shrimp spring rolls.

The Vietnamese dining culture involves a lot of rolling skills, and I feel that this is an interactive way to get people to experience this part of Vietnamese tradition. You also get to save tons of energy in the process, and you can direct it towards making the sauce or something like that.

Once you wrap the rolls, timing is of the essence. The sooner you enjoy them, the less time they have to dry out and the less likely they are to stick to each other. The maximum allowed time to let them sit out upon wrapping is two hours. However, it could be that you cannot consume them within such a short timeframe and if this is the case, consider using plastic wrap on the rolls. In this way, the rice paper will not dry out, and you can enjoy the rolls hours later.

It’s best to wrap the summer rolls as the last thing when leaving the house. If you are expecting guests, making the spring rolls on their day of arrival is your best bet at wowing them with your snack-making skills.

After a few tries, you will be a pro in making Goi Cuon. Thank you for reading this recipe!

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Luisa Davis

Luisa Davis

Luisa Davis is a frelance writer and foodie based in Portland, California. Though raised on her mother's homestyle Italian cooking, she has spent most of the last five years traveling and immersing herself in other countries' cuisines. Her work have been published in various publications, both online and offline.

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