No-sweat Cooking, Day 22

wrappers of failure

31 dishes, 31 days – I’m cooking my way through Melissa Clark‘s “No-Sweat Cooking” from the August issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray. And to those of you who made your way over here via, welcome!

I had such high hopes for this recipe for Spicy Summer Rolls, but my complete inability to work with the rice paper wrappers made for a rather spectacular failure. They’re an ingredient I haven’t worked with before, and there were no instructions on the package with respect to softening them, so I asked the Internet, settling on a source I trust in these matters, the site.

Dinner: August 19, 2010

The 15 seconds that site recommends ended up being far too long for my particular wrappers, as the first of them disintegrated after a far briefer dip in the water. So I kept working, soaking the papers for a shorter and shorter amount of time, and generally being frustrated at the resulting rolls I came up with. It was late and our stomachs were rumbling, so I eventually gave up, deciding instead to toss the carrots, cress, and pork with softened rice noodles, some slivered hot and sweet peppers, fresh cilantro, and a dressing of Sriracha, fresh lime juice, and a bit of toasted sesame oil. It was a good and satisfying Plan B, though I’m bound and determined to get the original dish right.

Get the Recipe: Spicy Summer Rolls

8 thoughts on “No-sweat Cooking, Day 22

  1. I finally figured those danged things out last year. They don’t need to be soaked so much as dipped. The water keep absorbing as they lay on the counter waiting to get rolled. I think I do about 3 seconds, then I lift the wrapper out and lay it on the counter. Start to fill it and by the time you’re done, the wrapper should be ready to roll.
    You’ve reminded me how much I like summer rolls, so I’ll document properly when I make them this week.

  2. May says:

    NEVER use hot water. Cool water and patience is the key.

    There’s two ways to do this. The first is the soak in cool water (I use stuff straight from the tap) until the wrapper is soft and pliable. Then, immediately place on a dish towel, which will absorb the excess water and you’re good to go. Definitely err on the side of caution, you can always sprinkle more water later if they’re too dry.

    The more foolproof method, as Mary says, is to dip just so the wrapper is evenly moistened, then move the still stiff wrapper to a plate, where it will continue to soften. My family has found this to be the easiest option, and we take turns at the dinner table dipping and wrapping our rolls – “popiah”. It’s like a Malaysian version of the make-your-own taco dinner.

  3. Jen, there could be a number of reasons your rolls didn’t turn out.

    Firstly, there are two common types of rice paper rolls: regular and extra thin. Perhaps you were using the extra thin variety?

    The water you place the rice paper sheets in should be hot, but certainly not hot enough that you can’t easily put your fingers in it.

    Use a very shallow dish so that the water just covers the rice paper, which makes it much easier to remove after a brief soaking.

    Once soaked, the rice paper becomes very delicate and easy to tear, so you do have to lift them out very carefully using two hands. Then let any excess water run off before delicately putting them on top of a clean dish cloth to soak up any remaining water.

    Also, make sure the rice paper sheets you use are made with 100 percent rice flour. Rice paper sheets that include wheat flour in the ingredients list are more brittle and less flexible.

    Hope this helps!

  4. Arianna says:

    Often I use two held together and run them under a tepid tap….for a more nontraditional approach, I suppose. Lots of chewy rice wrap goodness, though!

  5. Amy says:

    When I was a kid and still learning to make spring rolls, an easier way for me was to dip the rice paper in a shallow pan of warm water. Then lay it out on a towel to work on, it was easier for me to work with without tearing.
    You don’t want the towel wet, just let it become slightly damp.

    It’s a quick dip. Then be a patient for a few moments as it softens.
    Nowadays I can do multiple sheets at a time, but just concentrate on one at first.

    Hope that helps. it takes practice. I would have been glad to show you had this come up back in the days when I hung out in NYC. 🙂


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