A leftover grilled chicken breast, the lone carrot, a couple of garlic cloves, and a few half-eaten bunches of cilantro and mint may not an inspired meal make—especially when it’s hot, hot, hot outside, and turning on the stove or oven is not an option. Or so it may seem at first. With a little finesse, though, once-forgotten, back-of-the-fridge ingredients like these can be coaxed into a delicious and easy meal—no cooking required.
Vietnamese summer rolls resemble spring/egg rolls sold at your local Chinese takeout joint, but are neither fried nor stuffed with shredded cabbage. Rice paper (briefly dipped in water to soften) is used to wrap up a variety of fillings—cooked meat, julienned vegetables, chopped herbs, and rice vermicelli (thin, no-cook noodles), among others. Served at room temperature and accompanied by a simple dipping sauce, summer rolls are crunchy and delicious—a great way to turn stray ingredients into a fresh new meal.
In a recent blog post, food writer Michael Ruhlman wrote about his experience preparing summer rolls with Todd and Diane, the couple behind the beautifully photographed food blog, White on Rice Couple. Although they grill beef, mushrooms, and eggplant for their summer rolls, you could just as easily replace those ingredients with strips of leftover cooked chicken or shrimp, julienned hot peppers, scallions, avocado slices, or bean sprouts. Get creative, but be sure to add cucumber, lettuce, cilantro, and mint for bright flavor and requisite crunch. (For a step-by-step guide on how to assemble a summer roll, check out our recipe here.) With nuoc cham, a no-cook Vietnamese dipping sauce that’s perfect for summer rolls, you’ll be well on your way to an amazing meal.
So stock up on rice paper, rice vermicelli, and fish sauce (the one ingredient in nuoc cham you might not have in the cupboard), and turn your crisper drawer castaways and weekend grill-out leftovers into a creative, no-cook meal that’s just right for a hot summer evening.