Ten years ago, if you had asked me what my favorite sauce is in the whole world, I’d probably have said, “Sweet and sour sauce.” If you had asked me the same question five years ago, I would have said, “Pesto.” These days, it’s the sweet and tangy Vietnamese nuoc cham. It’s basically a sweet and sour sauce but it isn’t cooked to thicken. Garlic and chilis are pounded to a paste then mixed with fish sauce (patis to Filipinos), lime juice, vinegar and sugar. I used all those basic nuoc cham ingredients, threw in some finely chopped ginger for added heat and aroma, and used them to season the filling for these spring rolls.
I love spring rolls for many reasons. They remind me of my childhood, they are so darn cute, they are uncomplicated to eat and they’re like a present — beautifully wrapped and, inside, a kaleidoscope of colors and flavors and textures. Unlike a gift, however, the spring roll wrapper is just as important as the filling. For fresh (as opposed to fried) spring rolls, I can’t quite decide these days which I like better — the crepe-like egg-y wrapper or the Vietnamese rice paper. Not that I have to choose one over the other, really, but since I’m so into everything Vietnamese these days, I chose rice paper for this recipe. »