After having tried these on several occasions at Vietnamese restaurants, I had to try it myself. Suprisingly, they were easy and turned out great. They are not fried, so they are very healthy and are a nice change of pace from common/traditional appetizers. The fresh produce - including the herbs - is key to these tasting great.
I got the rice paper wrappers and cellophane noodles (also known as bean threads, bean thread noodles or glass noodles) at an Asian market - or you can buy them online if you can't find them anywhere.
Vietnamese Fresh Spring Rolls:
(makes about 30 rolls)
1/2 package rice paper wrappers (12 or 14 oz package)
1 package rice cellophane noodles (small, approx 1.5 oz package)
1 head butter lettuce, roughly chopped
1 bunch fresh basil, stems removed and torn into pieces
1 bunch fresh cilantro, stems removed and roughly chopped
1 bunch fresh mint, stems removed and torn/chopped roughly
Carrots, cut into matchsticks, about 2 cups
1/2 pound medium cooked shrimp, shell-off, cut in half lengthwise
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 tbs soy sauce
2 tbs fish sauce
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 tbs fresh ginger, roughly chopped
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tsp (to taste) chili sauce - I recommend siracha
Water (as needed to acheive a thin sauce consistency)
Bring water in a medium saucepan to a rapid boil. Submerge cellophane noodles in water until just softened, about 30-45 seconds. Remove and reserving hot water, drain. Pour the reserved hot water into a wide, shallow pan (pie pan, caserole dish, etc.).
Assemble all cold/salad ingredients including the shrimp and the cooked cellophane noodles in an assembly line format around an open, flat surface such as a cutting board.
Place one dried rice paper wrapper into the warm water for a few seconds or until softened. Remove promptly or it will get soggy. Remove, let the water drip off and place on the cutting board. Fill with all ingredients, being careful not to overfill. Roll it up like a burrito (fold bottom over filling, then tuck each side in, then complete roll to form a neat, tight package), cut diagonally to create two halves and serve immediately with the sauce.
For sauce, blend all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Add water as needed to achieve optimal sauce consistency.