Summer Rolls

I have an updated post with prettier photos, a slightly modified recipe, and a recipe page, if you're interested.

Summer rolls (sometimes called spring rolls) are a Vietnamese appetizer that I happen to love. I like making them at home because I can make an endless supply and it won't zap my budget into ashes. They typically cost around $5 per roll, from what I've seen. Here's how I like to make them using just 4 simple components: wrapper, noodles, veggies, and protein.

rice paper wrappers - check the Asian foods aisle of your grocery store but you might have to go to a specialty Asian supply store
bean threads or Asian vermicelli noodles/glass noodles
broccoli slaw
protein: tofu, shrimp, beef, or chicken - I used chicken for this recipe - 2 chicken thighs to make between 4 to 6 rolls
basil leaves

2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon vinegar (rice wine is preferable)
2 or 3 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flake

sauce - same components as the marinade except using chili garlic sauce instead of the crushed red pepper flake

**Other ingredients that would be yummy wrapped up in the roll: bell peppers, scallions, cucumber, etc.

What's broccoli slaw? I discovered it while I was in college. It's grated broccoli stems, carrots, and a bit of red cabbage. I think it's awesome to use in the spring/summer rolls because the broccoli doesn't get limp and it adds a nice crunch.
I marinated the chicken thighs for a few hours. The vinegar helps tenderize the meat. If you don't have time to marinade the chicken for v. long, that's okay but if you do have the time, it'll taste better.

I cooked the chicken in a frying pan over medium heat, so as not to burn the garlic and sugar, and let it cook until both sides were caramelized and the chicken was completely cooked through.
Next, I took the bean threads and put them in boiling water for just two minutes (they don't need long to cook through), drained them, ran cold water over them, drained the cold water, and cut them with scissors. I got about 1 cup of slaw ready in a bowl and cup up the chicken into bite sized pieces. The chicken should be small enough that someone taking a bite of the spring roll won't struggle to neatly take a bite. One of my pet-peeves is food that is messy or difficult to eat. It actually makes me not want to eat something if I anticipate that it will make a mess.
The rice paper wrapper usually has a basket-weave texture to it. To prepare them, I took a big pan and warmed some water in it on the stove over low heat. As soon as it starts to steam, it's ready. It should be warm but not so hot that it burns your fingers. I dipped the wrappers in the water for just a second. As soon as both sides are soaked, it should immediately become soft and pliable.
 Here's how to wrap the summer roll:
I like to put the basil down first, then the noodles, and then the slaw and chicken. This way, you can see the pretty basil through the translucent wrapper on one side and the caramelized chicken and vibrantly colored slaw through the other. The noodles are plain white so it's boring to put them adjacent to the wrapper.

This is chili garlic sauce. It's a spicy Vietnamese sauce that I love more than regular hot sauce. It's not overly vinegary and has a nice kick. Summer rolls in restaurants typically come with an Asian black bean sauce sprinkled with peanuts. However, I'm allergic so I prefer a spicy soy-based sauce.