PFB Challenge #2: Fresh Thai Summer Rolls!

Today, I did something I’m very proud of: I made Thai Summer Rolls!


And they were AWESOME. Yummmm!

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Thai is one of my absolute favorite types of food, but I’ve actually NEVER made a Thai recipe before! I always put it off because I never had the more obscure Thai recipe staples on hand, and was intimidated by the unfamiliar ingredients and sauces (not to mention by Asian supermarkets!).


Well — it’s never too late to conquer your cooking fears, right? Today was the day, thanks to Project Food Blog’s 2nd Challenge: conquer your fear of cooking a classic ethnic cuisine!

The second I saw the challenge I knew I wanted to make summer rolls. My absolute favorite Thai place in DC, Sawatdee, got me addicted to summer rolls, and I miss them SO much since moving to NC! Matt and I have tried summer rolls at a few of the Thai places down here, but they just don’t live up to our favorites. My challenge was clear:

Amazing Thai Summer Rolls or bust!


After some research online, I found a step-by-step recipe that looked good and very close to my favorites at Sawatdee: Fresh Thai Summer Rolls from’s Thai Food section.

Looking at the ingredients list, I knew my first challenge would be to tackle my fear of Asian grocery stores. Asia Market, here I comeeeeeee!


Love that it used to be a Pizza Hut, haha.

It was a little intense inside, with LOTS of unfamiliar ingredients!


Including this gem — wtf?! Matt and I were really tempted to buy one just to see what the heck it tasted like, ha.


After about half an hour of confusion (lessened by some very helpful store staff), we emerged triumphant! The goods:


I think the star was this FISH SAUCE! Sounds gross, but apparently it’s in almost all of my fave Thai dishes! Who knew?! :)


Then, after hitting Trader Joes for a few more ingredients, it was time to get cooking! I lined everything up and got ready to rock.


And then… oh CRAP. Do you see that ground coriander in the picture? Well, the recipe called for fresh coriander, but we couldn’t find any in the stores, so I figured we could just sub it out for ground coriander. I looked up how to convert measurements for fresh coriander into ground coriander, and discovered that apparently fresh coriander really means fresh CILANTRO! Ooooooops. I had no idea that ground coriander actually comes from the seed of the cilantro plant!

By the time I discovered this I was already arm deep into cooking, so I sent Matt out to run across the street to the co-op in search of cilantro. Whew! Crisis averted :)


I followed the recipe exactly, except that I left out the spring onions, because onions are yucky :) The recipe was pretty time consuming, but totally worth it!

Step 1: Make the sauce and marinate the chicken! 021

Step 2: Soak the rice noodles!


Step 3: Stir fry the chicken:


Step 4: Drain the noodles, place the cooked chicken in a bowl, and prep the herbs and lettuce:


Step 5: Soak the rice wrappers in hot water to soften them up:

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Step 6: The fun part — layer the ingredients on the rice paper and wrap it all up!



Yay! Getting the first one ready to wrap…

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Preparing for battle:


My first wrapping attempt!

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So far so good…

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And… SUCCESS!! Yay :)


Matt got in on the fun, too! This would be a great dinner or lunch to make when having friends over — I’m sure everyone would enjoy crafting and wrapping their own rolls!


Wrapping them was actually pretty hard, though! After the first successful attempt, there were definitely some fails (and some more successes). Noodle and rice paper salad, anyone? ;)




Heh. Cutting them in half without mass destruction (and then trying to make them stand up straight like Sawatdee does) was also really hard! I have mad respect for Thai chefs now, ha.


For the most part, I think we did very well with the wrapping!



And then, before we were able to dig in — I had to tackle:

Step 7: Make a delicious dipping sauce!

I did some more research and ended up creating my own variation (trying to replicate the Sawatdee sauce as closely as possible!), adapted from this recipe.


Thai Spicy Peanut Chili Sauce


  • 1/2 C fresh peanuts
  • 1/6 C water
  • 1/4 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • 1/4 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp. thai chili sauce


Toss it all into a food processor and whirl away! Alternatively, you can manually grind the peanuts and then mix them into the other liquid ingredients.

Yum — this sauce came out PERFECT!


And then, finally — it was time to eat!


The verdict? The summer rolls were absolutely delicious! They tasted EXACTLY like the ones from our favorite restaurant in DC. Matt and I both LOVED them. Major success!!


The highlights were definitely the yummy and flavorful chicken marinade and the delish spicy peanut chili dipping sauce. I’m so excited to finally have the ingredients on hand to make sauces and marinades like this again! I see some serious stir frying in my future…

What type of food are you scared of cooking? Perhaps it’s time you give it a try! :)


  1. 1

    I LOVE summer rolls, and I actually conquered the Asian market here a few months ago (I made pho soup! it was amazing. :D) but I’ve never tried making anything that requiring wrapping. I will have to try this. :D

  2. 3

    Oooh, I want one! They look great!

  3. 4

    Those look great, Anne! I am secretly afraid of Asian markets, too – ridiculous.

  4. 5

    By the way, your coriander story reminded me of an article I read a while back by a lady from India who wanted to make tiramisu. It turned out horribly. Her problem? “Ladyfingers” in India = okra. Ewww!

  5. 7

    yum! i love rice noodles…and i’m totally down with you making me thai spring rolls. just sayin’ ;)

  6. 8

    I will take your word that it tasted fannetastic.
    PS: When do we vote for your PFB Challenge #2

  7. 10

    They look amazing!! This is something I’ve been wanting to make for awhile now. I just can’t seem to find the rice paper.

  8. 11

    These look amazing and I can’t wait to try this version of summer rolls. :)

  9. 12

    Great job on the rolls! I would definitely be intimidated about make these. They look so fresh and tasty!

  10. 13

    Those look so fresh and crunchy and delicious!

  11. 14
    Jen Robinson says

    I’m so proud of you! Would love to have seen you take on the asian market! Ps where did you get that necklace?! Love it!!

    • 15

      Heh I was thinking of you the whole time and when we were in Taiwan! :)

      My Polish friend Marta from when I was living in Prague gave me the necklace right before I left – it’s from Poland! I love it :)

  12. 16

    These look really yummy :-).

  13. 17

    Those look great. I am afraid to bake bread. I don’t know why.

  14. 18

    Ok, those look so amazing!!!! I can’t wait to vote tomorrow!

  15. 19

    I did not know that about coriander/cilantro–what!?!

    I need to experiment with spring roll skin. They cost a bajillion dollars at the store/restaurant but they’re so makeable at home. Wow go me with all these made up words.

    Of course you’ve got my vote.

  16. 20

    Anne, this is amazing! I looooove Asian food but don’t cook it often at home because I am always intimidated by the number of ingredients I would have to buy to get started. You’ve inspired me to give it a shot. I want to make these, but with tofu — yum. :)

  17. 21

    I think anything where I have to use unfamiliar ingredients is my biggest cooking fear. I like my comfort zone with cooking.

    I love your entry! Spring rolls are amazing!

  18. 22

    Oh yum! They’re cold cold rolls here, or Goi Cuon in Vietnamese restaurants and I love them! I reckon the secret to successfully rolling them is to not overstuff them and start up one end, leaving enough of the wrapper ‘free’ to wrap around the outside and stick to itself.

    I love the Asian supermarket and cooking Asian food. I am intimidated by deep- frying, luckily it’s not the kind of food I should be eating so I’m happy to stay away from it!

  19. 24

    PS – Cilantro is always called coriander here (Australia), whether it’s dried, ground or fresh!

  20. 25

    You’re my idol! I’m inspired to try this now.

  21. 26

    They look delicious. yeah, Korean stores can be a little intimidating. I’ve never made those but always wanted to try. Will bookmark the recipe. You are doing great with the challenge!

  22. 27

    wonderfully done :) congratulations for making it to round 2!

  23. 28

    I meant to test the waters with spring rolls this summer but never did. Definitely scary! Thanks for the encouragement!

  24. 29

    Im a little hesitant to roast a chicken but I think Im ready!

  25. 30

    YUM!!! Sometimes things seem waaaaay more intimidating than they actually are. Reminds me of the time I made sushi!

  26. 31

    Those look great. Good job at your first attempt!

  27. 32

    Mmm! We love spring rolls but rarely make it. We usually make the Vietnamese version with pork and shrimp. Haha, I agree with the over-stuffing. Also, not sure if you already did this, but if you set a bowl of hot/boiling water on the table with the other ingredients, you can dunk the paper into the bowl which makes it so much easier and faster. It will feel a little crispy still as you are loading up but once you roll it together, it’s the perfect softness and ready to eat. ;) Also, if you leave the romaine in huge leaves, you can take a huge piece and lay it down first before putting other items down and it helps hold everything together without tearing the rice paper.

  28. 33

    Wow! I’m impressed! Look great, esp for first effort!

  29. 34

    Those summer rolls look absolutely delicious! When my husband was stationed in Georgia, we had a Thai neighbor who brought the BEST food to our neighborhood get togethers. I love her summer rolls, but she also made the best fried spring rolls. She once even hosted a little party to teach us how to make them. Good luck in the contest!

  30. 35

    yum!!! summer rolls are one of my absolute favourites. many years ago my roommate introduced me to the awesomeness that is rice paper. i’m a huge fan! unfortunately the boyfriend isn’t, but i do still get to have fun wrapping and rolling at home every now and then
    good for you for tackling this challenge! (and for going to the asian market! luckily here we have all those ingredients in regular grocery stores, since toronto is pretty ethnically diverse. i have been to asian markets and i can’t say that i’d go back in a hurry!)

  31. 36

    I am beyond impressed and give you MAD props for actually going to that little asian market! :-)

  32. 37

    You should try the grass jelly–it’s our version of Jell-o! It’s actually pretty tasty–we had it when I was a kid but I don’t think there’s any nutritional value. :) Great job on the spring rolls and I love fish sauce! You don’t have to use too much so you have it for months and months!

    • 38

      Oh no way! Cool that it’s like Jell-O! The “grass” part was throwing me off… I even looked at the ingredients but it just said “grass jelly,” lol! I was thinking it was like wheatgrass made into jelly form or something! So funny.

  33. 39

    I’m impressed! Nice job! :)

  34. 40

    I enjoyed reading your story and loved the photographs. I imagine wrapping the summer rolls was challenging. It reminds me of working with filo dough – soooo thin and delicate! You did a phenomenal job and I wish you the best of luck as you continue through the PFB Challenge. You have inspired me to tackle Thai Summer Rolls. Thanks for sharing this yummy recipe. You have my vote!

  35. 41

    I’ve made a couple Thai dishes now, but this is something I haven’t been gutsy enough to tackle. Wrapping…thin sticky paper-like substances….tearing… oh, the horror! ;)

  36. 42

    These look amazing! I went out to get all the ingredients and will be trying them out tonight! Luckily I have a nearby fruits & veg shop that also has asian ingredients and is not intimidating at all, so my shopping experience was quick and easy!

  37. 43

    Great job on conquering your fear of making a dish you’ve never made before and also for going to the Asian supermarket. I’m Asian and when I first moved out and started cooking and wanted to cook a dish I grew up eating at home, my dad, my mom and my aunts are on call because I don’t know where to find the ingredients once I was in the store.

    I have all the ingredients you listed on the recipe and will make this soon.

  38. 44

    Despite the problem with the wrapping, I think it was a successful endeavor. I voted.

  39. 45

    These rolls are so delish, and even the messier ones tasted awesome, I’m sure. The sauce sounds great as well. Your style is witty and fun and you have my vote!!

  40. 46

    I love spring rolls! What a great option for the challenge. I recently tackled spring rolls for the first time and it was so much easier that I thought. I also love your new apt! SO CUTE!!!

  41. 47

    This was such a good challenge for you! And that’s great that they came out just like the ones you love.

    I remember those green jelly drinks, all my friends drank them in high school. You made it sound so easy to make the rolls, I’m afraid I’m going to have to try ;)

  42. 48
    Linda - a Canadian RD says

    They look yummy!

  43. 49

    Those look awesome, I want some! Loved the Asian grocery store, it reminded me of living in Hawaii. LOL!

  44. 50

    Your spring rolls look great, and I love your necklace.

    One vote to you!


  45. 51

    These look delish! I definitely want to give them a try.

    Oh, and I voted for you! Mind checking out my post, too?

  46. 52

    Great post! I LOVE all of your fabulous step by step photos. I am not very good at that, so I can appreciate the skill involved. And these rolls look great. I will have to give them a try. I voted for you!

    Good luck! =)

    You can check out my PFB post at :

  47. 53

    These rolls look delish! I seriously want to make them and that peanut dipping sauce a try. Voting for you was a no-brainer. :)

    Here is a link to my entry in the challenge, if you have a chance to check it out:

  48. 54

    Great pictures! You have my vote :)

  49. 55

    Salad rolls are my favourite! Especially in the summertime. I always order them whenever I’m at my favourite Vietnamese restaurant! You got my vote.

  50. 56

    Well done Anne! I am inspired by your venture to the market to pick up unfamiliar ingredients. I also loved the determination to roll the perfect “roll”! It looks like you really had a blast with your sous chef ;) You got my vote! I hope you “roll” into the next round.

    Lick My Spoon

  51. 58

    These look great ! You have my vote

  52. 59

    You have inspired me! Your summer rolls look delicious and I enjoyed reading about your ups and downs in the process. You have my vote for this round.

  53. 60

    I love fresh summer rolls. I too researched and make my own now. I often use the bagged broccoli slaw mix and fresh Thai basil in my rolls along with the rice noodles. I just use the bottled sweet chili sauce for dipping.

  54. 61

    hey anne, can you post the exact recipe for this? looks amazing, thanks!

  55. 62

    Congrats- those look amazing! One of the true healthy and also super delicious foods! When we lived in raleigh we had the largest asian market in NC about a mile from our house and once I got over the intimidation I did a lot of shopping there for inexpensive produce as well as Asian staples. My husband made a true pad thai from a complicated Alton Brown recipe and we found all the ingredients there. Ethnic markets tend to be so much cheaper for those staples then the regular grocery store!

  56. 63

    You should go to Liming’s Global market. It’s in durham next to Sam’s/Target. It opened just a few months ago… so much bigger and doesn’t give you that creepy “small Asian market” feel :P

  57. 64
    Danielle says

    This is actually a Vietnamese food instead of Thai food.
    The spring roll skin itself wrote Authentic Vietnam Rice Paper (Rice Paper which is make from rice and use it as a Spring Roll Skin)
    The grass jelly taste like normal jelly. The way to ‘usual’ way to eat it in Asia country is to dice the grass jelly and add in sugar water (juz sugar + water) and add some ice cubes. that it!

  58. 66

    They look amazing!!
    I just can’t seem to find the rice paper.
    I will bookmark it


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