Spring Rolls (Pork, Vegetable) With Spicy Dipping Sauces

Spring rolls are a tasty treat in any season. Here, half of our delicious duo stars pork, the other half showcases fresh vegetables. And with a pair of fiery sauces, they’re as fab for a memorable lunch or supper as they are as an appetizer or side.

Spring rolls (pork, vegetable) with two spicy sauces
Spring rolls (pork, vegetable) with two types of spicy sauces

Talk about giving your cooking-halo a sparkly gleam. Make these two types of spring rolls, and you’ll get to savor an added bonus — the serious sense of success. Seriously, they look great together on the plate.

The pork spring rolls are super rich, featuring aromatic Chinese five spice powder, rice wine, soy-soaked brown mushrooms, and fresh green serrano chilies. Sesame seeds, bean sprouts, and shredded cabbage complete the picture.

In sharp contrast, the vegetable spring rolls are filled with spinach, scallions, carrots, vermicelli rice noodles, and red serranos. The finishing touches to these bright rolls are ginger, garlic, sesame oil, and rice wine.

And let’s not forgot the huge appeal of the common ground this duo share — the crisply-fried, encasing shells that surround those succulent, savory centers.

Bring all those qualities together, and what have you got? Hand-held food that delights all your senses at every bite.

Now, the spark from the chilies is noticeable in both versions, but it’s in the two accompanying sauces that the hot peppers really get to shine.

Pork spring rolls, close-up
Pork spring rolls, close-up

A pair of fiery dipping sauces

Our first one is really more of a dressing than a sauce. It’s a pale-golden, whisked together combo of thinly sliced serrano chilies, mirin, miso, rice vinegar, sesame oil, fish sauce, and Shaoxing rice wine. To meld all the flavors together, and to soften the slightly raw-achohol hit of the Shaoxing wine, I gave the whole lot some fast, high heat in the microwave, and then let it cool to room temperature.

The result? It’s hot, sweet, sour, smoky and caramel-salty. But, more than that, it’s softly mellow and yet arrestingly loud all at the same time. With the pork spring rolls, it highlights their nicely fatted, deep, and darkly rich flavors. With the vegetable spring rolls, it emphasizes their far lighter, fresher tastes.

With a much fuller body, the other sauce is based on the ground pork’s marinade of dark soy and very finely chopped mushrooms. That mix is then sweetened with palm sugar, fired with diced red serranos, and boiled for a while to thicken it and bring out its smoldering gloss. Once cooled, it’s given a sharp, citrusy tang with plenty of fresh lime juice.

This is a big, bold, almost jammy sauce that clings to the spring rolls. Full of look-at-me attitude, it adds a completely different dimension to their flavors. And although it keeps the spotlight on itself, it doesn’t mask the tastes of the rolls — it does its own thing while generously allowing them to do theirs.

Vegetable spring rolls, close-up
Vegetable spring rolls, close-up

A great meal in their own right

When it comes to satisfying healthy appetites, these are surprisingly big hitters. I made them for a late lunch with a pal who’s a seriously good eater, and two of each type worked wonders on our growing, mid-afternoon hunger pangs.

It’s not just that these rolls are majorly rich — though they sure tick that box. It’s also about their range of flavors and textures, which are such a pleasure when leisurely enjoyed. They’re so way beyond fast-food snacks that they deserve to be lingered over with pleasantly unexpected relish.

Make enough for another happy day

While you’ll cook them in a matter of minutes, you do need to set aside a couple of relaxed kitchen hours to prepare them. For me, it seems savvy to spend a little more prep time, and make a batch you can stow in the freezer for a future happy day. So, that’s why our recipe is for 16 of each the pork spring rolls and vegetable spring rolls. That’s half for now, half for later. Just bear in mind: The frozen ones cook straight from the freezer — don’t defrost them first.

A word about the wrappers for the spring rolls

Store-bought and frozen. That’s the way to go. I let my pack of 40, 7 ½-inch diameter wrappers defrost overnight in the refrigerator. Typically stocked by Chinese or Asian grocers, mine were kindly made in Singapore.

Spring rolls (pork, vegetable) with two spicy sauces

Spring Rolls (Vegetable, Pork) With Spicy Dipping Sauces

5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 2 hrs
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 2 hrs 30 mins
Course Appetizer, Meal, Side
Servings 8 servings
Calories 772 kcal

Ingredients
 
 

For the pork spring rolls — makes 16

  • 2 green serrano chilies medium-sized, finely chopped, seeds and all
  • ½ pound ground pork loin I used a couple of good-sized pork loin chops that I deboned, and then cut away the rind — but not the fat. Importantly, that left me with a nice, flavorful fatty edge, and gave me a fat content of about 10%. I then cut the chops into 4 pieces, and ground them in the food processor. A good butcher will do this for you, but do ask for that sort of fat content.
  • ¾ pound shredded Chinese cabbage I halved the cabbage lengthwwise, cut away the thickest pieces of white stalk from its base, and then cut it lengthwise into 1/3-inch thick slices.
  • 4 ounces fresh bean sprouts
  • 6 ounces brown mushrooms very finely chopped, stalks and all
  • 1 heaped tablespoon Chinese five spice powder
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine
  • 3 tablespoons mushroom-flavored dark soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower oil for quickly stir-frying the filling
  • 16 spring roll wrappers store-bought. I used a pack of the 7½-inch diameter frozen variety — defrosted overnight in the refrigerator.

For the vegetable spring rolls — makes 16

  • 2 red serrano chilies medium-sized, finely chopped, seeds and all
  • 14 ounces fresh spinach Remove the thickest parts of the white stalks and then shred the lot into slices 1/3-inch thick.
  • 8 ounces carrots peeled, topped, and tailed. Cut into matchstick sized slices — julienned.
  • 3 inches ginger root finely grated skin and all
  • 4 cloves garlic peeled and very finely chopped
  • 4 scallions or spring onions. Trim off the roots, and any green parts that aren’t freshly crisp, then slice the lot into ¼-inch rounds.
  • 4 ounces fresh bean sprouts
  • 4 ounces vermicelli rice noodles soaked in boiling water for ten minutes, then cut into 4-inch lengths
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine
  • 1 ½ tablespoons sesame oil for quickly stir-frying the filling
  • 3 heaped teaspoons ground sea salt
  • 16 spring roll wrappers store-bought. I used a pack of the 7½-inch diameter frozen variety — defrosted overnight in the refrigerator.

For the light-bodied, pale gold dipping sauce – makes about 1/3 cup

  • 6 green serrano chilies medium-sized, thinly sliced into 1/8-inch rounds, seeds and all
  • 1 ½ tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine
  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon yellow miso paste sometimes called ‘medium’

For the full-bodied, dark dipping sauce — makes about ½ cup

  • 6 red serrano chilies medium-sized, very finely chopped, seeds and all
  • 6 tablespoons mushroom and soy marinade the cooking liquid, drained from the pork-mix filling once it’s been given a quick stir-frying. (We’ll cover how to capture this in the cooking instructions for the pork spring rolls.)
  • 3 heaped tablespoons palm sugar I used the ‘rock’ variety that comes in domes, each weighing about 1 ¾ ounces and being roughly the equivalent of a heaped tablespoon.
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice That’s about what you’ll get from a medium size fresh lime.

For sealing your wrappers — a little ‘glue’ of corn starch and water

  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cold water

For frying your rolls hot-and-fast

  • 4 cups sunflower oil to fry the rolls pretty deeply in a 12-inch skillet. Groundnut or peanut oil will be just as good.

Instructions
 

Making the corn starch sealer for the wrappers

  • In a small bowl, mix together two tablespoons of corn starch with 1½ tablespoons cold water. That’s it — you’ve got a transparent ‘glue’ that will seal your wrappers shut once you’ve rolled them.

Making the filling for your pork spring rolls.

  • This starts by making a simple, flavoring marinade for the pork. So, in a good size mixing bowl, thoroughly stir together the mushroom-flavored dark soy sauce, and the chopped mushrooms. Then mix in the ground pork, Chinese five spice powder, and Shaoxing rice wine.
  • Once that mixture is well combined, it’s time to give the filling some hot-and-fast stir frying. For this, I used a deep-sided, heavy-bottomed, 12-inch skillet.
  • Heat the sunflower oil in the skillet over a high heat. As soon as it starts shimmering — but not quite smoking — quickly stir in all the pork mixture. Keep the heat on high, and use a sturdy spatula to stir-fry the mix for 2 minutes. Keep stirring all the time, using the spatula to break the mix apart into an even consistency as it fries. Good.
  • Now add all the remaining ingredients for the filling — the chilies, cabbage, and sesame seeds — and keep stir-frying for another 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, and stir in the bean sprouts. That’s it, the pork filling’s done.
  • Turn the whole lot into a big colander set over a good size bowl, and leave it aside to drain and cool while you make the filling for the vegetable spring rolls. Do not discard the marinade / cooking liquid that drains from the pork filling — it’s going to be the base for your full-bodied, dark dipping sauce.

Making the filling for your vegetable spring rolls.

  • Give the big skillet a quick wipe-down, set it on a high heat, and add the sesame oil. Let it heat for a minute, and then tip in the ‘matchsticked’ carrot. Keep the heat on high, and stir-fry the carrots for 2 minutes.
  • Now add the chilies, ginger, garlic, and scallions / spring onions. Continue stir-frying for another 2 minutes, then thoroughly stir in the spinach, Shaoxing wine, and salt. Give the whole mix a really thorough stirring over that high heat. As soon as everything is well mixed together, turn off the heat.
  • Now stir in the bean sprouts and the vermicelli rice noodles — those noodles will really need some thorough stirring-in. Let the mix cool while you make the dipping sauces.

Making the light-bodied, pale gold dipping sauce.

  • This is really easy. Mix all the ingredients together in a microwave-proof bowl, and heat it on high for 1 minute in the microwave. Remove the bowl, give the sauce a good stir, and let it cool a little.

Making the full-bodied, dark dipping sauce.

  • Pour into a saucepan the marinade / cooking liquid that’s drained from the pork filling mix — that gave me about 6 tablespoons of liquid. Set the pan on a high heat and stir in the chilies and the palm sugar. Let the pan come to a rapid boil, and drop the heat to low-medium.
  • You now want the sauce to cook at a slow, rolling boil for ten minutes — so you might have to raise the heat a little to keep it going at a steady boil. Give it a few stirs as it cooks to make sure the palm sugar is completely dissolved in the sauce.
  • Remove the pan from the heat, and let it cool.

Wrapping your spring rolls: First the pork ones, then the veg ones

  • You’re going to use the same process to wrap the pork rolls and the vegetable rolls. You’ll be wrapping 16 of each type, so begin by peeling off 16 wrappers from the defrosted pack. Set these wrappers onto a cold work surface and cover them with a damp, terry cotton dish cloth / tea towel — and I mean a damp one, not a wet one.
  • We’ll begin with the pork rolls because their filling will by now be cool enough to handle. And the veg filling can cool a little more while you wrap your batch of pork rolls. Set a wrapper from the cloth-covered pile on the work surface so that one corner of the wrapper is pointing right towards you. Now, carefully spread two heaped tablespoons of the pork filling in a 2-inch thick horizontal line that’s about 2 inches above the corner of the wrapper pointing at you. Be sure to keep the filling centred, and to leave a space of about 1½ inches on either side of it.
  • Fold the wrapper’s bottom corner over the filling, and begin rolling away from you so that the filling is just barely covered by the bottom part of the wrapper. Now fold in the two side corners. You’re aiming here to create the look of a straight-sided, square-cornered envelope that’s still got its triangle-shaped top flap open — imagine the sort of envelope used for enclosing a birthday card.
  • Now roll again to within 1½ inches of the wrapper’s topmost corner. Good. Nearly done. Dip a finger into the corn starch ‘glue’ and wipe this all over the edges of the still-exposed edges of the wrapper. Now roll the wrapper completely shut. Carefully flip the roll over so that you can gently — and I mean gently — press the ‘glue’ covered edges into place. Done. Set the rolls aside on a plate and cover them a damp cloth — I used part of the dish cloth covering the yet-to-be-used wrappers. Then repeat the process.

Cooking your spring rolls — same method for both sorts of rolls.

  • Heat the 4 cups of oil in a big skillet set on a high heat. As soon as the oil starts smoking, carefully place the rolls into the hot oil in a single, evenly spaced layer. That big skillet of mine took six at a time. Keep the heat on high and let the rolls fry for about 4 minutes. Then turn them and let them fry for another 4 minutes. You’re aiming to fry them so that they turn a golden color.
  • Bear in mind that the pork rolls will turn much darker than the vegetable rolls — that’s because of the dark soy and the brown mushrooms in their filling.
  • Remove the cooked rolls with a slotted spoon and set them aside on plenty of kitchen towel so that the excess oil gets absorbed by the towel. Take a bit of care with this — they’ll be very, very hot — and roll them gently over the towel, so you get them fairly oil-free.
  • The rolls will stay piping hot — and I mean way too hot to eat — for several minutes. Which is grand because it’ll give you ample time to pour your two dipping sauces into some pretty bowls ready for serving.
  • For me, the only way to dip and enjoy these spring rolls is with your fingers, so napkins will be most welcome.

Notes

Nutritional calculation is done as if the spring rolls are a meal (2 pork, 2 vegetable per person.)
Here are a few tips for successful wrapper-rolling:
Try to roll the wrapper pretty tightly — so that you get a snug, fairly air-free fit all around the filling.
Aim to make square-side corners at the wrapper’s base when you fold in the two side corners.
Use enough of the corn starch mix so that it soaks a little into the wrapper and stays nicely moist before you seal the wrapper shut.
Freezing your spring rolls:
To freeze half of the rolls, set them on a big plate with a little space between them and leave them in the freezer overnight. You can then pack them in a plastic food bag ready for another happy day. Just don’t defrost them before you fry them.

Nutrition

Calories: 772kcalCarbohydrates: 72gProtein: 20gFat: 45gSaturated Fat: 7gPolyunsaturated Fat: 5gMonounsaturated Fat: 31gCholesterol: 27mgSodium: 1986mgPotassium: 831mgFiber: 5gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 9694IUVitamin C: 29mgCalcium: 166mgIron: 6mg

ENVIRONMENTAL INFORMATION

Keyword Serrano Pepper
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UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on October 9, 2021 to include new content. It was originally published on October 9, 2021.
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