Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls - Fried prawns (Instant Rice Paper Sheets)
Easy - You got this
Sweet and juicy river prawns golden-fried in a light and crispy batter, wrapped in instant rice paper sheets with fragrant Vietnamese herbs, and served with a Vietnamese dipping sauce. This prawn rice paper roll is a great way to gather family members around the table whilst experiencing iconic Vietnamese flavours.
Fried prawns are common throughout Asia with well-known dishes such as prawn toast in Singapore, tempura prawns in Japan, salt and pepper prawns in Hong Kong and bang bang prawns in Thailand. Banh tep is arguably one of Vietnam’s most popular fried prawn dishes.
In our family, banh tep typically appears when Vietnamese herbs are in season or in abundance. This dish and banh xeo (Vietnamese pancakes) are on heavy rotation in our household throughout the summer months.
Growing up, I loved prawns but developed a mild allergy to their shells in my late teens. This dish was first served to me by my uncle who claimed it as his specialty. Not wanting to be rude, I ate the first one tentatively, then proceeded to consume another 8 to 10 rice paper rolls that evening.
There are a few tips I can share to ensure the prawn rice paper roll experience is authentic as it is in Vietnamese households. My uncle’s preference to use fresh river prawns is key as the dish relies heavily on their natural sweetness. To find fresh river prawns, go to a fishmonger you trust to help you source them. However, if this is a challenge, try substituting with peeled king prawns, tiger prawns or banana prawn cutlets that are roughly chopped. For a crispy result, keep the batter cold and light, like in banh xeo, and to offset the unctuous fried shrimp, serve with a plethora of herbs and a tangy dipping sauce.
Finally, the use of instant rice paper sheets as opposed to standard rice paper sheets is essential as the fried shrimp is golden and crisp. Rice paper sheets that are soft and chewy when dipped in water will result in rice paper rolls that will easily split, break or puncture.
If your family enjoy cooking or consuming fried prawns—or simply enjoy their cold rolls—give Vietnam’s famous banh tep with instant rice paper sheets a go to take your prawn rice paper roll experience to that next level.
1 cup plain flour
¼ cup rice flour
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoons anchovy salt or 1½ sea salt
375ml cold beer or cold soda water
750g fresh shrimp, river prawns or prawn cutlets chopped into small pieces
1L neutral cooking oil
Nước Mắm (Vietnamese fish sauce):
3 birds eye chillies de-seeded
3 cloves of garlic
4 tablespoons of fish sauce
4 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
4 tablespoons of sugar
6 tablespoons cold water
½ lime juiced
60g Instant rice paper sheets or substitute with lettuce cups
1 bunch mint
1 bunch Vietnamese perilla (optional)
1 bunch coriander (optional)
1 bunch Vietnamese fish herbs (optional)
2 baby cos lettuce or ½ iceberg lettuce
How to make batter:
1. In a large mixing bowl, add egg and whisk until foamy (2 minutes). Add remaining batter ingredients and whisk well until no clumps are present, then place in the fridge for a minimum 15 minutes.
Duncan’s tip: Keeping the batter cold will ensure the shrimp cakes turn out light and crispy when fried.
How to make shrimp cakes:
1. In a medium frying pan add oil and bring to 180C.
2. In the meantime, add fresh shrimp to the batter and combine well.
Duncan’s tip: Shrimp tends to have a soft outer shell that can be left on to add another layer of texture to your prawn cakes.
3. With a metal ladle, scoop mixture and place in pan. Fry for 3 minutes, then flip and fry for a further 2 minutes or until golden and crispy. Remove and place on metal rack or paper towel to allow excess oil to drain, then season with a pinch of sea salt. Repeat this step until batter is finished.
Vietnamese dipping sauce:
1. In a mortar and pestle, crush and pound chillies, garlic and sugar into a paste, then add remaining ingredients and mix well until sugar dissolves and sauce becomes slightly viscous.
Enjoy with instant rice paper sheets:
1. On an instant rice paper sheet add lettuce, a combination of Vietnamese herbs and a fried shrimp cake. Leaving the ends open, gently but firmly roll the rice paper roll to form a large cigar. Generously dip in the nuoc mam and savour each bite.
Duncan’s tip: Instant rice paper sheets will soften immediately at any exposure to moisture.