These are commonly found in Thai and Vietnamese restaurants and they are a great light and fresh alternative to the traditional crisp spring rolls. You can really adapt the filling to suit and use prawns, chicken, etc. The rice paper wrapper is just to hold the filling together and I've enjoyed eating these at The Viet Grill and Cay Tre in both rolled-up forms and also as a kind of open cone using lettuce leaves, which makes them into a really fresh and crisp snack or starter.
The wrappers used for these are dry and white with patterns from the matted bamboo they are dried on – not to be confused with spring roll wrappers, as they are sometimes labelled.
Traditionally these would be served with nuoc cham (a Thai dipping sauce), but I've incorporated some brown crab into it. If you haven't got any use for brown crab meat, on toast for example, then just leave it out.
10-15 rice paper sheets (allowing extra for casualties)
5-6 spring onions, cleaned and shredded finely on the angle
A handful of Asian herbs such as Thai basil, mint, coriander, wild pepper leaves etc, washed and dried
120-150g freshly picked white crab meat
For the sauce
Warm water to mix
1-2tbsp brown crab meat, pushed through a sieve
1tbsp fish sauce
1 small red chilli, finely chopped
The juice of half a lime
First make the sauce: dissolve the sugar in about a tablespoon of warm water then whisk in the other ingredients.
Have a bowl of hot water ready, large enough to dip the sheets into. Dip about 2 or 3 at a time for just a few seconds, then lay them out on a clean work surface and leave them for a couple of minutes, until the water is absorbed and they become pliable. You will need to work quite quickly and expect a few casualties along the way. Lay the spring onions, herbs and crab down the centre and roll the rice paper tightly up around the filling.
Lay them on a tray until you have rolled the lot and serve immediately. Don't worry, it takes a while to get the technique right, so a bit of practice before your guests arrive won't do any harm.