The Emperor's New Spring Rolls

Lizzy Saxe

In The Emperor’s New Clothes, the Emperor is tricked into buying “cloth” so beautiful that it can only be seen by the worthy.

The trickster merchants charge him a ridiculous, one might even say kingly price, and then deliver the “garment,” promptly leaving again. Shortly after they leave, The Emperor makes a public appearance, and everyone laughs and laughs because of his state of undress.

The Emperor’s New Clothes is a perfect story to pair with Vietnamese Spring Rolls because of their clear, fabric-like wrappers. The ingredients in these are not perfectly authentic, but they are certainly delicious.

Serves 8 as an appetizer and 4 as a main course.


Large raw, deveined shrimp, approx. 1 lb

Fish sauce or soy sauce, 2 tbsp

Fresh ginger, 1 tbsp

Chili garlic paste, 1 1/2 tbsp

Lemongrass, 1 tbsp

Sugar, 2 1/2 tbsp

Sesame oil, 1 tsp

Water, 1/2 cup

Optional: salt to taste

Dipping Sauce

Juice of one lime

½ jalapeño, seeded and chopped

Water, 1/2 cup

½ cup of peanut butter

Spring Rolls:

2 tbsp peanut or sunflower oil

Large Rice Paper Spring Roll Wrappers*, 8

Romaine Lettuce, 8 large leaves or more if needed

Radishes, 3 large

Carrots, 2 medium

Persian cucumbers, 2 medium

Spring onions, 2 medium

Cilantro, 1/2 cup packed

Mint, 1/2 cup packed

Basil, 1/2 cup packed


The night before you make the Spring Rolls, grate the ginger and lemongrass into fine pastes and combine them in a large baking dish with high sides. Then add the fish sauce, chili garlic paste, sugar, sesame oil, and salt (if using). Then, dilute the mixture with a 1/2 cup of water. Finally, add the shrimp to the marinade, cover the baking dish with plastic wrap, and put it in the fridge overnight.


When your shrimp are marinated to your taste, place a well-oiled cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Add your marinated shrimp and cook them for three minutes on each side.

Once the shrimp are cooked, let them rest and cool down, as you will not want to use them until they have reached room temperature.

Dipping Sauce

After your shrimp are cooked, make the dipping sauce by combining the leftover marinade, lime juice, water, and jalapeno in a small saucepan. Cook until the consistency becomes somewhat syrupy, and turn off your pan. Pour the marinade into a blender and blend until smooth. Once blended, return the mixture to the pan and slowly mix in the peanut butter.

Spring Rolls

While the shrimp are cooling, begin assembling your spring rolls. After chopping the cucumbers in half and then deseeding them with a spoon, cut the carrots, radishes, onions, and cucumbers into long, thin slices. Next, destem your herbs, picking them apart so that they are just intact leaves. Then, take the romaine and remove any large, hard centers from it by cutting a large triangle shape from each leaf’s center.

Once you have all your ingredients assembled, fill a large bowl with warm water. Dip a spring roll wrapper into the water and wait for it to become soft and pliable. Then, move it to a clean cutting board, and lay it out as flat as possible. Begin assembling the rolls, starting with a leaf of romaine. Next, add all of the herbs, starting with the basil leaves and then adding a layer of cilantro and mint. Then add the rest of the vegetables in strips of equal length. Finally, put three shrimp on top of the veggies, fold the sides in, and roll the wrapper as tightly as possible. Repeat this process until you have used up all of your ingredients and have 8 beautiful rolls. It doesn’t matter if they do not look perfect. They'll still taste good.

Put your dipping sauce into a nice bowl and serve.

Comments / 0

Published by

I write about the past, present, and future of food and the human condition. Also sometimes snacks.

Brooklyn, NY

More from Lizzy Saxe

Comments / 0