Didier Corlou, the chef at La Verticale in Hanoi, made summer rolls using a single large shrimp wrapped inside a thin slice of mango in a dramatic presentation. But I love the taste of crab, and I was inspired by the flavor combination of California sushi rolls when inventing this dish. Perilla (or shiso, its Japanese version) can be hard to find outside of Asian markets in major cities, but basil leaves are a fine alternative.
For the sauce
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon finely minced Thai chile
For the rolls
- 2 ounces thin rice noodles
- 1 avocado
- 2 large lettuce leaves (either green leaf or romaine is a good option)
- 8 rice paper roll sheets
- 8 large perilla leaves (or 16 small leaves)
- 1/2 pound lump crabmeat
- Place all the ingredients for the sauce in a small serving bowl and mix until well combined.
- In a pot of boiling water, cook the rice noodles according to the directions on the package, until done. Rinse under cold water and place in a bowl. Slice the avocado in half and remove the pit. Slice lengthwise into ¼-inch-thick strips and remove the slices from the peel. Slice the lettuce leaves into thin strips.
- Working on a kitchen towel, moisten a rice paper roll sheet with a splash of water and rub both sides of the rice paper with the water. When pliable (about 30 seconds later), place a perilla leaf on the bottom half of the rice paper sheet. Place 1 ounce of crabmeat on top of the perilla leaves in an even row. Place 1 or 2 slices of avocado next to the crab. Add a small amount of noodles, about 1 ounce, on top of the crab. Place a small amount of lettuce on top of the avocado.
- Fold the bottom of the rice paper over all the filling and begin rolling about halfway to the top. When the side with the avocado and noodles is facing upward, fold in the side flaps and then continue rolling until you reach the top. Repeat seven more times with the remaining rice paper sheets. Serve with the dipping sauce.