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Spring rolls with wild prawns

Prep time
20 mins
Cooking Time
15 mins


msc ecolabel landscape

For the dip

  • 4 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 red chilli (chile), deseeded and finely chopped

For the spring rolls

  • 12 asparagus spears (stalks)
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 carrot
  • 150g / 5oz MSC certified cooked prawns (shrimp), peeled 
  • 4 spring onions (scallions), trimmed and cut lengthwise into thin strips
  • 50g / 2oz baby spinach leaves
  • 50g / 2oz bean sprouts
  • handful of mint leaves, chopped
  • handful of coriander (cilantro) leaves, chopped
  • handful of Thai basil leaves, chopped
  • 150g / 5oz glass noodles
  • 12 rice paper wrappers
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
When shopping, look for the MSC blue fish tick on your seafood to know it's sustainable.

The MSC blue fish tick


While in Europe we use salted anchovies as a flavour enhancer, in Asia they use fish sauce. Some fish sauces can take up to two years to ferment – as they do so, amino acids develop to produce that deep, savoury umami flavour. Although Asian cuisines have made us familiar with this type of sauce today, they were, in fact, enjoyed in Europe in ancient times. The Greeks made garos, while the Romans made garum or liquamen, fermenting salted fish (innards and all) for months in the sun until they disintegrated, before straining the residue. Garum is used in almost all recipes recorded by the Roman gourmet Apicius, after whom one of the earliest cookbooks was named. These sauces were used in Europe until well into the sixteenth century, after which garum made way for salted anchovies.

To make the dip

  1. Put the fish sauce, 4 tablespoons of water, the rice vinegar and the sugar in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Leave to cool and then stir in the lime juice, garlic and chilli (chile).
  2. To prepare the spring rolls, blanch the asparagus spears (stalks) in a pan of lightly salted boiling water for 1 minute. Drain and rinse lightly under cold running water.
  3. Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise, deseed and cut into matchsticks. Cut the carrot into sticks the same size as the cucumber.
  4. Lay the cucumber, carrot, prawns (shrimp), spring onions (scallions), asparagus spears, baby spinach leaves, bean sprouts and herbs in separate piles side by side on a large board.
  5. Cook the noodles in a large pan of lightly salted boiling water according to the packet instructions. Drain in a colander and rinse lightly under cold running water so the noodles do not stick together.
  6. Transfer the noodles to a bowl and mix them with 2 tablespoons of the dip to add flavour.

To assemble the spring rolls

  1. Dip a rice paper wrapper in a large bowl of warm water for a few seconds to soften it.
  2. Lay the wrapper on a board and top with a couple of prawns, vegetable sticks, a few spinach leaves, bean sprouts, herbs and noodles, piling everything in the middle of the wrapper.
  3. Fold in the sides of the wrapper over the filling and roll up to enclose the filling. If wished, you can just fold over one side of the wrapper so one end of the roll remains open when you roll it and you can see the filling.
  4. Repeat until you have used all the rice paper wrappers and the filling ingredients.

Serving instructions

Serve the spring rolls with the dip and lime wedges to squeeze over.

Photo credit: David Loftus

Recipes taken from Bart’s Fish Tales by Bart van Olphen, published by Pavilion Books.

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