Spring Rolls vs Summer Rolls

Spring Rolls
Invented in China, rice paper today prevails in Vietnamese and Thai cuisine, where it is typically used for wraps.

Spring Rolls vs Summer Rolls

Spring Rolls and Summer Rolls are well-known and one of the most-loved Asian appetizers around the world. These two rolls may look similar, and in some restaurants they are interchangeable. However, there are some differences between them.

Rice Paper
Veggie-packed spring rolls.

The Origins of Spring Rolls

Believed to have originated in China during the Jin Dynasty between 266 to 420 A.D, Spring Rolls were a seasonal food made for Chinese New Year banquets and consumed during Spring. After a long, cold winter when families needed to rely on preserved foods and pickled vegetables, when Spring arrived, they would celebrate and welcome a new season by making a pancake filled with freshly harvested vegetables, rolled and then stacked to look like bars of gold. Spring Rolls get their name because the New Year marks the start of Spring in the lunar calendar, it is also called Spring Festival.

Many Asian countries that were influenced by Chinese cuisine culture also have taken on the roll dish and created their own versions of Spring Roll recipes.
In general, Spring rolls are made by rolling a paper-thin wrapper (made of wheat or rice paper) with fillings like minced pork, carrots, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, cabbage, chilis, and garlic. But you can also find sweet Spring Rolls with red or black bean paste filling. The ingredients inside the rolls and the wrappers vary depending on the region and local culture.

Some Spring Rolls can be fried, but not all. Fried spring rolls are generally small and crisp. They are fully wrapped before being pan-fried or deep-fried. Non-fried spring rolls are typically bigger and more savory. They are typically made by filling the wrapper with fresh vegetables and cooked meats.
Some of the non-fried versions of Spring Rolls are commonly known as ‘Summer Rolls or Salad Rolls’.

Fresh summer rolls are a healthy, delicious snack or appetizer!

What are Summer Rolls?

Summer Rolls are generally associated with a Vietnamese delicacy known as “gỏi cuốn” made by using rice paper and typically served fresh. This Vietnamese creation traditionally consists of pork, prawn, vegetables, rice vermicelli or glass noodles, and other ingredients wrapped in a thin, translucent Vietnamese rice papers.

In general, Summer Rolls are non-fried Spring Rolls and all Summer Rolls can be categorized as Spring Rolls, but not all Spring Rolls can be Summer Rolls. Summer Rolls and Salad Rolls are the same and can be interchangeable.

In the west, especially in the US, you will also find Egg Rolls which is a variant of Spring Rolls created in America. The difference is made by adding egg to the wrapper batter, giving it a thicker texture. When the rolls are fried, they will have a blistered and bumpy skin, while Spring Rolls are smooth.
Not only in Vietnam, but Summer Rolls / Salad Rolls can be found across Southeast Asian countries. In Indonesia, there is Lumpia Basah, a non-fried roll and Lumpia Goreng which is the fried version. Cambodia's Summer Rolls are known as Nime Chow which usually include herbs and shrimp.

In Thailand, there is a variety of Spring Rolls and Summer Rolls. ‘PoPiah Tod’ is Chinese-Thai styled fried Spring Rolls served with sweet plum sauce or sweet chili sauce. ‘Popiah Sod’ refers to fresh Spring Rolls with sweet sauce on top and served with soy sauce dipping. ‘Popiah Yuan’ is Vietnamese Summer Roll served with sweet and sour dipping.
The difference between Popiah Sod and Popiah Yuan is the wrapper, the fillings and the dipping sauces.

There is another Thai creation which is similar to Vietnamese Rolls is called ‘Kuai Tiao Lui Suan’. The rolls usually use wide rice noodles, or Kuai Tiao Sen Yen in Thai, as the wrapper and is where the dish gets the name. Sometimes Spring Roll wrappers can be replaced as well. The fillings include fresh vegetables like carrots, lecture, Thai holy basil leaves, peppermint leaves, cabbages, and sometime Thai chilies. Meats can be varied from Tuna, shrimp, minced pork, chicken, or crab sticks or vegetarian version with Tofu and fried mushrooms are also popular. What makes the Thai Salad Rolls different from others is the dipping sauce, which consists of finely chopped fresh herbs, garlic, Thai chilies, fish sauce, coconut or palm sugar and lime juices. The taste is salty, sweet, sour and spicy – the Thai liking taste.

Spring Rolls street food Bangkok
Bangkok Street Food.

How to make Spring Rolls and Summer Rolls

Start from choosing the type of wrappers that match for the rolls you want to make. If you want to make Summer Rolls, the rice wrappers are a better choice. They can also be used for deep fried rolls which give a crispier result (but they are easier to break when frying as well).
There are no strict rules about what goes inside Spring Rolls or Summer Rolls. But typically, in Spring Rolls you will find a mixture of finely chopped or shredded vegetables like cabbages, beans sprouts and meats. Meat fillings can be varied but minced pork is the most popular choice.

Summer Roll fillings usually consist of rice vermicelli, carrots, lettuce, cucumbers, herbs, and cooked shrimp or minced pork.
Before you start wrapping, mix all the ingredients together and season the mixture with oyster sauce, fish sauce, coconut sugar, or salt, pepper and sesame oil as to your liking. Then assemble and wrap the rolls with the wrappers.

If you use the rice wrappers, you should prepare them before use by dipping the wraps into warm water for a few seconds until soft and foldable. If it is too wet, leave it air dry for 1-2 minutes or place it on a dry kitchen towel, then it can be molded into the shape you want and wrapped around the other ingredients.
The final step for making Spring Rolls is deep frying. If you make Summer Rolls you can serve them with your favorite dipping sauce after wrapping.

Fried Spring Rolls are often served with a vinegar, sweet and sour dipping sauce, or sweet plum sauce. Summer Rolls are good to eat with sweet chili sauce or Sriracha Sauce, as well as spicy seafood sauce if you want to spice up your dish.

Deep fried Spring rolld
Deep-fried spring rolls.

Cooking Tips

  • A vegetable with lower moisture content, like cabbage, is better for the fillings since it won’t make your rolls too wet.
  • Make sure that your other fillings are not too wet when wrapping.
  • Use thin wrapper to make crispy rolls.
  • You can put chopped mushrooms to add extra savory flavor into the filings.

Both Spring Rolls and Summer Rolls are easy and quick to make, they are also great as appetizers and quick lunch. You can create your own version of the rolls, but if you are a beginner and not sure what to buy or prepare, you can try our Spring Roll kit and our fresh Spring Roll recipe here.

If you make Spring Rolls and still have some rice wrappers left and have no idea what to make, we also have some tips how to use rice wrappers in other different ways.