Not only is this recipe gluten free, it's also a healthier version of crispy spring rolls, which doesn't involve deep-frying (and it's easy to make, too!) - what's not to love?
Spring rolls are often a guilty pleasure for many of us - or worse still, a greasy disappointment, heavy on the stodge, seeping out oil with every bite, and low on flavour - worse still if you buy the supermarket efforts. And if you're eating gluten free, even worse - you probably can't get hold of any!
However, salvation is here - a fresh and crispy tasty vegetable filling (and you can use this as a spring board, and add cooked prawns, shredded chicken or duck, char siu pork [watch out for gluten - my recipe to make your own is here] or whatever else you fancy to it - see the Notes for further suggestions!), with rice wrappers, quickly baked with a mere brushing of oil and egg, until crispy on the outside and hot and juicy on the inside! With a whole variety of very simple dips to serve them with (see here for five very simple Chinese dips you can whip up in under 5 minutes, as in the photo, that compliment them beautifully!), you can't go wrong, and they're very easy to make - no pre-cooking necessary for the filling!
Easily doubled for a crowd, and not at all difficult to make (the photo above is of rolls made by my children, aged 9 and 11 at the time - as in the photo on the left!) - tasty, crispy, gluten free spring rolls at a fraction of the calories you’d get in those from a restaurant or shop!
Makes 20 small spring rolls, 35 calories per roll, 172 calories for 5 rolls. I don't recommend making fewer, larger rolls, as you're more likely to get 'soggy bottoms' or splits in the rolls. You can shallow or deep fry the rolls if you prefer, instead of oven cooking - but obviously they will be considerably more calorific! If you don't need to go gluten free, you can make my Skinny Spring Rolls with filo pastry instead, another low calorie healthy option.
This is the result of a few different experiments, whereby it was discovered that the filling tastes best when put in raw, small ones are better than big ones (behave!), and the spring rolls bake best when the bottom is brushed with oil, and the top with egg (although oil on top does the job fine, if you’re allergic or vegan and want to avoid the egg), amongst many other variables, so I do really hope you enjoy them as much as we do, now they've been tweaked to 'perfection'!
- 20 round rice wrappers (some supermarkets sell these in the world foods section, but you may need to get them from an oriental shop e.g. Thai Boy – they are hard, translucent discs, which soften when put in hot water – if you’re not sure what they are, simply put ‘rice wrappers’ into Google, then click on Google Images. That’s them!), 14cm diameter* [(277 to) 346 calories]
For the vegetable filling
- 350g ‘stir fry’ type vegetables, a leafy mix with bean sprouts the main ingredient in it** (e.g. bean sprouts, shredded cabbage, fine julienned carrots and bamboo shoots, finely sliced peppers and onions, spring onions, ready prepared is absolutely fine – as long as they’re reasonably finely shredded - avoid mushrooms as they let out too much moisture when cooking - look for around 44 calories per 100g if you're buying ready-prepared, Sainsbury’s Basics is perfect if you want to buy it already done!) 
- ½ a 227g tin water chestnuts (70g drained weight), cut into matchsticks 
- 2 fat garlic cloves, crushed 
- 1 ½ inches of ginger root, peeled and grated 
- ½ tsp Chinese 5 spice (the proper, pure spice blend, avoid varieties containing salt and sugar like Schwartz, check ingredients for wheat) 
- 1 tbsp soy sauce (make sure it’s wheat free, e.g. Tamari soy sauce) 
- ½ tsp toasted sesame oil 
- 1 tsp neutral oil (in a small bowl, with a pastry brush – a hair brush is easier as it deposits less oil) 
- Beaten egg (you’ll only need about ½ a medium sized egg) 
- 2 tsp raw sesame seeds (white or black, your preference) 
See here for a variety of very quick and easy dips to serve up in under 5 minutes. If you're a fan of sweet chilli sauce, you could make that yourself too, if you don't want to buy it! See here for my recipe.
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 7 / 220C / 425F. Line a tray with foil to catch any drips, if you want to make washing it easier, and put a rectangular wire cake/cooling rack on the top (the wires need to be close together, rather than a roasting rack, to support the spring rolls).
Put all of the vegetable filling ingredients into a bowl and toss together thoroughly.
Fill a deep dish or wide bowl with hot water (a mixture from the kettle and cold water, as hot as you are comfortable with) to dip the rice wrappers with.
My original tip which is brilliant for rolling things! Take a large plate or dish, preferably with a dip in the middle, and cover tautly with cling film (like a drum! See the photo above where my children are rolling them) – this will make your wet rice wrappers easier to work with, and easier to get your fingers under the edges and roll them up without them sticking!
Take your first rice wrapper, and dip it into the hot water for around 30 seconds, or until it feels pliable, like a slippery sheet of rubber. Using both hands, take it out of the hot water, let the excess drip off, and lay it onto the cling-filmed plate, as flat as you can. Unfold any sections which have folded onto themselves, so it is as flat as possible, but don’t worry about ripples and creases. Take your beaten egg, and lightly egg wash the wrapper all around (literally paint the whole thing really lightly with a very thin layer – this will help seal it all up around the filling and avoid leakage and soggy bottoms!).
Place a heaped desert spoon of the vegetable mixture on the bottom half of the wrapper (see the first photo, below), then gently shape into a rough line, leaving 1.5 to 2cm clear on each side. Fold up the bottom of the wrapper and then fold in the sides (second photo), and lightly egg wash the folded in sides (which don’t have egg wash on yet). Roll the pastry all the way up, gently but firmly so it’s not too loose (third photo).
When you’ve rolled it up, take the pastry brush in the tsp of neutral oil, wipe it firmly against the side/rim of the bowl to get rid of excess oil, and then brush the ‘bottom’ (seam side) of the roll and place it on the wire tray, *across* the wires (not running the same way as the wires, as it will be more likely to stick, as per fourth photo).
Do the same with the rest of the rice wrappers and filling, until you’ve used up all the filling, and have a tray full of spring rolls lined up on the baking rack.
Take your egg wash, and brush it over the top of each spring roll (not so thickly that it runs down the sides, or else it will glue them to the rack!), then take the sesame seeds and sprinkle them evenly over all of the spring rolls.
That’s it, you’re done – now place the tray near the top of the oven, and bake for 10 to 15 minutes (I find 13 is perfect, it will depend on how hot your oven is) until golden and crispy.
Serve immediately, with or without dips of your choice! (See my quick and easy Chinese dips recipes).
Alternative filling suggestions
Reduce the vegetables by 100g, and…
• Add 100g chopped char sui pork (check the ingredients if you buy it, as one of the ingredients is hoisin sauce, which can have wheat flour in – if you want to make your own char sui pork, see my recipe here it's very easy, and you can slice it, freeze it, and just take out what you need when you need it! Blue Dragon brand hoisin sauce does not contain wheat/gluten) and substitute the soy sauce for 2 tbsp good plum sauce.
• Add 100g of cooked peeled prawns or cooked shredded chicken and you could substitute the soy sauce for a tbsp of sriracha chilli sauce, or 2 tbsp sweet and sour sauce
• Add 100g of cooked shredded duck and substitute the soy sauce for 2 tbsp rich hoisin sauce (again, make sure your hoisin sauce doesn’t contain wheat, use a brand like Blue Dragon).
• Add 100g cooked shredded beef and a couple of tbsp of chopped fermented black beans (as well as the soy sauce)… the possibilities are endless, just remember to adjust the calories!
*I used ‘Thai Boy’ rice wrappers, which are 14cm wide dried, round discs, which are 360 calories per 100g, 10 of these weighed 48g, hence they are approximately 17 calories per wrapper. Make sure you check the packaging/weight of the rice wrappers you use, to calculate your calories correctly, if you're counting.
**After spending one evening with a pack of beansprouts, chopping and julienning vegetables myself, the next night I grabbed a pack of Sainsbury’s basics ready-prepared stir fry vegetables, 700g for £1, which is basically “Mixed Cabbage (White Cabbage, Green Cabbage), Beansprouts, Carrot, White Onion”, they worked perfectly, so I highly recommend for saving time and money if you're in a rush!
I don’t recommend freezing the spring rolls in their uncooked form, as the vegetables are raw, and therefore likely to release liquid if frozen and then defrosted, which would probably result in ‘soggy bottoms’. They may freeze partially/wholly cooked, but again I think they would release liquid upon being re-heated, as the heating time and high temperature is designed to emulate deep frying, and only lightly cook the vegetables while cooking the pastry quickly so it is crispy. If anyone wants to try freezing them, do let me know how you get on, and I will update the recipe as appropriate!