Vietnamese-style Spring Rolls Kicked up a Notch, with Grilled Lobster Tails

I’ve always enjoyed Vietnamese spring rolls. The first time I had them was at a wonderful little hole-in-the-wall dive called Tu Hai on East Belknap, in Haltom City, Texas, near Fort Worth .

They served Pho that I’ve used as the standard against which to measure all others. Whenever Charles, Mom and I would go, we would also order some spring rolls as an appetizer. They were made fresh and served cold. It was a wonderfully light appetizer to enjoy during the searing Texas summers.

I remember wanting to serve Vietnamese spring rolls at one of our big dinner parties and calling the restaurant to find out how much it would cost to get a lot of take-out spring rolls . I don’t remember how much they said, but it was the same price as what they charged on the menu per roll, so I figured I’d learn to make them myself and save a few bucks.

It turns out that Vietnamese spring rolls are really not that hard or expensive to make, just a little time- consuming if you’re making them for a party of 50 people. In a pinch for one of our big Lunar New Year’s parties, I made them in the wee hours of the morning the day of the party and refrigerated them, covered them with damp paper towels in the refrigerator to keep them from drying out.

I prefer using tapioca wrappers instead of rice wrappers for the texture. You can find them at most Asian grocery stores.

You can use two types of wrappers . One is made from rice flour, the other from tapioca flour. I prefer the tapioca wrappers because they’re slightly more chewy and don’t fall apart as easily as rice wrappers if you’re making them the day before.

We rarely have lobster and it always seems like such a heavy thing to have for dinner, with all that butter for dredging it, but I was inspired to grill lobster tails and uss them to fill the spring rolls, instead of the traditional pork and shrimp combo. As Emeril would say, it’s kicked up a notch.

So off to the grocery store I went, hoping that I would find affordable lobster at the fish counter. I wasn’t disappointed. At $4.85 a tail, I figure two of these wild Canadian lobster tails would do just nicely, eh?

Wonderfully tasty and refreshing spring rolls made from grilled lobster. Perfect for a light summer meal. We found this beautiful serving dish at the Salem Art Fair, created by artist Melanie Thompson from Hood River, Oregon. Her website is

Grilled Lobster Spring Roll

For 4 rolls

  1. 2 lobster tails
  2. 4 round sheets of tapioca flour spring roll wrappers
  3. 4 lettuce leaves, washed, stalk removed and leaves cut in half
  4. 8 mint leaves
  5. 4 chive leaves
  6. 8 pieces of gari (japanese pickled ginger served with sushi)
  7. 2  tablespoons (15 ml.) ponzu
  8. 2 tablespoons (15 ml.)  mirin
  9. 2 tablespoons (15 ml.) olive oil
  10. 1 teaspoon (5 ml.) garlic salt
  • Cut each lobster tail in half, lengthwise.
  • Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic salt.
  • Grill the lobster tails, flesh side down, for 2-3 minutes and then turn them over shell side down and grill 4-5 minutes over medium coals. When the lobster meat turns white and the shell turns red, you know it’s done. Don’t overcook or the lobster meat will be tough.
  • Remove lobster tails from coals,  let cool and remove meat and set it aside.
  • Fill a pie dish or flat-bottomed bowl halfway with water.
  • Working with one wrapper at a time, slide the wrapper into the water and press it lightly, submerging it and letting it absorb the water.
  • As soon as the wrapper begins to soften and become pliable, remove it from the water, shake off the excess, and lay it on your working surface.
  • Place half of a lettuce leaf on top of the wrapper, about an inch away from the edge closest to you, then place the meat from half of a lobster tail on top of the lettuce.
  • Place two mint leaves and two pieces of gari on top of the lobster meat. Then place a piece of chive on top before covering with another lettuce leaf half.
  • Bring the wrapper over the filling and roll about an inch, then fold the left and right sides of the roll towards the middle and finish rolling the rest of the way. (See step-by-step photos below.)
  • After you’ve finished with all of the rolls, cover with a damp paper towel and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve.
  • For the dipping sauce, combine ponzu and mirin and mix. Serve in a bowl with the rolls.

To cut the lobster tails in half, use a large chef's knife and start at the flesh end.

Using the palm of your hand, press down on the blade firmly towards the tail in one smooth motion.

Be sure to press hard, cutting completely through the other side of the shell.

The tails are ready for olive oil and garlic salt and the grill.

Start by placing the flesh side on the grill, then flip them over and grill them on the shell side. It should not take more than a few minutes per side. As soon as the flesh turns white, it's done. Overgrilling will make the lobster meat tough.

To start wrapping, slide one of the round tapioca wrappers into a pie dish half-filled with water.

Push down on the middle of the wrapper to make sure it's completely covered with water. As soon as the wrapper becomes soft and pliable, remove it and shake off the excess water.

Start by placing half of a lettuce leaf on the wrapper, about an inch from the edge closest to you and centered on the wrapper.

Place the meat from half a lobster tail on the lettuce leaf.

Add two mint leaves on top of the lobster meat.

Add two pieces of gari, along with a piece of chive.

Place another half of a lettuce leaf over the filling.

Pick up the edge of the wrapper and roll it over the filling about an inch or so.

Fold one of the sides of the wrapper towards the center.

Fold the opposite side, sealing the ends.

Continue rolling the spring roll, keeping pressure on the filling.

Roll it all the way to the end of the wrapper. The wrapper's slightly sticky texture should help it seal itself.

One down, now finish the rest.

About the Author

Victor Panichkul is a journalist and writer by training; a cook, wine lover and photographer by passion; and a lover of the outdoors since moving to Oregon more than 6 years ago. He is a native of Bangkok, Thailand.

Comments (2)

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  1. Joy says:

    I love spring rolls. The add of lobster is genius.

  2. VPanichkul says:

    Thanks for your comment, Joy. I’m on the lookout for sales on lobster tails!

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