Rice paper is widely used to make a lot of delicious recipes. In spring rolls, it’s literally the glue that holds things together, or rather, wraps everything together!
Hailing from Vietnam, rice paper is popular in many regions and has a range of different uses.
It’s used to make rolls, salad wraps, it’s used as a base for many snacks, and the list goes on! Rice paper is processed using rice but has a lot of other ingredients added to them too.
So, is rice paper healthy? Yes. Rice paper is usually used in a range of delicious and healthy snacks. For example, baked vegetable spring rolls in rice paper are a popular and healthy snack. Rice paper doesn’t add a lot of calories but it still has some carbs and a little protein which should complement most diets.
With just under 60 calories per rice paper, this food is perfect as it doesn’t have any fat and it is mostly combined with other healthy ingredients to make a fulfilling and nutritious snack or meal.
In this article, we will discuss the many benefits and some considerations regarding the use of rice paper.
Read on to learn more!
How Is Rice Paper Made?
Before we begin explaining the multiple uses of rice paper and its nutrition, we must first break down how its made and what ingredients are added to make the perfect batch of authentic rice paper.
Rice paper is generally sold worldwide in 2 forms: plain rice paper and sesame rice paper.
While these two categories are the most popular in many regions around the world, there are hundreds of varieties of rice paper available in Vietnam.
Rice paper has a lot of uses and its preparation can also give you ideas on how to use them in different situations.
Rice paper is traditionally made by hand and is a labor-intensive job.
While modern industries have automated the production of rice paper, the art of making it by hand remains the undisputed champion when it comes to flavor and texture.
To make rice paper, workers first soak a special type of pliable rice in water. This softens the grain and makes it easier to mash.
Once the rice has properly soaked, it will be added to a pot where it will be ground or mixed slowly until it reaches a consistency of a thick slurry.
This slurry will then be processed by heat, but before that, this is the stage where the workers would either separate a batch for plain rice papers or add additives to make different types of rice papers.
A bucket is then filled with the processed slurry, which sits out at room temperature for a while. Meanwhile, the workers prepare a pot of boiling water.
Instead of a top lid, the workers will stretch out a piece of cloth and put it over the pot to make a makeshift lid that allows steam to pass through.
Some of the slurry mixtures is then taken in a large soup-spoon-like utensil and is placed over the cloth. The workers then quickly create a circle using the bottom of the spoon with a circular motion.
The actual lid for the pot is then put over the surface with the rice disk. The steam from the boiling water underneath penetrates the circular disk and cooks it in about 30-40 seconds.
Then, using tongs, the worker will carefully take out the very wet and pliable rice disk onto a rack.
The rack with the rice disks is then taken outside on a sunny day to dry for a few hours. The rack may also be dried using fire from coal or wood if the weather isn’t right. Once the disks harden, they become rice paper.
The rice paper disks are then stacked, packaged, and ready to deliver!
Calories In A Rice Paper Roll
A typical rice paper sheet has about:
- 50-60 calories
- 8 grams of carbs
- 1 gram of protein
- 0.5 gram of dietary fiber
- 0 grams of fat
The nutritional information above pertains to the usual variety of rice paper found in the market. There can be some deviation in the nutritional profile of the rice paper based on its ingredients.
For example, rice paper made by adding bran, tamarind, or coconut milk will have significantly different values.
If you are looking for a good snack, then rice paper is a great place to start. Of course, you can also have it on its own but the best way to enjoy it is by using it as edible wrapping paper.
Think of rice paper as a blank canvas for your culinary creations.
Rice paper has rice starch which makes it one of the best foods when fried or baked. Just add a little oil to it and bake it, or dip it in hot oil to make rice cakes.
Want a healthier option? Then just dip the rice paper in some water to make it easier to work with and fill in your favorite ingredients.
You can also opt for the many varieties available online or by importing them from Vietnam.
Many kinds of rice paper may fit your exact dietary needs but if all you have is plain rice paper then you can do a lot with it to make it even healthier too.
Most of the calories from rice paper come from its carbohydrate profile. Although these are simple carbs compared to the healthier, complex variety, they still make for a great choice owing to their low fat and sodium content.
Comparing Rice Paper
Rice paper has a very straightforward nutritional profile compared to let’s say sushi rice or seaweed wraps.
But the thing to consider here is not just nutrition but versatility, flavor, texture, and uses. Rice paper is highly convenient and easy to work with and requires almost no preparation beforehand.
Just open a pack of rice paper and begin assembling your masterpiece.
Rice paper also happens to be cheaper, easier to store, and has a long shelf life compared to other sushi products or alternatives.
Of course, seaweed wraps have a better nutritional profile since it offers minerals and nutrients like iodine and iron. However, these alternatives have limited use and are mostly used to make sushi.
On the other hand, rice paper can be used as a base for a light and healthy pizza replacing breaded dough, or it can be used in multiple wraps and it can also be fried or baked so that it becomes crispy and crumbly.
These properties are difficult, if not possible to achieve when it comes to its alternatives.
If you want to supplement the nutrition provided by rice paper then we highly recommend that you turn to vegetable spring rolls, which can include anything that you desire, even the ingredients from sushi.
So, the debate whether using rice paper is healthy or not truly comes down to its use.
You can find many online resources for recipe ideas and healthy snacking options using rice paper.
Rice paper can also be used to make noodles! Just soak a disk of rice paper in water, gently fold it in half, and then using a cutter, cut out thin slices to make rice noodles at home! The noodles themselves can be used in several ways.
For example, you can use 1 part of a batch of rice paper as noodles, 1 part for wrapping spring rolls, and 1 part for making rice paper tacos!
The possibilities are endless which is why rice paper triumphs over its other alternatives.
If you want a healthier option, then as mentioned above, we recommend that you pick out one of the many healthy varieties available online.
Rice paper comes in hundreds of forms, some are made with different types of rice and some are made using additional healthy ingredients.
One particular type of rice paper which is made using garlic, shallots, and spices is a hugely popular snack in many Asian regions.
It’s usually either baked on an open fire or over a hot pan and can even be deep-fried for a distinct puffy and crunchy texture.
Some Tips And Recipes To Keep In Mind
Even though rice paper is very versatile, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind.
First of all, the proper use of rice paper is essential. One of the most common complaints that people have with rice paper is that it is easy to tear. Well, this is where “proper use” comes in.
Rice paper is inherently delicate as it is a paper-thin and near-translucent layer of rice. So, you need to handle it properly using these simple techniques.
To make rice paper pliable, simply dip it in water or just wet your hands and spread them over the rice paper roll gently.
By the time you add in the required ingredients to make the spring roll, the paper will be soft enough to fold easily. If you feel that the paper is still a bit rigid, just wet your hand and carefully spread it over the rigid surface until it becomes soft.
Then tuck in the corners to seal the roll and slowly fold the paper so that it takes the shape of a spring roll.
Be gentle during this step as rolling too tightly may cause the paper to tear and using too much filling may also cause the same problem.
Take a spoonful of ingredients and roll them to see how it turns out. We guarantee that you will perfect your technique by the time you make your third rice paper roll—it really is that easy!
Keep in mind that rice paper is susceptible to moisture so you need to account for the moisture in the ingredients as well.
For example, wet cabbage may tear or make the rice paper too soggy. Just dry out the ingredients by cooking them or by drying them using a strainer. It’s the little things that make the most difference.
Now that we’ve looked at the nutritional value of rice paper, let’s take a look at a few related questions!
How is rice paper different from rice cakes?
Rice paper can be cooked via frying or over a hot pan to make rice cakes which are also called “papad” in some regions.
These rice cakes are a popular snack item and can also be added to other recipes and salads as a crunchy seasoning.
Just make sure you have them as soon as they are served so that you can experience them while they are still crunchy.
Is rice paper only made using rice?
Plain rice paper is made predominately using rice with a few additives that help bind the mix together.
There are several varieties of rice paper in the world and you can find the bulk of them in Vietnam which is famous for using rice paper for a range of foods.
Rice paper is used to make noodles and also comes in many different and delicious flavorings. For example, you can find rice paper infused with coconut, shallots, garlic, and much more.
Can I eat rice paper raw?
We wouldn’t advise that you eat rice paper raw even though some people may dip it in warm water and use it as a wrap without cooking it. Rice paper needs to be processed using heat so that it becomes easier to digest and flavorful.
The best way to cook rice paper is to either fry it in hot oil or bake it using an oven. You may even use an air-fryer for rice paper wraps and rolls so that they have a crispy golden texture.
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