How to Make Summer Rolls with Cabbage Leaves


Summer rolls are a healthier version of the deep-fried spring rolls that are favourite street snacks or appetisers in Asian restaurants all around the world. They are usually steamed vegetarian, meat or seafood fillings, and served hot or cold.

The traditional summer rolls originated from tropical Vietnam where they are known as gỏi cuốn whereas spring rolls originated from the cooler climates of China further north. In Malaysia, where I come from, we call them popiah (a term also used in Singapore, China and Taiwan) and in Indonesia and the Philippines they are called lumpia.


The fillings of the popiah vary from place to place in Asia. Some like to use sliced raw vegetables with fresh seafood like shrimps. Some like to use cooked local vegetables like yam bean or jicama (also known as seng kuang or bang kuang in Malaysia and Singapore) with a hint of sweet and spicy taste.

Preparing the ingredients for my popiah-inspired summer rolls. Image: © Pooh Ling E

The popiah skin (the wrapper) is usually a paper-like crepe or pancake made from wheat flour, and in Vietnam they are made from rice paper.

However, if you are into a low carb diet and looking for wheat free and grain free options for the popiah skin, cabbageis a great substitute, especially if you want to make the steamed popiahs.

Tear a few big leaves of cabbage, steam or blanch them until soft but not too soft. Let them cool down. Once they are cool, use them as a wrapper to roll or wrap the fillings into a popiah or dumpling. You can also use lettuce as the wrappers.

Coconut wraps or egg rolls are some other great options if you want to make deep fried spring rolls.

In this recipe, I have used finely chopped cashew nuts to replace peanuts and used almond butter to replace peanut sauce or peanut butter to provide a healthy option for people who are allergic to peanuts.

Do you know that peanuts are not nuts? They are legumes and contain harmful aflatoxins which could be carcinogenic. They are also packed with anti-nutrients that can hurt your gut and ramp up inflammation. High amounts of pesticides are used in growing peanuts and traces of them can be found in your peanut butter unless you are buying organic peanut butters. Those are some of the reasons that I have been avoiding using peanut or peanut sauce in my cooking.

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes

Serving size: 16 rolls


For the wrappers:

For gluten free and grain free option, use:

  • Big leaves of cabbage, lettuce or collard greens with stem removed, lightly boiled/blanched or steamed
  • Vietnamese tapioca sheet (store bought)


  • Fresh spring roll wraps/skins made from all purpose flour (wheat) (homemade or store bought)
  • Rice paper (commonly used in Vietnamese and Thai spring or summer rolls)

For the fillings:

  • 500 gram jicama/ yam bean/ seng kuang also known as sweet turnip, chinese turnip, or mexican yam bean, peeled and shredded/grated
  • 2 large carrot, peeled and shredded/grated
  • ⅓ cup dried shrimp soak in warm water until soft and finely chopped (for vegetarian or vegan option, replace the dried shrimp with bean curds, fried and cut into strips)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely minced
  • 4 tablespoons cooking oil (coconut oil or olive oil)
  • ½ tablespoon salt (if you are using dried shrimp and they are salty, increase the salt and taste to season if you are not using dried shrimp)
  • ¼ tablespoon ground black pepper or white pepper

Note: When I was making this dish, jicama was not in season. So I used some french beans and carrots instead. Feel free to substitute with any vegetables you can find locally.

For the dressings:

  • Almond butter (optional)
  • Chili sauce (optional)

For garnishing:

  • Bean sprouts or mung bean sprouts, heads and tails removed, blanched
  • 2 eggs, beaten and made into omelette and cut into long strips
  • Salt and pepper to season the eggs
  • Some shallots, sliced and fried crisp
  • ¼ cup of finely chopped cashew nuts or almonds (to replace ground roasted peanuts used in the traditional recipe and for people who are allergic to peanuts)

Dipping sauce (optional):

  • Chili sauce

Or you can try my scallion oil dipping sauce with a hint of spiciness:

  • 2 to 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 tablespoon shallots, minced
  • 1 inch of ginger, finely minced or grated
  • 2 teaspoons dry chili pepper
  • A bunch of spring onions or fresh scallions, cut into 2 segments (white and green), thinly sliced on an angle
  • ¼ cup of cooking oil
  • 2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 6 tablespoon sugar free soy sauce or tamari sauce (I like to use coconut amino or liquid amino) or ½ tablespoon salt

How to make the sauce:

  • Heat around ¼ cup of cooking oil over medium heat. Add in the garlic, shallots, ginger, dry chili pepper and white segments of the spring onions. Pan fry until the spring onions become translucent and the rest of the ingredients become fragrant. Be careful not to burn the garlic. Sprinkle a bit of salt.
  • Then add the green segments of the spring onions and stir fry for a bit.
  • Pour everything into a bowl and add in the sesame oil and soy sauce (adjust the amount of the soy sauce to your preference).
  • Sprinkle with some toasted sesame seeds if you like before serving and it is now ready as a dipping sauce for your rolls.


  1. Heat up your work with the cooking oil. Add in garlic and stir fry until fragrant. Be careful not to burn the garlic.
  2. Add in the dried shrimp and stir fry for another minute or so. For vegetarian option, add in the bean curds and shallow fry until lightly browned.
  3. Add in the jicama or yam bean, carrots and seasonings. Stir well and stir fry until the jicama starts to soften. Sometimes the jicama or yam bean might release more water as you stir fry them. That’s normal. Reduce the heat and simmer until the jicama or yambean turns soft. It might take about 30 minutes. Taste the filling, add more salt and pepper to taste. Dish out the filling and keep aside to cool. The filling might be slightly watery.
  4. Now comes the assembly process. Lay the big cabbage leaf flat. Spread a little almond butter to provide some sweet taste and a little chili sauce on it if you wish to create a bit of kick and like it spicy. Spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons of filling onto the leaf. Avoid the juice of the filling as it will make it too wet and tear the cabbage leaf. Top with some strips of omelette, blanched bean sprouts, some crispy shallots and lastly sprinkle with some chopped cashew nuts.Fold the side near you up. Then fold the two sides firmly and roll up tightly.
    Adding the ingredients to the cabbage leaves before rolling. Image: © Pooh Ling E

    5. Fold the side near you up. Then fold the two sides firmly and roll up tightly.

    6. Serve immediately with some additional dipping sauce if you like. Any leftover can be stored in the fridge and reheated in a microwave.

    The final product, rolled and ready to eat. Image: © Pooh Ling E

    Comment below if you do try it! It could be a fun activity to do with your kids while being stuck at home or in another lockdown again!

    Header image: © Dragon Images



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