Although several varieties of basil are used in Southeast Asia, the most common-called rau que in Vietnam and bai gaprow in Thailand-is generally referred to as Thai basil in Asian markets on this side of the Pacific. The leaves are slightly darker and narrower than the more familiar Italian basil and have purple stems and flowers. Rau que has a distinctively pungent anise flavor, but Italian basil is a perfectly acceptable substitute.
If you want a lunch that is quick, fresh and healthy,  go straight to the Vietnamese salad rolls or gỏi cuốn. The rolls are filling and the dipping sauce is fantastic. The rice paper wrappers are delicate and will take a few tries to get right and tight. But the effort is really worth!
Vietnamese salad rolls , goi cuon, consist of meat, vegetables, rice noodles and fresh herbs that are rolled up in rice paper and served at room temperate, without deep frying, accompanied by a dipping sauce.
If you’re not familiar with these little delicacies – also known as fresh spring rolls – then my, you’ve got a treat in store. Cucumber granita aside, they’re just about the freshest thing I can imagine: a jumble of crunchy raw vegetables, soft, aromatic leaves and cool, squidgy noodles, all stuffed snugly into a featherlight rice wrapper.

In fact, summer rolls were what first hooked me on the fresh flavours of Vietnamese cooking: so much lighter and punchier than the fried snacks I was expecting. Gourmet magazine’s description – “a salad packed into an edible container” – sums them up nicely.

Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can play around with the recipe to your heart’s content (and it ought to be content: many versions are very low in fat) – but the guiding principle should always be to cram as many contrasts of flavour and texture into each bite as possible, while retaining the roll’s elegant appearance (ie don’t get too Man v Food about it). But what’s the best way to start?

salad rolls
Vietnamese salad rolls