No Drip Vietnamese Spring Rolls: Gourmet Airplane Food

no drip vietnamese spring roll recipe

It’s December, the month of holiday travel, and I’m here to tell you that before you step foot onto a plane (or car for a long road trip), you really ought to take a few minutes to plan what you’re going to eat while your traveling.

Because, bottom line, you love good food and the stuff they serve on airplanes is terrible. What’s worse, they make you pay a handful of dollars for food you would otherwise walk right past–had you not been stuck in your seat with no food options. Even if you took the time out to buy a snack from the airport terminal, the food is downright overpriced and unhealthy.

So why aren’t more people obsessing over packing their own meal for their trip? Maybe the new baggage requirements have something to do with why travelers aren’t packing their own airplane meal; but planning a simple meal for your flight doesn’t have to be difficult.  As a matter of fact, packing a lunch for a trip can be downright fun.

Granted, menu planning at 3 a.m. before leaving to catch an early flight isn’t ideal. So I recommend putting together your snack the night before while you’re making dinner. That way you can get all of your prep and clean up done in advance of any bleary-eyed wake up call.

Menu planning:

Before you head off for your trip, open your cabinets and start getting creative. Do you have any pasta you could cook off and season simply for a cold salad? Do you have any dried fruits or nuts you could mix together for a snack? Does the crisper hold any tasty vegetables you need to get rid of?  What dry goods do you have that would be satisfying on a long flight, and yet require no refrigeration?

With a small lunch sack stored in your carry-on, your stomach will be so much happier when the plane reaches a cruising altitude of six-thousand feet and the airline steward begins pushing that metal delivery cart down the aisle. The poor hungry travelers sitting around you with their cardboard boxes filled with tasteless crackers, wilted sandwiches, and salted nuts will wish they were munching on your gourmet, airplane picnic food.

At six thousand feet, you’ll be a culinary genius.

I created this modified, no-drip spring roll recipe for a car ride to San Francisco. It’s a perfect healthy snack for a short flight or a long car ride (if you have a cooler). Rather than needing a sauce on the side, I put the sauce inside the roll for easy eating and portability. Not only are these Vietnamese spring rolls fresh and light, they’re also a great way to use up leftover chicken or turkey.

To make your life easier the day of your trip, I recommend prepping all the ingredients the night before. Then, just before you plan on leaving, give yourself a few minutes to throw together the ingredients and roll up the spring rolls.

spring roll collage


These rolls have the dipping sauce inside, so there’s no mess and they’re super portable. Makes 4

4 rice paper rounds (9 inch rounds)
4 red leaf lettuce leaves, rinsed and dried
1 cup leftover chicken or turkey
4 tablespoons Hoisin sauce
½ cucumber, peeled and cut into rectangular sticks
¼ cup fresh cilantro or basil

In a small bowl, mix chicken and 3 tablespoons of Hoisin sauce together, making sure to coat the chicken with the sweet sauce. If chicken is not completely coated, add one more tablespoon of Hoisin. Chicken should be covered in the sauce, not dripping with it. Refrigerate.

Prepare your workspace: make sure all other fresh ingredients are prepped and in separate bowls; spread a cloth towel flat on your countertop.

Fill a medium sized saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Remove the water from the heat. Let water cool a bit. Being careful not to submerge your fingers in the water, quickly dunk one single rice paper sheet into the hot water for about 2 seconds. Turn the rice paper clockwise if one section of the paper has not made contact with the water. The rice paper should still be stiff when you remove it from the water, it will continue to soften.

Place wet rice paper round onto your cloth towel. Spread with your fingers to remove any bumps. Lay one red lettuce leaf in the center (near the bottom edge) of the wrapper, being careful to trim any edges of the lettuce that may go beyond the wrapper’s edges. On top of the lettuce, add a small amount of cucumber in a horizontal position, a pinch of herbs, and two heaping tablespoons of the seasoned chicken.

Before rolling: Keep in mind that this process is like rolling up a burrito, you will want to tuck up the sides and roll away from you. To roll you will want to hold the contents of the spring roll tight.

To roll: Begin rolling up the bottom half of the round ¼ of the way up, to the center. Then, take the two sides and fold them into the center and roll away from you.

Repeat the process for each individual roll.

Wrap each individual roll in a damp paper towel to keep the rice skin moist and put in a plastic container or insulated bag. Keep in a cool spot.

*This recipe includes cooked chicken, so be sure to eat the spring rolls within two hours of removing them from refrigeration.

airport guys

Gourmet Airplane Food Strategies

As you prepare for your holiday travel, be sure to choose a carry-on bag large enough to include a small bag of gourmet airplane food. Zip-lock bags are great for wrapping up individual treats. Armed with a handful of these gourmet snacks and you’ll be more than satisfied to skip the overpriced airport fare and the empty calories of the airplane food.

Fill zip-lock bags with slices of Prosciutto and a wedge of Pecorino or Parmesan cheese. Pop a piece of butter inside a dinner roll and wrap up in plastic wrap. Once on the plane, put together a sandwich with your ingredients. For dessert, enjoy an apple, nuts, or a bar of chocolate

Fill zip-lock bags with sliced carrots and celery;  a peanut butter and honey sandwich cut into 4’s; and homemade granola. For dessert, enjoy some homemade cookies.

Have you ever packed a meal for a long plane ride? What yummy things did you bring?

Have safe and delicious travels!


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Food Woolf Written by:

Brooke Burton is an Los Angeles-based restaurant professional and hospitality expert. She is a freelance food writer, speaker, and co-author of The Food Blog Code of Ethics.


  1. December 10

    Spring rolls are a great idea for a plane ride, never even thought of that. Even with the flying I have done, I never seem to pack my own food. I should. You are right, airplane food is terrible, and frankly dangerous too. The two worst cases of food poisoning I have seen were from airplane food.

    Great writing and photography as usual!

  2. jiva
    December 10

    what great ideas, and YUM! look forward to trying the spring rolls for lunch, even if the travel is only from the refrig back to my computer….

  3. December 10

    Brilliant! If you were traveling longer, you could substitute baked tofu for the chicken.

    Definitely making these soon!

  4. December 10

    I always hope to take food on plane rides, but never get past picking up granola bars, chips, etc. Really enjoyed your post and hope I do get my act together this year!

  5. December 11

    first of all – loved those spring rolls when we went to SF! They were fantastic! And what great ideas about everything else! I always get hungry on planes (scratch that – when am I not hungry???) and I could totally just load up a bag with cheese… maybe a few cookies too!

  6. December 11

    So THAT’S how you’re supposed to deal with those wrappers! The one and only time I tried it I ended up with something resembling library paste. Now I have to dig the package out from the back of the cabinet and give it another go.

  7. December 11

    Gabrielle, the baked tofu idea is brilliant! Thanks for the protein/refrigeration solution!!!

  8. December 11

    Nice work! Last year on our Xmas trip to Boston we stunk up the cabin with salami, mozzarella and artichoke hearts layered on pre-sliced ciabatta. Just remember, those ice packs are made with a gel-like substance, so they won’t let you bring them on the plane.

  9. December 13

    Brilliant idea to have these as travel/road food! We’re usually packing candy and chips/crackers to munch during our long plane trips. Springrolls are a much better option!

  10. December 31

    These would be great for ant lunch, not just for a road trip. Healthy too? Think these are going on the New Year Menu! Happy New Year!

  11. tim
    October 26

    I take it this is not in America. Because in the States, outside foods are not allowed on board by security.

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