East London's Kingsland Road is renowned for its many Vietnamese restaurants. But how to see the wood for the trees? On a hot summer day, we went on the hunt for the best summer roll this one road has to offer, taking along taste-testers Kelsey and Kemoh for the ride. 

 
 
[The summer rolls arrived less than 30 seconds after we ordered them] I’m concerned about how quickly they’ve arrived. As someone who makes them myself, I know how quick it is to make them, but I feel like that was *too* quick. With summer rolls, it’s all about the texture. You need to have a little crunch, the noodles need to be spot on, and you have to have at least two kinds of herbs – coriander, mint, basil, all good. Looking at them, they’re potentially a little dry around the edges, but you never know. The sauce looks like a combination sauce, maybe peanut and sweet chilli?
— Kelsey
It looks well put together, but that came out veeeery quickly. The prawns looks like a good size, though. I’ve never had a summer roll before, so I just need flavour.
— Kemoh
It’s pretty good, it’s not dry. The ends are moist. It’s not my favourite sauce, there isn’t enough soy, and the sweet chilli is weird. I think it’s watered down. There’s a lot of mint in the roll, which is nice. It’s very fresh, but it definitely isn’t the best one I’ve ever had. There isn’t enough in this. If you’re just going to have prawn in a summer roll, you need a good layer of something else, like carrot, or good pickles.
— Kelsey
I don’t know how good this would be without the sauce. I kind of feel like I could make something that tastes like this myself. I can’t even taste the prawn. I don’t know what I expected to taste, but I don’t think it was this. I wouldn’t order this again. I guess the only way is up?
— Kemoh

Sông Quê Café, 134 Kingsland Road, London E2 8DY

£5 for two prawn summer rolls

 
 

 

Mien Tay

I feel like the colour of the lettuce in these looks better, it’s brighter. There are less herbs than in the last one, they were quite overpowering in that one, so that’s good, too. Sauce looks good as well. The addition of the peanuts is nice.
— Kelsey
I think these look better than the last ones. That might be because they’re smaller, the others looked like I would struggle to get through them. I think I’ll enjoy these more.
— Kemoh
The sauce is better, thick and peanut-y. I feel like the paper on these ones is thinner, which I like. They can be a bit tough otherwise. Again, I’d like a pickle or something similar. The texture of the tofu is nice. I want the stuff that’s on top of the sauce inside the roll, the daikon and the nuts and carrots. Even a bit of the sauce wouldn’t go astray inside. If you cram everything into the roll, it’s good. A good summer roll should be like a meal in itself. Like a pint of Guinness, but of the Vietnamese type. It should have enough in it that you can have 2-4 as your meal, and nothing else. With enough variation and layers, they’re so great.
— Kelsey
These ones are better for me, mainly because of the peanut sauce. But again, I can’t taste the prawn. Maybe because it’s cold? The whole thing is a bit rubbery for me. And a bit wet. I’m not sure how fond I’d be of these without the sauces.
— Kemoh
 

£4.50 for tofu, £4.80 for prawn summer rolls, 4 pieces each      

 

Mien Tay, 122 Kingsland Road, London E2 8DP

 
 

 

Tay Do

I quite like these ones. The prawn is better, it tastes like prawn. The sauce is better too, it’s plummy. There’s a nice balance between the lettuce and the mint. Though there isn’t any coriander in this, which I miss. It’s half filling and half noodle – none of the other ones had enough noodle in them. I like this sauce a lot. It’s thin enough in texture that if you put the roll in it and squeeze it, it sucks up all through it, so then the sauce travels up. If it’s too thick you can’t do that.
— Kelsey
These are good. It’s less watery, less stringy to bite away from. I could definitely eat more of these. I could do with more tofu, though. You’re relying on the sauce a lot, to generate the taste. If I could have the last peanut sauce with these rolls, that’d be great. The noodles in these ones are the nicest so far. I’m actually enjoying these!
— Kemoh

£5.50 for pork and prawn or tofu summer rolls, four pieces

Tay Do, 65 Kingsland Road, London E2 8AG

 
 

 

Hanoi Cafe

Let’s hope this tastes better than the one I’ve made looks, because I am not good at this folding business! Here goes... oh yeah. This is definitely the best one of the day. Not just because I made it! The chicken is very good. The sauce is really good. The ingredients all taste great, and there’s a lot of variety, more flavour. The crispy onion is great. For someone who is completely new to summer rolls, it’s fun that you get to make them yourself, so you understand what you’re eating. It’d be fun to take someone here on a first date.
— Kemoh
Oh amazing, you can roll your own ones. This is a very good amount for the price. Right – you’ve got to soften the rice paper in the water, for about 20 seconds. You want it to be gelatinous. Then once it’s out, you’ve got to move fast, so it doesn’t dry out. Spread it out like a burrito and get whatever you want to put in it. If you’re extra fancy, you should be thinking about what it’ll look like from the outside. But that’s just for aesthetics. Don’t overfill it. Once you’re done, you fold it up like you would a burrito, too. And that’s it! This is a really nice novelty addition. The sauce is very vinegar-y, with lots of chilli – kind of like what you get for spring rolls. Oh yeah. This tastes really good. The crispy onions are really nice. Even just the inclusion of the cucumber is nice, we haven’t had that yet. The sauce isn’t so overpowering that it completely overtakes the taste, it’s more complimentary. Being able to customise it to your own taste is really fun.
— Kelsey

Hanoi Cafe, 98 Kingsland Road, London E2 8DP

£8.50 for the "roll your own" crispy chicken set, comes with approx. makes approx 8

 
 

 

The winner

Definitely Hanoi Cafe. This place has converted me. I mean, my roll isn’t beautiful, and it’s a bit loose to eat, but it tastes real nice. If I could have the peanut sauce from Mien Tay, it’d be perfect.
— Kemoh
No question, Hanoi Cafe. It’s fun to make them yourself, you can make the exact type of summer roll you want. There are way more fillings to choose from, not just your regular pork, prawn and tofu. It’s more expensive but you get way more, too – this could easily feed two people. And the sauce is great, it’s all about that pickle-y taste.
— Kelsey