Chena hot spring rolls

Chena hot spring rolls – pretty catchy name (if you live in Alaska) for a recipe huh? It’s okay, you can say it. I’m good with words. In particular, I excel at the art of taking two words or phrases and cramming them together to form one larger incoherent idea.

So with that being said, let me take this time to share with you why I feel the name ‘Chena Hot Spring Rolls‘ is so appropriate.

First off, I (Andrew) came up with the name. Secondly, as you all probably know, Vanessa and I live in Alaska and there is a resort called Chena Hot Springs (pronounced chee-nuh) situated close to the city of Fairbanks. So naturally, I wanted to come up with a name and a recipe that had something to do with Alaska.

Chena hot spring rolls

Thus ‘Chena Hot Spring Rolls’ were born. But that’s as far as I could go with this recipe, and I’ll explain why in a few minutes. But first let me give you some information about the hot springs directly from their website:

Chena Hot Springs Resort is working toward becoming a self-sustaining community, and an important part of making this vision a reality is to strive for greater independence in food production. The Chena Fresh Gardens program began in 2004 with the installation of a small test greenhouse, which has since operated year round and is heated entirely with water from our geothermal resource. One January, we were able to maintain the standard greenhouse temperature of 78°F while outside temperatures dropped to -56°F, which is typical for Interior Alaskan winters. This 134°F temperature differential was the largest recorded for any controlled environment production facility in the U.S.

In the last 4-6 years Chena Fresh Gardens has added to its original growing facilities with the construction of a new 4320 ft2 greenhouse, a 2000 ft2 high tunnel and a quarter of an acre of outdoor garden beds to provide our restaurant with a greater variety of fresh produce on a year round basis. Crops grown by Chena Fresh Gardens include tomatoes, lettuce, green beans, sweet and hot peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, potatoes and numerous other greens and herbs. The purpose of Chena Fresh Gardens is to strive to be an example throughout the state of Alaska for using geothermal and other waste heat systems to become more sustainable.

Chena Fresh Gardens also uses space in the greenhouses each year to produce around 100,000 flowers which are used to fill hanging baskets, unique flower planters and several large flower gardens throughout the resort in order to enhance the beauty of the hot springs during the summer months.

Chena Hot Springs Resort

Chena hot spring rolls
Salmon lox, leaf lettuce, cucumber, and Thai basil. We were originally going to use Thai chili, but we found it was just too hot. That’s why you see it in this picture. If you really like spicy things though, they have a great flavor.

And now on to the next part.

When it comes to food, what do most people associate with Alaska…?

Seafood right?

Vanessa and I talked about it for a bit and decided that the spring rolls needed to feature some sort of seafood as one of the ingredients. And to be honest, I think that was a good choice.

Yeah, I can’t believe I’m saying that either. If you know me, you know I don’t do seafood.

Chena hot spring rolls

But nonetheless, Alaska is well known for its halibut and its salmon among other things. Big things.

I told Vanessa’s mom about our big idea of creating ‘Chena Hot Spring Rolls’ and within two minutes she had given us a variety of new ideas to work with. Most of them Vanessa and I hadn’t ever considered using.

Salmon lox? I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t have crossed my mind in a hundred years. That’s what we are using for this recipe. I realize that sometimes it can be hard to get your hands on some salmon lox though, so you can replace that with smoked salmon if you need to.

Chena hot spring rolls
Here you can see Vanessa adding the green onions and the cucumbers on top of the salmon and the rice vermicelli.

We didn’t really want to put shredded carrots in the recipe, but we felt cucumbers, green onion, Thai basil, and leaf lettuce were all good choices.

And now for the part where I have to tell you guys, I really don’t know a lot when it comes to Thai food. But I’m a quick learner when I actually care enough about something.

I’ve learned that spring roll wrappers can be made of rice for fresh spring rolls, or wheat flour if they are going to be fried. I’ve also seen many dipping sauces that had chopped or crushed peanuts in them.

So fair warning; my dipping sauce is going to be completely different. But trust me, it goes well with the spring rolls.

Chena hot spring rolls
A sweet lingonberry dipping sauce with a little spice to round out the mild flavor of the spring rolls.

I’m really excited about all of the ingredients (minus the salmon of course) in these Chena hot spring rolls as well as the dipping sauce, because I feel they are a bit unique.

See, I have this dream that one day I will be able to try new and interesting foods regardless of whether it’s French fried frog legs or duck liver. I don’t know if that will happen but I’m going to keep dreaming anyway.

Chena hot spring rolls
Chena hot spring rolls

Chena Hot Spring Rolls

SemiSerious Chefs
An Asian style recipe using Northern ingredients, inspired by a uniquely Alaskan location.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Assembly Time 10 minutes
Total Time 5 hours 45 minutes
Course Appetizer, Lunch, Side Dish
Cuisine Alaskan, Asian, Scandinavian/Norse
Servings 4 Rolls


Chena Hot Spring Rolls

  • 4 rice paper spring roll wrappers (9 inch diameter)
  • 4 oz salmon lox* or smoked salmon
  • ¼ cup fresh thai basil, about 6 leaves; cut chiffonade
  • ¼ cup green onion/scallion; julienne
  • ½ large cucumber, skinned and deseeded; julienne
  • 1-2 lettuce leaves; chopped or ripped
  • 1 handful or about 100 grams rice vermicelli

Lingonberry Dipping Sauce

  • ½ cup lingonberries OR cranberries
  • ½ cup water
  • 3 T sugar
  • 1 T honey
  • 1 T peanut oil
  • 1 T apple cider vinegar
  • ½ t crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ t gochujang (Korean chili paste)
  • ¼ t kosher salt


  • Begin by making the lingonberry dipping sauce. In a small sauce pan, add the lingonberries and the water. Bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat stirring occasionally. Remove sauce pan from heat and pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a metal bowl. You’ll need to use a spatula and smash the lingonberries into the mesh strainer to get all the juice out of the berries. There should be a solid red layer of lingonberry skins spread across the strainer when you are done.
  • Pour the unsweetened lingonberry juice back into the small sauce pan and return it to medium-low heat. Add the remaining ingredients under the lingonberry dipping sauce section above. Let this come to a gentle simmer and continue cooking for 8 – 10 minutes or until you feel it’s thickened up a little. Don’t forget to stir on a regular basis.
  • Boil the rice noodles as directed on the package. We found that 4 minutes at a boil, followed by a few rinses worked best for the particular noddles we photographed above.
  • To prepare each wrap you will first need to re-hydrate each spring roll wrapper, one at a time, as you ‘build’ them. To do this add about an inch of warm water to a large flat bottomed bowl, large cold skillet, or a sheet pan with edges. Lay one dry wrapper flat into the water and allow to soften for about 15-20 seconds.
  • Carefully layout one softened wrapper on a flat smooth surface. Working across the middle, leave 1 1/2 to 2 inches empty space on each edge. Lay down about 12 cut strips of Thai basil topped with 1 ounce of lox or smoked salmon. Next lay a few pinches of rice noddle across the salmon, with one quarter each of the cucumber and green onion. Last, generously top this with leafy lettuce pieces.
  • To roll your wrap, first fold the sides up and over the lettuce to secure. Next fold the edge nearest you up and away, tucking it tightly up, over, and around the mound of ingredients, with any excess laying flat beyond.
  • Now simply roll the entire ‘tube’ over the remaining half of the wrapper. There is no need to secure anything, as the wrapper is sticky enough to hold itself together.
  • Cut each spring roll in half and serve with a small bowl of the lingonberry sauce for dipping.

*NOTE: Check out our recipe for perfectly smoked lox.

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