4 ounces thin vermicelli or rice noodles16 raw medium shrimp, shelled and de-veined (optional)2 tablespoon rice vinegar2 large carrots, shredded2 teaspoons sugar16 rounds of rice paper (banh trang), each 8 1/2 inches in diameter8 large red leaf or Boston lettuce leaves, thick stem ends removed and cut in half2 cups fresh bean sprouts1 cucumber, seeds removed and cut into small juilienne1 cup mint leaves, washed and drainediN1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, washed and drained
In a medium saucepan, bring several cups of water to boil. Add vermicelli and cook until just softened, 2-3 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water.
Boil the shrimp with water and 2 tablespoons rice vinegar for 3 minutes, then refresh in cold water. Cut lengthwise in half, then set aside.
Lay out the spring roll ingredients before beginning to assemble the rolls.
Fill a shallow 9 or 10-inch cake or pie pan with very warm water. Working with 2 sheets of rice paper at a time, immerse the sheets and quickly remove. Spread out flat on a dry towel. The rice paper will become pliable within seconds (too long and they become soggy and tear when rolling).
Lay one piece of lettuce over the bottom of the rice paper. Add 1 tablespoon of noodles, 1 tablespoon carrot, bean sprouts and several mint leaves. Roll the paper halfway. Fold both sides of the paper over the filling. Lay 2 shrimp halves, cut side down, along the crease. Place several cilantro leaves above the shrimp. Keep rolling the paper into a cylinder to seal. Place the rolls, seam side down, on a plate and cover with a damp towel so they will stay moist. Slice each roll in half on a bias.
Serve rolls with peanut dipping sauce, preferably in individual dipping bowls.