Several years ago I read an article about fresh spring rolls. It was intriguing; the pictures were beautiful to look at and they sounded delicious. But I never made them. I admired the article and the fresh spring rolls at an arms distance. I cannot explain why I didn’t attempt them; I guess there was something about the whole thing that was daunting to me.
Fast forward, to a couple of years ago. I was in one of the Asian markets here in Seattle and saw rice papers and thought to myself- “There is no time like the present.” I gave it a few tries before I felt I really knew what I was doing. There is a balance between soaking the rice papers and how moist or hydrated you want to keep them before trying to fill and roll them. Also, keeping your filling as organized and neatly together helps the rolls stay together rather than fall apart on you. Other than that; they could not have been any simpler to make. Why was I so hesitant to try them in the first place?
The fun part of it all is that you can fill the spring rolls with just about anything. I have seen them stuffed with lettuce leaves poking out of the top of them, large boiled shrimps, variety of herbs, strips of chicken, crunchy vegetables, and even rice. I personally like to think about how I would like it to feel as you bite into it. Do not forget that what you dip it into is where the real fun comes in. I am sure can you think of any number of dressings or sauces to serve with them. (It is really just like a salad after all.) But I like to keep it somewhat Asian by mixing up a spicy peanut sauce to serve alongside. The fresh array of veggies, rice noodles, and tofu I fill the wrapper with go with the rich spicy peanut sauce. If you are like us, you will be using a spoon dribble the sauce onto the rolls. It is so good we like to get as much of it on there as we can.
Now, since this is relatively a cold dish it is perfect for these warm summer nights. The only thing you really need to cook - or should I say warm - is the rice paper. All that really entails is a tea kettle filled with water. We have made a meal of them and enjoyed them for dinner, but they can be made as an appetizer and even serve them up for a lunch. I have made them up and placed them in a plastic container and brought them as a treat for others too. Just like what you place in them, the possibilities are endless. I just hope you are not intimidated by them as I once was. Give them a try and dig in, you will not be disappointed.
Fresh Spring Rolls (serves 4-6) Rice Papers (about 12) Thin Rice Noodles (a large handful) 1 red bell pepper; cut into even, thin strips 1 large carrot; cut into even, thin strips 1 cucumber; cut into even, thin strips 5-6 leaves of cabbage, thinly shredded 2 scallions, chopped small 5 mint leaves, thinly sliced 1 – 2 tbsp of chopped cilantro 1 block of tofu, sliced thinly First; mix your cabbage, scallion, mint, and cilantro together and set aside. Have organized all your veggies and cabbage mixture together along with your tofu nearby. Next, place the rice noodles in a large bowl and cover the rice noodles with boiled “hot” water. Cover the bowl and let it sit for about two minutes. Once the noodles are softened drain in a colander and rinse under running cool water. Strain them again and set aside. Then, in a bowl or deep plate (big enough to fit your rice paper) place your rice paper and cover it with warm / hot water to soften. Once rice paper is softened place it on a clean work surface. Neatly, layer in your veggies, tofu, and rice noodles in the center of your rice paper. Finally; to wrap the spring roll up you will take the bottom end and fold it up, over the veggies. Take the two opposing ends and fold them in and over the bottom half. Now, gently roll the stuffed rice paper up toward the open end of the rice paper until it is one cylinder form. The rice paper will stick to itself to seal. Place them on a platter with their dipping sauce and serve. Note: If serving at a later time cover the spring rolls with a dampened paper towel and cover it tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until serving. Also when plating, I like to layer them between crisp lettuce leaves,
Spicy Asian Peanut Sauce 1 cup of all natural peanut butter 2 Thai chilies, minced 1 scallion, chopped small 1 clove of garlic, minced 1 tsp ginger, freshly grated 1 lime, zested and juiced 1- 2 tbsp of brown sugar 1 tsp of Siracha Chili sauce 1 tbsp of soy sauce Rice wine vinegar, to taste Water, to taste First, in a bowl place your peanut butter along with all your other ingredients (except the water). Using a whisk gently stir the mixture together until it is combined and thick. Finally, adding in a bit of water at a time to your peanut butter mixture. Keep mixing the water in until you sauce is smooth but will still coat the back of a spoon. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Feel free to add more vinegar or soy. Serve along the side of your fresh spring rolls.