Simon, one of my culinary partners in crime (this weekend I jealously watched him make his own batch of granola and bake a beautiful loaf of challah bread from scratch), recently took Aaron and I to Broomfield to visit the Asian market. Due to the fact that I spent eight years of my childhood in Indonesia, this visit was like a sensory blast from the past – the smells! The weird fruits and vegetables! I even stumbled upon a pile of stinky yet enticing durian! It was an exhilarating opportunity to stockpile Indonesian candies and drinks that I hadn’t seen in years. I’ve been to the market twice so far, and I always end up being in a very ‘Asian’ mood (food-wise) for several weeks following. I bought a rather large package of vermicelli noodles on this trip, and decided that the direction to go was fresh, herb-y Vietnamese spring rolls. I’ve seen a lot of variations on these, so feel free to customize to your particular desires. For example, cooked mushrooms and shrimp also go great in spring rolls. I’ve seen many types of dipping sauces, but the spicy peanut variety has always been my favorite. This is also guilt-free food (yay!): Low fat! Vegan! Gluten-free! Just go nuts.
- Package Vietnamese spring roll wrappers – made of rice and tapioca, find at specialty food stores or Asian grocery stores
- Vietnamese vermicelli noodles, cooked and cooled
- 1 package extra firm tofu
- Napa cabbage, shredded
- Fresh basil leaves (or Thai basil if available)
- Fresh mint leaves
- 1 can coconut milk (14 oz can)
- 1-2 tsp minced fresh ginger
- 4 cloves minced garlic
- 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
- 1/3 cup tamari (gluten-free) or soy sauce
- Juice of one lemon
- 2 T honey
- sriracha sauce to taste
- 1/4 cup finely chopped green onion
Despite the list of ingredients, this entire recipe is super easy. For the sauce, simply whisk all ingredients together in a bowl until smooth, and then adjust seasonings if needed. The longer the sauce sits, the better the flavors can incorporate. Sauce is best served cold or at room temperature.
For the spring rolls, the main preparation is cooking the vermicelli noodles and the tofu. For the tofu, press a block of extra firm tofu dry with a few paper towels, slice into long strips, and then pan fry dry in a wok over medium heat (yes, that means cook with no oil!). Flip every couple of minutes. Let several sides toast to a nice golden color.
Place all of the spring roll ingredients out within easy reach. Into a large plate, pour hot, nearly boiling water. Submerge one spring roll wrapper at a time into the hot water to soften, leaving it there until pliable (no more than 10-20 seconds). Pull out the wrapper, then lay on a fresh plate or flat surface. Onto the middle of the wrapper, lay out some vermicelli noodles, and place a few slices of the cooked tofu on top. Then, layer basil and mint leaves, cilantro, and cabbage shreds. The hardest part here is shaping the spring rolls, which just takes some practice. You essentially fold it up like a little burrito. Keep the wrapper tight enough to maintain spring roll shape, but not so tight that it starts to rip. Serve with sauce and enjoy!