Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’,…
As I mentioned in my last post, I was in the mood for summer rolls! Fresh, bright, simple, and something that would be really fun with the peanut sauce I made the other day. I decided to go with vegetarian summer rolls and use crispy fried sesame tofu, but they would be just as good with raw tofu, shrimp or pork, or even just the vegetables! Though I absolutely love tofu in all recipes, I also saw some seared beef rice paper rolls on another blog recently that looked absolutely to die for. For the life of me, I can’t remember where that was, but when I find the link, I’ll make sure to come back and include it! Anyway, something about today made a fresh and bright vegetarian meal sound just amazing.
Once you have your technique down, summer rolls can be pretty easy to make. The first one seems to be trouble for everyone, so just plan to use that one to find out what exactly your problems are going to be. Maybe your water is too hot or too cold, or maybe you’re looking at rice paper that wants to stick to your surface area. You might be trying to use too much or too little filling. Just count that first wrapper as a learning experience and move forward!Just count that as a learning experience and move forward Click To Tweet
I like to use a pie pan to hold the warm water that I will be using to soften my rice paper. It’s just about the same size as most brands, so you can don’t have to worry too much about the paper folding or wrinkling and sticking together. Just hold it with both hands as wide as you can, to minimize the paper sticking to itself. Hot water makes the job faster, so you want water that’s as warm as you can handle. I like to have extra so that I can dump mine when it’s too cool, refill, and keep going.
Vegetarian Summer Rolls with Crispy Tofu and Peanut Sauce
- 1 brick of tofu, all of the excess liquid pressed out (I usually cut it in half, wrap it in paper towels, and set a heavy cast iron pan on top for about 15 minutes
- 1 cup of neutral oil, like safflower
- Cornstarch to coat the tofu
- 1 Tbs Tamari (or soy sauce)
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- 1 pinch of salt
- Crispy tofu
- Peanut Sauce
- Rice paper rolls
- 1 cup of cellophane noodles, softened in hot water, drained, and rinsed well. I like to season my noodles, so I tossed them with 2 Tbs Tamari, 1 tsp chili oil, a squeeze of lime juice, and 1 tsp black sesame seeds.
- 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
- 1 cup thinly sliced cabbage
- 2-4 carrots, julienned
- 3 stalks celery, julienned
- 1 cucumber, julienned
- Picked herbs - cilantro, basil, and mint work really well here, but I used a mix of micro herbs that I had left over from those hors d'oeuvres tests that I was playing with a couple of days earlier. They make for a lovely presentation, but I the flavor of cilantro, basil (thai if you have it), and a little mint would have been even better.
- 1 small handful of greens - I used a winter mix, but spinach, arugula, or even butter lettuce or romaine would be great.
- (Just for the sake of appearance, I'd try to include either dark red greens or purple cabbage, or even opal basil. The darker color makes the spring rolls more visually exciting.)
- After the tofu is pressed, cut it into 24 equal pieces.
- Add the oil to a small saucepan or saute pan and get it hot enough so that a drop of water sizzles when it hits the oil. You don't want your stove on high; you're aiming for around 350°. If your oil is smoking, it's too hot. If you drop a tiny bit of water or cornstarch and it sizzles right away, you're good!
- Dust all of the sides of the tofu with the cornstarch.
- Carefully drop the tofu in the oil. You don't want to crowd the oil or have more than a single layer of tofu in your pan, so you'll need to do this step in batches.
- When one side of the tofu is golden, flip it and cook until all sides are golden.
- Remove from the oil, drain on paper towels, and sprinkle with salt, Tamari, and sesame oil.
- Don't start rolling until you have everything prepped!
- Heat water for rolling your spring rolls and put it into a container large enough to hold your rice paper.
- Spray a tiny bit of water on your work surface. Working one at a time, dip a single rice paper sheet into the hot water until it is soft and pliable. If your water is nice and hot, they really only take 3-5 seconds. Lay it flat, and begin to place your ingredients in the center of the wrap, about an inch away from you. Near the bottom, but not quite there. You want to have a good inch of space on the side closest to you and also the right and left sides. I like to put the herbs down first so that you can see them through the wrapper. Then, I place the tofu, the vegetables, the noodles, and then the lettuce or leaves on the top, so I can use them to keep the noodles and julienned vegetables under control. If you're using larger leaves, it actually helps to roll up your noodles in the leaves first, so they don't get everywhere. You'll need about 2-3 Tbs of filling. Enough to make a nice chubby roll, but not enough to overstuff it.
- Pull the bottom of the wrapper over your filling and fold the sides in. Tuck the filling in and begin to roll your spring roll away from your body. You want to keep the filling nice and tight, without ripping the wrapper. Be gentle, but keep everything firm and tight.
- When you have a roll ready, put it on a plate and keep it covered with plastic wrap or a damp towel. They often try to stick together, so try to keep the rolls from touching as you finish them.
- Serve your vegetarian rolls with peanut sauce and enjoy!
That’s it! Healthy vegetarian summer rolls with crispy sesame tofu and peanut sauce!