Fresh Tofu Spring Rolls

We're in the second week of September and temperatures are still in the nineties. When will it end Mother Nature?! I'm still resistant to turn on the oven, so I've been digging in my mental archives for low or no-cook meals. Fresh spring rolls fit the bill because they require minimal cooking and manage to be both light and filling. Fresh, or uncooked, spring rolls are most common in Vietnamese cuisine. They include rice noodles, fresh veggies and herbs, and a protein such as tofu, shrimp, or pork. Every time I've ordered them at a new restaurant, they taste slightly different depending on the ratio of ingredients and flavor elements used. 

The recipe I'm sharing today is the simplest version, using basic veggies and herbs I had on hand. I made a similar version at my baby shower for Merle based on my favorite rolls from Vietnam Cafe in West Philadelphia, which also include fresh lemongrass and sprouts. Although rice paper wrappers may be unfamiliar, they are relatively easy to find in the Asian section of grocery stores or online. At approximately 50 calories a sheet, rice paper wrappers are significantly more diet friendly than their tortilla relatives. The first couple of rolls you make may not be the prettiest. The wrappers, once wet, become very sticky and fragile, but the learning curve for how to handle them is brief. Once you have the basic format down, it's easy to customize the filling to whatever veggies, proteins, and herbs you prefer. 

Fresh Tofu Spring Rolls
Makes 10

10 rice paper wrappers
1 cucumber, cut into matchsticks
3 carrots, shaved or cut into matchsticks
1 bundle thin rice noodles
1 bunch basil, leaves removed and washed
14 oz firm tofu, cubed
3 Tbsp coconut oil
Fresh or pickled ginger (optional)
3 cups warm water

Serving suggestions
Soy sauce 
Toasted sesame oil
Scallions, roughly chopped
Red pepper flakes

Heat the coconut oil over medium heat in a skillet. Once hot, slowly add the tofu. Fry until golden brown on both sides, approximately five minutes on each side. Drain off the excess oil on a paper towel lined plate. Meanwhile cook the rice noodles according to package instructions (either boiling or soaking). 

Lay out all the remaining ingredients and have a clean empty flat surface on hand, such as a plate or cutting board. Pour the warm water into a deep, wide bowl. Soak one rice paper wrapper in the water for ten seconds. It will still be slightly firm. Lay the wrapper out on the flat surface. 

Working quickly, fill the center of the wrapper with noodles, tofu, cucumber, carrots, basil, and ginger. Fold the ends that are perpendicular to the filling inwards. Then fold one of the remaining sides of the wrapper over the filling. Wrap the remaining side inwards snugly, which will seal the filling inside the roll. 

Serve the wraps alone or with a dip of choice. I like to pour together soy sauce, a splash of toasted sesame oil, scallions, and red pepper flakes. Other tasty additions to the sauce include crushed peanuts, wasabi or miso paste, and fish sauce. 

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