A lot of people out there wouldn’t dream of making cold spring rolls in December. However, as I write this in Houston with my air conditioner on because it’s almost 80 degrees at the end of the year, I can tell you that it’s not an issue in this house.
I also wore flip flops yesterday.
Eh, it’s Texas, what can I say?
Now, onto these delicious beauties. Vietnamese spring rolls are usually served at room temperature, sometimes cold. The outside wrapping is made of rice paper briefly soaked in warm water. The rice paper is filled with lettuce, herbs, veggies, a protein of some sort and then wrapped up like a mini burrito. They are sometimes served with fish sauce, but I like them with a spicy peanut dipping sauce.
The filling options I suggest are:
- Cooked rice vermicelli noodles
- Green leaf lettuce
- Bell pepper
- Fresh thai basil
- Fresh cilantro
- Fresh mint
- Baked ginger garlic tofu
That being said, you can get creative and adjust the filling to your liking. I like Persian (baby) cucumbers here because they are the perfect size. I just have to quarter them lengthwise. But, you can use any time of cucumber, just trim it to be the right length for the rice paper you’re using.
A note on using rice paper
The rice paper I use is a standard round size. Not the mini ones, not the square ones, not the giant ones. I believe they are about 10 inches across. They carry them in most of the grocery stores I shop in. But, if you need to buy them online, the Three Ladies brand is good.
The water you use to soak your rice paper should not be boiling hot or cold – it should be warm, even hottish, like the temperature of water you would use to wash dishes. I fill one of my wide stainless steel skillets with hottish water and use that to dunk the rice paper, because it is larger than the width of the paper. This works well for me, because if the water starts to get too cold, I can turn the heat on for a minute and warm it back up.
You could also use a bowl. My friend, Helen, runs the water from her faucet and holds the rice paper under the water until it softens. They have a fancy rice paper soaker on Amazon that I have heard good things about, but I haven’t tried it. Do what works best for you.
I typically soak them in the water until they are flexible, but still a little firm, about 20 seconds. As you fill them they will continue to soften. If you leave them in the water too long then they will get mushy.
Mise en place
Mise in what? Mise en place (French pronunciation: [mi zɑ̃ ˈplas]) is a French culinary phrase which means “putting in place” or “everything in its place.” Basically, it means to cut and prepare everything you’re going to use before you start working on rolling these babies. So, julienne your carrots, wash, dry and trim your lettuce to a good size, julienne your bell pepper and bake your tofu.
You’ll also need to have a clean, flat surface ready to lay the rice paper on when you pull it out of the water. And, you’ll need a plate or serving dish to place them on as you finish rolling them.
The spicy sriracha peanut dipping sauce is quick to make and can be adjusted to your spiciness preference. Have a lava tongue? Chug the sriracha. Not into spicy? Just use a little.
If you make extra, you’ll want to wrap them individually in plastic wrap and refrigerate them to store them so they don’t dry out. You might want to refrain from using avocado if you’re going to eat them the next day. The other ingredients will keep better.
- 1 package extra firm tofu, sliced into 8 rectangle pieces
- 2 tsp crushed garlic
- 2 tsp crushed ginger
- ½ tsp sugar
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- juice of half a lime
- 8 rice papers
- 4 ounces rice vermicelli
- ½ head green leaf lettuce, trimmed to fit rice paper
- 4 Persian cucumbers, sliced into thick long quarter slices
- 2 carrots, julienned
- 1 avocado, sliced
- 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
- Fresh cilantro, mint, Thai basil
- ¼ cup peanut butter
- 1 tbsp mirin
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp sriracha
- 1 tbsp minced peanuts (optional)
- Prepare the tofu by pressing it gently in a clean dish cloth. Mix marinade ingredients in bowl, then brush over pieces of tofu on a baking sheet lined with a silpat mat or parchment paper. Bake at 400 for 30 minutes, turning halfway through.
- Prepare dipping sauce by whisking ingredients together and adding tbsp of water at a time until the consistency you want. Reduce or increase sriracha, according to your taste.
- Cook rice noodles according to package instructions, then rinse in cold water and drain.
- Add an inch of very warm water to a wide pan or bowl. Submerse rice paper in bowl for 20-30 seconds. Then, transfer to flat working space and fill with ingredients. Then, gently roll up and fold in sides as you go, like a burrito.
- Serve with spicy peanut dipping sauce.