Vietnamese Summer Rolls

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I have been on a bit of Heidi Swanson kick lately. It’s a real love-hate relationship though. I feel as though her life is one large Anthropologie ad. In her cook book Near and Far, she has a section with recipes for “en route” (IDK if that’s what she actually calls it, but I’m calling it that..) Basically it is recipes she makes to take with her on the plane when she travels. One of those recipes was Summer Rolls. (I also call these fresh rolls…not sure what the correct name is.) I will likely never in my life make summer rolls to take on an airplane and instead eat a shitty pizza in the airport (I am too good for plane food but definitely not above airport fast food). Although these will never be an “en route” recipe for me, these were definitely a fun dinner at home recipe.

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This recipe is nothing like the one in Heidi Swanson’s book. I had intended to do her exact recipe, but then I couldn’t find rice paper sheets at the store. The next day, I went to a different grocery store and still couldn’t find them. We really wanted to make these one day, so I went to an Asian grocery store near by to look. I still couldn’t find them. I went from person to person in the grocery store asking for rice paper sheets and fumbling through gesture to try to get someone to understand (why should they understand me? it’s an Asian grocery store.), but I couldn’t find anyone who spoke English. Finally, a man pointed to the end of the store. He wouldn’t speak to me but kept pointing. I was certain he didn’t understand me because we were in the refrigerated section where I was sure that the rice papers would be found and he was pointing to dry goods. I know. I’m an idiot. He eventually gave me a gentle push away. Seriously, it was the kindest push I have ever received. I went to look where he told me and there they were. Dried and hard. It all made sense suddenly. These were a dried item that I would re-hydrate. I’m. So. Dumb. Probably the other two grocery stores had them as well and I didn’t realize it because I thought they would be with the wonton and spring roll wrappers in the fridge section. Ugh. My husband couldn’t believe that I had been looking in the fridge section the whole time. Apparently I am the only person who didn’t know these are a dried item! Anyways, I got them and it worked out.

By the time I returned from my extremely long Asian store excursion, my husband and I were hungry and there was no time to follow Heidi’s perfect little recipe. Instead I threw together the items in a way that made sense and we made a quick kick ass peanut sauce from what was in the fridge and it was banging. So good that we made it again three days later.

Using the dried rice paper sheets took a little playing around. I’m sure that depending on the brand and type of sheet you buy that different amounts of moisture are needed for making them pliable. Just start with less water and work your way up is my suggestion. And be aware that the amount of water needed can change.

In other news, babies are being babies over here. We got a pile of snow dumped on us this week. The daycare is closed and we are all trapped at home together. However, because I am an online teacher, I still work even when kids are home and roads are blocked. So we are juggling a lot! I made those tasty crepes that I posted a while back. Something about snow makes me want a crepe. I don’t know where that connection started. I wish we were brave enough to venture out in the snow…we aren’t though. LOL. I feel like non-walking babies and snow are just a lot of tears waiting to happen. We’ll stay in this year and try playing in the snow next year. I know. Boring. I did build Roshi a tent in his playroom. Maybe that can make up for my unwillingness to take him out.

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Vietnamese Summer Rolls

Ingredients:

For the Rolls:

  • 1/2 block firm tofu, sliced into quarter inch sticks (you could marinate this for 30 minutes + in some soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil if you want to get fancy or not. I did it the one time and not the second time and I didn’t really notice a difference since the dipping sauce is so flavorful)
  • 8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, sliced thinly
  • 3 carrots, sliced into long sticks
  • crunchy lettuce such as romaine
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • cilantro, whole with stems
  • jalapeno, sliced in long thin strips (optional)
  • cooked asian noodles (optional…we didn’t use these the first time, but it is more filling with them)
  • 8-10 rice paper sheets
  • water

For the Peanut Dipping Sauce:

I don’t know the measurements here…we just throw things in to taste…so I am just listing the ingredients and you could mash it together to your liking. Maybe sometime I will measure when we do it and update this.

  • creamy peanut butter
  • agave or honey
  • soy sauce
  • lime juice
  • salt and pepper
  • few red pepper flakes for heat
  • dash of sesame oil
  • hunk of fresh ginger
  • clove of fresh garlic
  • dash of worcestershire sauce or something else for umami
  • a bit of water for thinning out
  • chopped salted and roasted peanuts to top the sauce with for a bit of crunch

Directions:

  1. In a frying pan over medium -high heat, add oil. Once hot, fry tofu. If you did not marinate, salt and pepper them and even add a bit of soy sauce if you want for flavor. Get them crispy and golden. Remove from pan and set aside.
  2. In same pan, add mushrooms. Add more oil as needed. Salt and pepper mushrooms. Fry until they have released their moisture and the moisture has been reabsorbed/evaporated. Remove from pan.
  3. Get a station prepared. I had a pot of water for dipping my rice papers, some plates and bowls of my various vegetables for filling and a plate for placing the finished product. I put a damp tea towel down to roll my wet wrappers on which worked well for me.
  4. Assemble the wraps by placing a sheet of rice paper in the pot of water for about 15 seconds. The sheet should be pliable but not completely soaked and ready for eating yet. Lay the sheet down on the tea towel.
  5. Lay a piece of lettuce in the bottom third of the rice paper. Top with some tofu, mushrooms, some carrots, some green onions, some cilantro, some jalapeno and noodles if using. If you are new to rolling these, it is easier to roll a less filled one to start out.
  6. Fold up like a burrito by folding the small bottom up over the stuffing and then folding the two ends in over the stuffing. Then roll it up. Set aside and keep repeating. The rolls will absorb more water and get softer as they sit.
  7. For the dipping sauce, mix all ingredients well in a blender. Taste and adjust seasonings and sweetness to your liking. Top the dipping sauce with chopped peanuts.
  8. Serve the rolls with a side of the sauce.

 

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