I’m back! I was on a brief blogging hiatus while studying for the GRE. In fact, this recipe is a reaction to the last week or two of studying when I felt as though my diet consisted of processed foods and any number of crunchy carbohydrates (chips, pretzels, rice cakes – you get the picture).
On my way home from the exam on Saturday I stopped at Whole Foods and bought a random collection of colorful fruits and vegetables; I was craving healthiness! With an assortment of half-eaten veggies in the fridge I decided to attempt one of my favorite dining-out dishes: spring rolls – not the yucky fried ones but the refreshing raw rice paper rolls they serve at Vietnamese restaurants.
I have long been intimidated by rice paper wraps. Where do I buy them and how do they work? Believe it or not, you can find them in most standard grocery stores in the Asian food section. I picked mine up at the 74th Street Fairway and was pleased to discover my fear was unwarranted.
I love the colors of this dish, but most of all I love the dip. Even if you don’t make the rolls, MAKE THE DIP. Then use it as a sauce for noodles, a dip for crudite, shampoo…(joking joking)!
Ingredients for 8-10 medium spring rolls:
1 package of spring roll wrappers
1 yellow bell pepper
Carrots (buy shredded or simply chop baby or full carrots into strips)
3 cups of raw baby spinach
1 package of extra firm tofu, pressed* (this is crucial – it will get rid of excess water and make your tofu’s texture extra awesome when baking)
Soy sauce, olive oil, honey or agave
*I leave my tofu in block form and wrap it a few times in paper towels, then set it in the sink with a cutting board and a cookbook on top (or anything relatively heavy that will apply pressure). Here’s a more involved option.
Ingredients for dip*:
3 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp of minced raw ginger, peeled
1.5 tbsp of peanut butter
1/2 tsp of Sriracha sauce
1 tbsp of soy
*I know some of these aren’t the most minimalist ingredients, but if you enjoy Asian food then you should absolutely invest in rice wine vinegar and Hoisin sauce!
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Once you have pressed the tofu, slice it into strips (see photo for size reference, about the size of a highlighter). Line a baking sheet with foil and spread the strips out, drizzling on about 1-2 tbsp of soy sauce. Do the same with oil and honey or agave.
Prepare all of your vegetables by slicing them into thin strips. For the spinach, I like to bunch it up with my hands and chop it a few times.
Use a large plate or mixing bowl and fill it with warm water. You will use this as a softener for the rice wrappers. When you’re ready to wrap your vegetables and tofu, set a clean dish towel or cutting board across your work surface. Take a rice paper wrap and gentle submerge it in the water, holding it down for 15-20 seconds or until it softens a bit in your hands.*
Lay it flat on the towel and layer your vegetables in the middle of the wrap, then carefully fold over each end like a burrito and roll it tightly.