As I've mentioned before, I've become a vegan again. And, have been following my vegan diet very strictly. I've gotten a lot of vegan cookbooks and have been cooking and experimenting. Particularly with Thai and Vietnamese food, for some reason.
One of my favorite dishes is Vietnamese fresh spring rolls. And, even though they look simple to make and are pretty straightforward, not a lot of places I've eaten in had truly delicious ones I would recommend. Two places I would recommend in San Francisco for their fresh spring rolls and for the food in general (and also for being inexpensive) are Mangosteen and Pagolac. Mangosteen has better spring rolls, Pagolac better dishes.
Anyway, I've decided to try and make some fresh spring rolls myself. Which turned to be quite an adventure. From finding rice paper rounds (they can be found in Asian supermarkets, but, I've discovered that more conveniently Cost Plus has them in their Asian food section) to finding the perfect combination of ingredients to stuff the rounds with, to rolling the darned things! After 3 attempts (going from utterly disastrous to so-so), I made the cutest, tastiest fresh spring rolls ever. And I also made my own peanut sauce which was delicious.
I adapted somewhat the recipe from "The Vegan Cook's Bible" and it goes like this:
Vietnamese vegetarian fresh spring rolls
14 oz firm tofu, cut into 1/2 inch slices
5 tbsp tamari or soy sauce, divided, aprox
1/2 cup olive oil, divided (approx)
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes
10 to 12 8-inch rice paper rounds
4 green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced lenghtwise
1 carrot, cut into 2-inch long matchsticks
1 zucchini, cut into 2-inch long matchsticks
1 red bell pepper, cut into 2-inch matchsticks
1 cup coarsely shredded fresh spinach
10 to 12 fresh cilantro sprigs
lots of fresh mint (this is my addition to the recipe and you must not leave it out!)
10-12 fresh basil leaves (the recipe asks for half that, but I put a leaf into each roll)
the recipe also asked for a 1/4 of green tea molasses (home made) which you drizzle over the ingredients before you roll the rice paper rounds, but I left that out as I found that the liquid melted the rice paper and it started tearing. the taste didn't change significantly and I think it was better without the molasses)
arrange tofu slices in a shallow dish and drizzle with soy sauce. let it marinade for several minutes. fry tofu slices in a 1/2 inch deep oil for 3-4 minutes or until golden and crisp. transfer with slotted spoon to paper towels to drain, season with salt and pepper and hot pepper flakes. cut tofu into thin strips.
fill large bowl with hot water. lay damp kitchen towel on a work surface, grasping a rice paper round between thumb and index fingers of both hands, immerse it in the water and keep it in water for about 10 seconds. (this is when it gets tricky and one needs a bit of practice as the rounds sometimes get too soft to handle or they start tearing. don't let the paper rounds sit in the water for too long.) place on the damp kitchen towel and start assembling. first place a few spinach leaves in the lower third of the round - closest to you. then three or four sticks of tofu, one slice of green onion, several slices of carrot, zucchini and red pepper sticks over the tofu, lots of mint, cilantro and top with a basil leaf. roll the rice paper away from you, snugly but gently over the filling, tucking in the ends as you roll. don"t roll too tight as the paper will tear. but not loose either or the filling will come out once you cut the rolls in half.
to serve: cut the rolls in half and serve with peanut sauce
best hoisin peanut dipping sauce:
2 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
a handful of peanuts
2 tbsp water
1/3 cup hoisin sauce (also available at asian food stores)
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 clove garlic, minced
dash hot pepper sauce
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
handful of ciantro
combine it all in a food processor - but don't over mix it, you want it to stay crunchy
And here are the beauties:
You will excuse my posting so many photos - I'm just so pleased with the result!
I want more!
with the sauce
on the plate
And then there were none! Yum!
Hope you'll try this recipe, it's a bit of work but truly delicious!