Meera and I have tried every version of the vegetarian summer roll/garden roll/rice paper roll that we’ve found at a restaurant. The fillings vary widely: some combine tofu or fake meat with tasty herbs and greens; some phone it in with just bland rice noodles and bean sprouts. No one roll had all the goodies we wanted, so one summer we decided we would just have to do it ourselves. And oh, the rolls we’ve rolled!
We fill our rice paper wrappers with sauteed tofu and mushrooms, salad greens, shredded carrots, avocado, basil, mint, and cilantro. After several attempts, we have also concocted the perfect savory peanut dipping sauce to accompany these healthy treats (and we’ve taken to putting some inside the roll too). Yum!
Forming the rice paper rolls is a knack you’ll develop by your third or fourth roll. Don’t be sad if your first few rolls break or the contents fall out; they will still be just as tasty. The whole process is pretty quick, too – don’t be daunted by the long list of ingredients. You’ll likely end up with leftover filling ingredients, but everything can be tossed together to make a tasty salad. The tofu is especially great to add to a salad or just munch plain!
1/2 cup natural crunchy peanut butter
1/8 tsp hot red pepper flakes, to taste
3 garlic cloves
1 scallion, cut into a few pieces
3/4-inch cube fresh ginger
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce, or more to taste
1/2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste
1/4 cup water
Place all ingredients except water in blender and blend until thoroughly mixed. Adjust salt and soy sauce as needed and blend to combine. Freezes well.
For roll components:
12 rice paper wrappers
1 pound block of extra-firm tofu
2 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons soy sauce, divided
1 10-12-ounce container white button or crimini mushrooms
3 carrots, shredded
2 cups loose salad greens
1 avocado, sliced
12 basil leaves
24 cilantro leaves
12 mint leaves
Tofu: Gently squeeze any excess water from tofu by pressing between clean kitchen towels. Cut into 1/4-inch slices, cut again lengthwise and pat dry. Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet on medium-high heat and arrange the tofu pieces in a single layer.
Turn when bottom side is light golden and let the other side fry. Drizzle with about 1 1/2 tablespoons of soy sauce, toss to coat and remove the slices to a bowl.
Mushrooms: Clean and chop mushrooms small, then add to the skillet after removing tofu. Saute, stirring frequently, until soft. Add remaining soy sauce to taste.
Put all the components in separate bowls/plates on your counter. Closer to you, place two dinner plates, one with water in it and one lightly coated with oil.
Take a wrapper, dip it in the water, shake off the excess, then lay flat on the oil-coated plate. In the middle of the lower third part of the rice paper, place a few salad leaves, a small amount of each of the rest of the fillings (spread peanut sauce on the tofu pieces if desired), and then a few more salad leaves to cover (this prevents ingredients from poking through the wrapper).
Fold the right and left sides towards the middle, and beginning with the side nearest you, tightly roll the wrapper away from you. Use your fingers to push the contents into the roll towards you as you roll. There’s a good description of the process here too.
Makes 12 rolls, serving 5-6 as an appetizer or 2-3 as a main dish. If you’re serving the rolls to someone special, you can personalize her plate with peanut sauce.