I have a general aversion to deep-frying food (something about spitting, boiling fat just puts me off), so I've never made spring rolls before. Being presented with a packet of rice paper spring roll wrappers, though, was just the push I needed to get on with it and pull together some Vietnamese garden rolls. These have the advantage of being wrapped in a light, translucent sheet of soft rice paper which doesn't need to be fried at all, so they're a lot easier and more fun to make - without any chance of turning the kitchen into a danger zone.
I got the wrappers in this month's Kitchen Nomad box, the inspiration for which comes from Vietnam. I loved cooking with last month's Greek box, and that was packed with mostly familiar products, so of course I was even more excited to try out the Vietnamese ingredients.
Of course, not everything in the box was new to me. I've used rice noodles (vermicelli) before, and bird's eye chillis often make their way into my cooking. But there were plenty of surprises, too: I'd never even heard of annatto seeds, and kho spice turns out to be an unusual combination of familiar spices. (There was also a bottle of fish sauce, but I'm passing that on to a friend.) And then there were the spring roll wrappers.
Apparently it's traditional to include vermicelli rice noodles in the spring rolls, but I thought their texture would be a bit too similar to the wrapper (and they don't taste of much by themselves), so I went for a filling of tofu and mixed vegetables. The resulting garden rolls were fresh and crunchy and delicious. I used cooked vegetables, but it still felt like eating a salad.
Traditionally, almost everything in Vietnam is served with fish sauce, and spring rolls are no exception; in this case, it would be as a dipping sauce, seasoned with various spices. Obviously that doesn't meet my vegetarian needs, so I knocked up a quick dipping sauce of my own. Inspired by the peanuts and chilli which came with the box, I went for a spicy, satay-style sauce which really complemented the crunchy vegetables. I had some sauce left over which I used for lunch the next day; it went quite hard in the fridge overnight, but 'melted' back to a nice consistency when returned to room temperature.
Without the satay sauce, these spring rolls are well suited to the 5:2 diet. Each roll has just under 100 calories; you could use a simple soy sauce for low-calorie dipping.
Vietnamese Spring Rolls
For the spring rolls:
1 large carrot
a handful of French beans
½ red pepper
½ yellow pepper
3 inches of a cucumber
4 large cabbage leaves
300g firm tofu
1tbsp sunflower oil
fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves
6 rice paper wrappers
- Finely slice the carrots, green beans, peppers, and cucumber into thin julienne-style sticks.
- Cut the cabbage into approximately 3cm / 1in strips.
- Cut the tofu into slices (about ½cm / ¼in thick). I managed to get 12 slices from a block.
- Heat the oil in a large frying pan.
- Fry the tofu on both sides until slightly browned. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
- In the remaining oil, stir fry the carrots and beans over a low heat for five minutes.
- Add the peppers and cabbage, and fry for another 5 minutes.
- Add the beansprouts and cucumber and fry for a couple of minutes more. Your goal is for the vegetables to be lightly cooked, but still retain some crunch.
- Remove the vegetables from the heat, and set aside to cool.
- Assemble the spring rolls one at a time. Begin by submerging the wrapper in a bowl of hot water, for a few seconds, until it softens up. Then flatten the wrapper on a plate, put two slices of tofu in a line across the centre, and top with vegetables (with the strips aligned parallel to the long edge of the tofu, as far as possible). Add a few leaves of coriander, then roll the wrapper tightly around the filling. The slightly gelatinous rice paper should have no trouble sticking to itself.
- Serve the rolls cold, with your favourite sauce.
50g creamed coconut
1tbsp tomato puree
2tbsp peanut butter
1-2tsp chilli flakes
- Melt the creamed coconut in the microwave.
- Add the peanut butter and tomato puree.
- Add water (a couple of tablespoons at a time) and mix to the desired consistency.
- Season with chilli flakes to taste.