It seems like the Siberian winds that battered our faces these past couple of weeks has retreated to the steppes and spring is now slowly rearing its head again. It’s not really there yet, but it’s warm enough to start thinking of spring- like things, such as preparing for the growing season, not wearing five layers of clothing and eating spring rolls. While I love a classic Vietnamese rice paper roll studded with shrimp as much as the next woman or man, this vegan version with pieces of tofu in a lightly spiced tomato sauce is able to hold its own. And besides, anything you dunk in this moreish dip automatically becomes delicious.
Rice paper may be one of the great food inventions of humankind. It’s ready to use after being submerged in hot water for only 5 seconds and is remarkably sturdy. Don’t worry if you don’t get it right the first time, this stuff is sticky, but very forgiving.
A note on tofu: for this recipe you can either do as I did and use a soft tofu, which is made from a richer soymilk and has a higher water content and a creamy consistency, or a firm tofu. The former will turn into a soft scramble, while the latter will yield a chewier, crispier mouthfeel.
Ingredients (for about 8-10 rolls):
8-10 Vietnamese -rice paper sheets (square or round)
8-10 lettuce leaves
1 medium carrot
600g pressed (Unicurd) or firm tofu ( preferably non-GMO & organic)
3 heaped tbsp tomato puree, or enough passata to just coat the tofu pieces
a splash of light soy sauce
a tsp of rice vinegar
a pinch of ground chillies or cayenne pepper
optional: a pinch of hot smoked paprika
50 g of glass noodles (bean thread)
fresh mint leaves
1 tbsp of toasted sesame oil
for a modest amount of sauce (or just make twice the amount, because it’s so good)
2 tbsp hoisin sauce (preferably from a Vietnamese brand that has star anise in it)
1 tbsp peanut butter (crunchy or smooth)
1,5 tbsp of lime juice (about 1/2 a lime)
1 clove of garlic, pressed or finely chopped
a pinch of chili flakes
1,5 tbsp water
- If using firm tofu, wrap it in kitchen paper or a clean tea towel and put it on a plate, weigh it down with another plate and something heavy on top for at least an hour, pat dry before slicing it. This will remove excess moisture and make the tofu crispier when you fry it.
- If using soft tofu, pat it dry as well as you can and use immediately.
- Make the sauce by combining the ingredients in a bowl and putting it in the microwave for 30 seconds to emulsify. Stir until smooth and leave to cool.
- Meanwhile heat the sesame oil in a frying pan or wok until hot. Slice the tofu into short sticks and add it to the pan in batches. Resist the temptation to move it around too much, give it a chance to form a crisp, golden brown outer layer before turning it over in the pan.
- As soon as you’re looking at a pan full of golden brown pieces of tofu, or a golden brown tofu scramble, turn the heat down to medium.
- Now add a splash of soy sauce and stir through quickly to coat all the tofu.
- Add the tomato puree and a bit of water or use tomato passata. The tofu should just be coated in sauce, it shouldn’t be swimming in it!
- Add the vinegar and season to taste with chili powder or ground cayenne.
- Boil the glass noodles according to packet instructions (usually 4 min), drain and rinse under a cold tap.
- Finely slice the carrot.
- Fill a large pan or bowl with hot water. It should be quite hot, but not too hot to touch with your bare hands.
- Submerge a sheet of rice paper for 5 seconds, then place it on your plate or chopping board with the smooth side down.
- Place a lettuce leaf in the middle and fill it with a tablespoon of the tofu mixture and small bunch of glass noodles. Close the leaf and place it seam-side down on the paper.
- Put the carrot strips and the mint leaves slightly lower. You can also wrap them into the lettuce leaf, which will be a little bit easier, but far less pretty.
- Now first fold the right and left sides of your rice paper to where the lettuce wrap starts, then roll the top towards yourself to make a tight roll. Or start at the bottom and roll it away from yourself, if that’s easier for you. Just remember to put the carrot and mint above the lettuce wrap in that case.
- Dip into the peanut-hoisin sauce.
Welcome to Cuisine d’Eli. My name is Elizabeth and I’m a personal chef and caterer with a passion for sustainable food. I’m based in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Contact me for more information and/or bookings.
Welkom bij Cuisine d’Eli. Ik ben Elizabeth: duurzame kok aan huis en cateraar. Meer weten? Neem gerust een kijkje op de rest van mijn website of neem contact met me op voor meer informatie.