I have always wondered about the mysteries of the spring roll. What is this rice wrapper, and how do people get it from firm and flat, to soft and pliable? I figured it was an ancient cultural secret that I may never access.
But after passing a stack of rice papers in the Asian market, I thought, "What the heck. How badly can I mess this up?"
Turns out, not that badly! Spring rolls and fantastically easy to prepare, and they may be my new favorite midday snack. The only thing I haven't figured out yet is how to work with multiple pieces of rice paper at once -- do you know how to keep them from sticking together?
Spicy Thai Wraps
Vegetarian Times, June 2001
(note: I served mine with peanut sauce I had already made for another purpose)
1/4 c hoisin sauce
1 T vegetable oil
2 T peanuts, chopped, unsalted, dry-roasted
3 carrots, peeled and julienned
1 T vegetable oil
1 lb firm tofu, drained and cut into strips
12 rice paper sheets
1 medium cucumber, peeled, quartered lengthwise, seeded, and cut into narrow strips
chopped herbs (chives, cilantro, or mint)
1 1/2 c bean sprouts
1 head Boston lettuce, separated into leaves
To make the dipping suace, combine hoisin sauce, oil and 1/3 c water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in peanuts. Pour into serving bowl and set aside.
In a large frying pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add tofu sticks and cook until golden, turning on all sides. Remove from heat.
Take one sheet of rice paper. Brush well with water and set aside. It will soften as it stands for a few minutes. Repeat with additional sheets of rice paper.
To make individual rolls, place softened rice paper on a work surface. Fill with remaining ingredients, then roll up, tucking in the sides last.