Why do they call them Spring Rolls when they're the perfect summer food?
It's still too hot to cook, but I don't really like cold food. Unless it's spring rolls. Not the fried kind you get in some Chinese restaurants. Those are really just egg rolls. No, I'm talking about the salad-type starters you get, served with a bowl of dipping sauce. All the different textures and cool tastes blend together perfectly with a sweet or spicy dipping sauce.
The best part is, spring rolls involve very little cooking. Just pour hot water over the rice noodles, and if you're using tofu, you'll want to boil it a few minutes. No need to even heat up the kitchen, which is a good thing when the temperatures are in the 90s and you don't have air conditioning.
When is this heat wave going to be over? I can't think of any other cold foods I like. I don't even put ice in my water, but I found myself cracking open an ice tray this afternoon.
If it's not any cooler by next week, I'll be posting a recipe for ice lollies.
12 ounces tofu, cubed
1/2 pound rice noodles or other thin, fast-cooking noodle
spring roll wrappers (made from rice) or lumpia wrappers
Any or all of the following:
2 carrots, cut into thin matchsticks
1/2 cucumber, cut into thin matchsticks
red pepper, cut into thin matchsticks
tender lettuce leaves
mint leaves, coarsely chopped
basil leaves, coarsely chopped
cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add cubed tofu. Boil for 5 minutes, then drain. Cut into smaller cubes if necessary—about 1/4 inch-wide cubes will do.
Prepare noodles according to package directions. Run cold water over them to stop them from cooking further and set aside.
Gather all your ingredients in a sufficiently large work area. You'll need to work fast to avoid the wrappers drying. Dip each wrapper, one by one, in a sauce pan full of tepid water, and immiately fill with noodles and vegetable ingredients, first laying a tender lettuce leaf on the wrapper. Add either mint, basil, or cilantro leaves. (No need to combine all three in each spring roll; one taste will do the trick.)
Being careful not to overfill the rolls, mash the filling ingredients together a bit with your fingers and roll the wrapper around, cigar-style, tucking in the ends. Try to get them as tight as possible to avoid spilling the filling all over yourself later.
You'll need to practice your technique a few times before you get the hang of it, but don't be discouraged. You can always eat the remains with a fork.
After you've filled all the wrappers or run out of ingredients, set the spring rolls on a platter and cover with a damp towel.
Make the sauce. Here are two to choose from, both easy to make with minimal cooking. Or use a jarred kind if you really don't want to bother. Cut the rolls in half and arrange on a plate with the sauce. Leftovers are even better the next day, chilled overnight in the fridge.
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
juice of 1/2 lime
1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon chile paste
Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan and cook over medium heat until ingredients are well blended. Transfer to a blender or food processor (or use a whisk) and blend until smooth, adding water as needed to make a smooth, thin dipping sauce. Set aside until ready to use.
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons water
2 to 3 teaspoons chili paste
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Heat gently, stirring to combine. Remove from heat and transfer to a small bowl for dipping. Set aside until cool.
Notes on ingredients: I used Chinese-style tofu, available at most supermarkets. Hoisin sauce is found in the Asian food aisle of most supermarkets. Chili paste is the red sauce you see at Chinese restaurants. Heinz makes a version that is readily found near the ketchup. Tamari is like soy sauce, only tastier. Look around, you'll find it, I promise.