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Recipe #315: Southeast Asian Summer Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce

Posted Jul 25 2012 11:31pm

Cool and refreshing as well as quick and easy to make, these bite-sized bundles are the perfect appetizer to serve at spring and summer parties. After all, who can resist fresh and delicious finger food that also just happens to be good for you too?!

Unlike spring rolls, summer rolls are served raw and cold. So, clearly, they're much healthier for you than their deep-fried counterpart. :) They are served throughout Southeast Asia (i.e., Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, etc.). In Asian restaurants, they are sometimes listed on the menu as “garden rolls,” “fresh spring rolls,” “fresh rolls,” or sometimes “summer garden rolls” (less common). They are called “pa pia sod” (in Thai) or “gỏi cuốn” (in Vietnamese).

Even though the traditional version is typically made with shrimp, crab, or meat (chicken, oinkity-oink, etc.), this particular recipe is vegan. If you'd like to make the non-vegan version instead, just substitute the seafood or meat for the tofu. :)

These are so fresh and yummy, you won’t be able to keep yourself from chomping down on these vermicelli rice noodle wrappers stuffed with vermicelli rice noodles, tofu, avocado, and all sorts of cold, crisp, and delicious fresh vegetables! They are the perfect way to revive yourself after being outside on a hot summer’s day. :)

Summer Roll Ingredients:
10 sheets vermicelli rice paper wrapper
1 3 ½” x 3 ½” brick vermicelli rice (i.e., “cellophane”) noodles (makes about 1 c. cooked)
1 c. firm, non-GMO tofu, diced into 1/2” cubes
1/4 c. carrots, julienned into 1 1/2”-long matchsticks
1/2 c. shredded cabbage (or lettuce)
1/4 c. non-GMO mung bean sprouts
1/2 c. cucumber, julienned into 1 1/2”-long matchsticks
1/2 c. scallions, (green and white parts), julienned into 1 1/2”-long matchsticks
1/4 c. mushrooms, julienned
1/8 c. fresh cilantro leaves, densely packed and finely minced
1/8 c. mint leaves, densely packed and finely minced
1/8 c. sweet Thai basil (use regular, if unavailable), densely packed and finely minced
1/8 c. freshly squeezed lime juice
1 c. Haas avocado, sliced (about 1 Haas avocado)

Peanut Dipping Sauce Ingredients:
1 c. dry-roasted, unsalted peanuts
1 Tbsp. garlic (about 4 medium garlic cloves), peeled & minced
1 Tbsp. ginger (about 1" piece), peeled (using the side of a spoon) & minced
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. crushed red chili pepper flakes
1/8 c.. fresh cilantro, densely packed and finely minced
3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
1/8 c. soy sauce
1/8 c. honey (strict vegans can substitute with molasses)
1/8 c sesame seed oil
1/2 c. lite, unsweetened coconut milk (from a can)
1/4 c. water (or more if necessary)
1/2 Tbsp. sesame seeds

Directions: Make the peanut dipping sauce: (This step can be done in advance to reduce meal-time prep. Sauce will keep in the fridge for several days.) Add all sauce ingredients, minus the sesame seeds, to a food processor and pulse until smooth, and then transfer ingredients to a small sauce pot. Cook for 3-4 minutes on medium-low heat, or until raw garlic smell disappears, stirring continually to avoid browning it on the bottom. (Add more water as necessary to prevent burning and achieve desired consistency.) Set aside. Gently fold in sesame seeds until combined.

Assemble the summer rolls: Place all summer roll ingredients -- minus the vermicelli rice paper, vermicelli rice noodles, and avocado -- into a large bowl and toss until well combined. Chill in the refrigerator until serving time. About 15-20 minutes before serving time, bring a medium-sized pot of water to a rolling boil (on high heat), about 8 minutes, and then add vermicelli noodles and boil for another 4 minutes. Remove pot from stove, drain noodles into a colander, rinse with cold water, and then drain again. Allow to cool completely. When ready to serve, place vermicelli rice paper in a large bowl filled with hot water for about 10 seconds and rotate until all areas have been moistened. Remove it from the water and lay it across a large plate. Place a 1/2 c. of the vegetable mixture onto the rice paper wrap, then lay an avocado slice on top. Gently lift up two opposite ends of the rice paper wrapper and fold them inward, towards the center of the wrapper. Next, gently lift up an open, adjacent side of the wrapper and tuck it over the filling, and then starting rolling the wrapper forward until the final, remaining end has been sealed. (Use a slight amount of pressure when tucking and rolling, so that the roll is somewhat tightly wrapped, but do not pull or stretch too vigorously, or wrapper paper will tear. It's pliable and can take a bit of expansion, but it's not Silly Putty . Lol.) Repeat process until all summer rolls have been made. Serve with peanut dipping sauce. Consume immediately (or at least within an hour of making them) for the best flavor and consistency.

Yield: 10 summer rolls, or 5 servings of 2 rolls per person.

Chef's Notes: IMPORTANT: When shopping for the vermicelli rice paper, make sure you buy the ones labelled “fresh spring roll rice paper,” sometimes labelled as “bánh tráng gỏi cuốn” (in Vietnamese). The other kinds require cooking.

The trick to easily handling the rice paper is not to leave it soaking in the hot water for too long; otherwise it'll become way too soft, and the will weaken and very likely tear. Also, it helps if you lay the rice paper on a plate that's slightly wet on the bottom, which prevents it from sticking to the plate. Once you soak the paper in the hot water to soften it, it's important to work quickly, so that the paper sticks together and seals after you roll it.

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