Make Your Own Thai Spring Rolls
I take pleasure in wrapping things. I like wrapping sandwiches in parchment paper for school lunches, wrapping a parcel in brown paper to be sent in the mail. I get a certain satisfaction from folding something neatly and securely into a tidy package.
I also love rolling and wrapping Thai Spring Rolls. It requires a certain amount of skill, a skill I didn't initially have, but with practice I've become quite good at it. You can too.
It's a little tricky at the start. It's fine if the first couple of wrappers rip or are a bit lumpy. It may take a few tries but once you get a feel for it you'll be churning them out with ease.
First, decide what you want inside your spring rolls, and then wash and prep your ingredients. Customize them with whatever fillings your heart desires. Add tofu, shrimp, beef, or even pork. Think about adding noodles, like rice vermicelli or soba noodles. It's your roll; make it your own!
In this version I use tofu, which has been marinated in tamari and sesame oil (a big generous splash of each), and then baked in a 425 degree oven for about 20 minutes.
As for the other ingredients, my favourites are lettuce, sprigs of cilantro and mint (basil is a good choice too), grated carrot and thinly sliced cucumber sticks. Celery, jicama, and bean sprouts would also be good. Anything that gives your spring rolls that nice needed crunch. Next, you need to soak your rice paper.
Add warm water to a large shallow bowl or pie plate, and dip the rice paper in the water until it is fully submerged. The rice paper is very delicate so be careful not to soak it too long or it will fall apart when you start rolling.
Soak until it feels firm yet soft enough to work with, usually 30 seconds. It will still feel slightly firm when you pull it out of the water but it will continue to soften. It might take some practice to figure out what the right amount of firmness/softness feels like.
Make sure you have a damp clean kitchen towel next to you. The damp towel will prevent the wrapper from sticking. Lay the rice wrapper on it. Now start assembling your ingredients and begin wrapping.
Lay the lettuce first and then layer on the other ingredients. Do not over-stuff your roll! Better to start small and take it from there.
I place everything at the bottom third of the wrapper and begin rolling upwards and over the filling, tucking the wrapper under to pull the ingredients together. This helps your rolls to be firm not floppy.
I do about one roll, then fold in from the sides and roll again. The more rotations of rice paper you have, the stronger the rice paper will be and less likely to puncture.
No Thai Spring Roll is complete without a good dipping sauce. Here are recipes for two of my favourites:
2 tablespoons peanut butter
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
1 to 2 tablespoons water, to thin out the sauce, if necessary
Mango Lime and Ginger Sauce
4 Tbsp mango chutney
2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp finely grated ginger
1/4 tsp hot sauce
Finely grated peel from 1 small lime