~vietnamese spring rolls with a garlicky almond dipping sauce~ (gỏi cuốn chay)

Towards the end of my working period at Miss Saigon (a Vietnamese restaurant in Amherst, MA that I HIGHLY RECOMMEND, although I may be biased, but it’s so good), I was very inclined towards cooking a lot of Asian recipes. During lunch at the restaurant, most meals came with egg rolls. However, as I am vegan, I replaced them with their vegan spring rolls and soon found myself addicted and wanting to make my own. The process of creating the spring roll is very delicate and like an art, and with practice they take no time to roll. Me being a newbie, I had some difficulty getting the hang of wrapping vegetables and tofu with the sticky, translucent rice paper, but it is meditative in a way. This recipe also comes with a tasty almond chili garlicky dipping sauce; at the restaurant, they make their own peanut dipping sauce which I used to love until I found out that they put dairy in it (oops). However, I prefer this spicier version ;). It is also a great dressing for salads!

I was also very pleased about how my tofu came out, crispy and golden like at the restaurant. I used to marvel at the tofu in the restaurant, because my tofu never came out as crispy and tasty as home, and realized that I was doing everything completely wrong, ingredients-wise. The key is cornstarch and sesame oil! I am sure there are other methods, of which I need to investigate, but this method is for sure an A ++++ in my book.

So what is rice paper and what the heck are vermicelli rice noodles?

Rice paper can be used for fresh rolls (like spring or summer rolls) and can also be fried for other types of rolls. It is generally made of ground up rice, flour, water, salt, and a little bit of older rice paper batter for a slightly sour taste effect. However, there are variations of this recipe and it is hard to get authentic rice paper rolls in the U.S. If you are curious to see the process of making rice paper, click here.

Vermicelli rice noodles are also a component in this appetizer, and are also a frequent component in other Vietnamese dishes such as pho (a traditional Vietnamese soup) and vermicelli dishes (one of my favorite dishes, composed of a bed of cold rice noodles underneath a mixture of vegetables and meat/tofu in some sort of sauce). They are also primarily made of rice and you can see how they are made here.

They are very filling and refreshing, perfect for a snack or small meal!

Veggie Spring Rolls (recipe from Minimalist Baker):

Makes about 10-12 spring rolls

Ingredients:

Spring Roll:

  • 1/2 cup julienned carrots
  • 1/2 cup julienned cucumbers
  • 1/2 cup julienned red pepper
  • 1 bunch cilantro, rough chop
  • 4 ounces vermicelli, thin rice noodles (you can either find these bagged or frozen)
  • 8-10 rice spring roll papers

Almond Dipping Sauce:

  • 1/3 cup creamy salted almond butter
  • 1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili garlic sauce ( I love this stuff)
  • Hot water to thin

Crispy Tofu:

  • 8 ounces tofu, drained, pressed, and dried (you can press and dry it by covering the tofu with a cloth or paper towel and placing a heavy object on top)
  • 4 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons of almond butter dipping sauce
  • 1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

Instructions:

  1. Boil a pot of water, add rice noodles and reduce heat, cooking for about ten minutes or until soft and sticky. Drain and set aside.
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  2. Chop tofu into small rectangles (about 2 inches long) or cubes. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add in 3 tablespoons sesame oil and 3 tablespoons of cornstarch. Add tofu and fry for about 5 minutes until crispy and golden and then set aside.
  3. Add all sauce ingredients, except water, to a small bowl and whisk to combine. Add water needed to make into desired sauce silkiness.
  4. Take 2 1/2 tablespoons of sauce and place in a small bowl with the remaining tablespoon of soy sauce, sesame oil and brown sugar. Transfer to tofu and heat everything in the skillet until the tofu looks glazed.

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5. Assemble spring rolls by soaking rice paper in a small bowl of warm water for 10 seconds or until translucent and soft. Then proceed to take a little bit of the rice noodles, veggies, and tofu and place in the center of the paper.

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6. Roll paper burrito style, folding over one end over the filling, then folding over the sides and continue to roll towards the other side, inevitably tucking in the rolled over sides. You can also view how to roll the spring roll here. Serve with dipping sauce and enjoy!!! 🙂

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Salad made from leftover ingredients 🙂13902204_10153935623946379_1806829345_o

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