We’ve all been dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, but what about the COVID-15 (or even 20) weight gain? It’s obviously been a stressful year, and to top that, it’s been cold and snowy for many, and enjoying comfort foods and delicious adult beverages makes me feel better in the moment… but an hour later, not so much. Now that the days are getting longer, and it seems like the deep freeze of winter has released its grip, I’m ready to return to a healthier approach of eating not only for my body but my mind, too.
I really do love eating vegetables in any way shape or form, but you know what they say… variety is the spice of life. In order to keep my culinary adventures interesting, it’s important to find creative ways to incorporate veggies and salads into my diet, and if my kids will eat it, then that’s an even bigger win! Fresh spring rolls fulfilled all of these requirements for a fun, quick, easy, creative and delicious salad-y meal. And, my kids loved them!
I’ve made many fresh spring rolls in my life, and have learned a lot along the way, so here are my tips for success:
- Be sure to purchase the correct wrappers. Look for the thin, round and mostly translucent rice paper spring roll wrappers. They are easy to find in the Asian aisle of the grocery store. You’ll notice at first that they look brittle, and that’s because they are, but let’s move onto the next tip.
- In order to make your wrappers pliable, dip just one at a time in room temperature water for about 1 minute, or until it just barely starts to soften. It should still have a bit of firmness to it, which prevents it from getting too soft.
- Once the wrapper is ready (remember… we’re only making one at a time), place the wet wrapper on a plastic cutting board, your counter, or on a sheet of plastic wrap. We’re avoiding anything that’s wood here. Wood will soak up the excess water, making the wrapper hard to work with. Keep in mind that as soon as you make your spring roll and transfer it to a platter, the extra water will soak into the wrappers, and they’ll have the perfect balance of soft and chewy.
- Starting about 1-inch from the bottom of the wrapper and 1-inch from the sides, lay down your ingredients of choice. This is where you get to have fun! Here are some filling suggestions:
- Cooked vermicelli rice noodles (see recipe for how to cook)
- Cooked asparagus
- Julienne of zucchini
- Julienne of apple or Asian pear
- Fresh herbs such as cilantro, mint, basil or Thai basil
- Chopped peanuts for crunch
- Marinated tofu
- Crab meat
- Cooked shrimp
- Shredded cooked chicken or pork
- Once your fillings of choice are down, fold up the bottom flap first, fold in the sides, and roll baby roll! When rolling, try to gently pull and tuck the spring roll ingredients towards you to make it tight, but not so tight where the wrapper rips.
- Transfer the rolls to a platter, and serve with Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce. This is one of my most favorite condiments, and is always in my fridge. It’s sweet and spicy and goes with everything… especially fried chicken. Dipping the rolls in hoisin sauce is also yummy!
Fresh Vegetable Spring Rolls
Scroll down for a printable version of this recipe
Yield: 12 pieces
Active time: 35 minutes
Start to finish: 35 minutes
4 ounces rice vermicelli noodles
12 pieces rice paper spring rolls wrappers
1/2 cup seedless cucumber julienned
1/2 cup carrot, shredded
1/2 cup scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup bean sprouts
1 cup cilantro, mint, or Thai basil or a combination of the three
Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce
1. Place the rice noodles in a medium size bowl. Cover with boiling water and allow to sit for about 10 minutes or until softened. Drain and toss with just a splash of grapeseed oil to prevent them from sticking. Set aside.
2. Place one sheet of rice paper in a dish of tepid water until just pliable, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Carefully remove the just softened sheet from the water and transfer to your countertop. Tip: Do not place the rice paper on a wooden cutting board. The wood will absorb the water making it hard to work with the rice paper.
3. To assemble the roll, place a small amount of the rice noodles, cucumbers, carrots, scallions, bean sprouts and herbs about 1 inch from the bottom of the rice paper.
4. Fold in the bottom first followed by the sides. Roll the rice paper from the bottom tightly around the filling.
5. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling.
6. Transfer to a platter, and serve with Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce.
Lucky for me, a ton of rice paper wrappers come in one package so I’ll be making many more rolls for me and my family with lots of different and exciting fillings. It’s a great activity for the whole family, it’s healthy, customizable and fun to eat.
This is an excellent dish to eat on its own, or you can treat it as a salad course or appetizer. In our Virtual Trip to Thailand class, we’ll be making these spring rolls as an appetizer and then moving onto a delicious and vibrant seafood curry.
Looking for more refreshing and interesting salad ideas? Try your hand at making the famous French Tuna Niçoise Salad this April in our virtual class.
And this Saturday's virtual Building Blocks hands-on class is all about vegetable and rice cookery. It's the ultimate lesson in vegetables, whether you are vegetarian or simply looking to incorporate more plants into your diet. Join us at 10am CST on Saturday, February 27.