A recipe for fresh spring rolls that packs crunchy vegetables with strips of soy-ginger marinated tofu and a side of the easiest peanut dipping sauce.
As a food blogger, it won't surprise you that I have a running list of foods I want to make and recipes I want to create. Spring rolls have been on that list for weeks. I had the wrappers but kept putting off making the rolls, thinking that it would be a project that required more time and energy than I've had to spare lately.
It's been a while since I made spring rolls, and I rediscovered that it can be a fun and meditative process. It turns out that repetitively slicing vegetables into thin matchsticks, arranging them in neat piles, and rolling them up in sticky rice paper wrappers was just what I needed to unwind. This Spotify playlist was the perfect background music for the process.
These days, I'm all about finding activities that force me to focus, be creative and allow for destressing. Why? Well, bear with me as I share a personal update. We'll get to the tofu spring rolls in just a sec. (If you just came here for the recipe, you should have clicked that button up top. That's what it's there for. 😉)
The thing is that I left my job again. Not the old one, the new one. What I thought would be an ideal opportunity aligned with my passions for food and the local community turned out to be nothing like I had hoped. For my mental health, and for what I hope is the organization's well-being as well, I decided I had to leave just a few weeks after starting.
Quitting anything is always framed as a bad decision. It's giving up, right? At least that's what people like to tell us. And for the longest time, I believed that. But I don't think I do anymore. Throughout the past year, I like to believe that we learned in so many ways that life is unpredictable and potentially shorter than we like to believe. My takeaway was that as a society, we need to spend more time finding what makes us happy and do what we can to incorporate that into our lives.
That also means reducing the aspects that don't make us happy, whether that's a job, a volunteer commitment, or certain people in our lives. We can't always prioritize how everyone else feels or worry about what they might think. At the end of the day, it's your life, and you have to do what makes sense for you.
'Do what makes you happy' is probably the tritest advice I've ever heard, but it's kind of the only advice that matters. It's also extremely privileged advice. I'm aware, and I consider myself fortunate to take advantage of a little downtime to continue learning and developing skills in things that make me happy - such as photography, blogging, and writing. It's also good timing to get a handle on my ever-expanding garden (yeah, I added another bed for more winter squash) and plan out my canning projects for the summer.
This week I'm looking forward to attending a Food Photography Summit. I also have a course on artificial lighting and another on composition to finish up. I'm a member of Food Blogger Pro and look forward to catching up on a number of their resources I hadn't had the chance to dive into. The number of outlets for learning that we can access these days is amazing. YouTube alone is a wealth of useful information.
So I'm excited to take this time to intentionally work on developing myself. You can bet I'm a little worried about the future, finances, and all those things that come with not having a steady income. But I'm working on living in the moment. At least, that's what I keep telling myself.
Anyway, enough about me. Onto the damn spring rolls.
What is a spring roll?
Let's start with the basics. A fresh spring roll, often called a Vietnamese spring roll, is typically made up of raw vegetables, a protein, noodles, herbs, and a thin rice paper wrapper. While the protein in my recipe is tofu, shrimp and pork are also common. The protein is cooked, but the roll itself is raw and served cold. Because of that, you get a wonderful crunch from the fresh vegetables. Not to mention, the peanut dipping sauce elevates and ties it all together.
These rolls make an ideal no-cook appetizer or light dinner for sweltering summer days like those we've experienced over the past week here in Vermont.
While spring rolls are simple to make, the name gets confusing. Depending on where you are in the world, what you consider a spring roll may look a bit different. Let's break it down. At least, to the best of my understanding.
Spring rolls vs egg rolls vs summer rolls
Spring Rolls: Spring rolls vary by region of Asia and Latin America. They're often fried and rolled in a flour-based wrapper, especially as we know them from Chinese restaurants in America. They may be pan-fried or deep-fried. Shredded vegetables, especially cabbage, are included. They may also be sweet or savory. I've never had a sweet spring roll, and that honestly sounds awesome—a future post, perhaps.
Fresh Spring Rolls: The recipe I'm sharing in this post. Packed with fresh vegetables, wrapped in rice paper, served cold, and with a peanut dipping sauce.
Egg Rolls: An Americanized version of a spring roll with egg added to the wheat-based wrapper batter. Deep-fried and often served with a duck or plum sauce.
Summer Rolls: Essentially just another name for fresh Vietnamese spring rolls.
Still confused? Yeah, me too. Even my package of Vietnamese spring roll wrappers has a recipe on the back, their "go-to recipe," that refers to the rolls you make with their spring roll wrappers as summer rolls.
Everything you've ever wondered about spring rolls
Before we get to the recipe, here are a few answers to common questions when it comes to making spring rolls.
What ethnicity are spring rolls?
The spring rolls in this recipe are Vietnamese.
What are spring roll wrappers made of?
The wrappers I use include rice, cassava, water, and salt. You get about 48 wrappers in a package, and they only cost a few dollars. So the answer to your next question...
Are spring rolls gluten-free?
If you use a gluten-free wrapper made of rice, yes, they are! Other types of rolls, like spring rolls, are often not.
Are spring rolls healthy?
Not always, but I think the ones in my recipe are pretty healthy. But what makes something healthy is all relative to your values and diet.
What goes in spring rolls?
I include carrots, radishes, cucumbers, tofu, mint, chives, and cilantro in my spring roll recipe. Cabbage, pork, shrimp, rice noodles, basil, and bean sprouts are all common, too. But get creative. When it comes to vegetables, use ones that offer crunch and that taste good raw.
- Don't overfill the wrappers! They hold less than you think if you want to wrap them up nicely. Go easy until you get a sense of how much filling will fit.
- Just dip the rice paper wrappers in water briefly to hydrate. There's no need to let them sit in the water. In fact, they'll probably fall apart if you do.
- Keep in mind that what you put on the bottom of the wrappers when you fill them will be the top after you roll them.
- Don't stress. Have fun, be creative, and don't worry if you're first few are a mess. I just eat the mess and keep going!
If you like these Tofu Spring Rolls and want another tasty Vietnamese recipe, check out my Vietnamese Chicken and Squash Curry.Print