Vietnamese tofu spring rolls

January 20, 2016

I love this time of year. Not because I love winter – but I love the fact that the days are slowly, steadily getting longer. I like the quiet of winter. The long dark evenings. The clean blanket of snow. The fact that it’s actually easier to sit at my desk now than it will be in six months when the garden will be luring me outdoors. Mostly, I love the fact that spring is coming, and then summer, and then autumn. It turns out that what I really love is the fact that I live in a place where we have four distinct seasons. And I spend a good portion of winter looking forward to the other three.

 

I’m back at my desk again after months of being on the road. My beautiful companion, Lola, can scarcely believe it. We are back on a schedule of walking and working and though I feel the constant pull of the kitchen, the gym, spending time catching up with friends, and a general relentless restlessness, I’m doing my best to start work on a big new project.

Lola in the snow

The beginning of anything new is often the hardest bit; at least it is for me. Well, the hardest bit if you discount the middle and the end. And then all that follows. New projects make me want to procrastinate a little longer. I suddenly start thinking of all the odd jobs I’ve needed to do for months or longer. I’d like to paint my bed. And the whole interior of my house. I’ve got a stack of books I’d like to read. I’ve got mending and shopping I should do. And I start thinking of things I’d like to make in my kitchen – a lemon yogurt poppy-seed loaf glazed with lemon icing suddenly seems absolutely imperative. Homemade ricotta cheese. Preserved lemons. Red wine jelly. A large batch of chili. A Catalan beef stew loaded with olives. It takes serious discipline for me to stay out of the kitchen.

The truth is, I cannot manage to stay out of the kitchen for long and I cannot imagine a life where I didn’t cook. I think good food is fundamental to a life well-lived and that we constantly underestimate its importance. As far as I’m concerned, time in the kitchen is time well spent.

So these Vietnamese tofu spring rolls are perhaps a little more time-consuming than strictly necessary. But they are so well worth the time and effort. They are a great dish to make with a favourite friend. Get all the bits and pieces ready and then create a spring roll assembly line.

vietnamese tofu spring rolls

vietnamese tofu spring roll prep

Vietnamese tofu spring rolls

And even if you think you don’t like tofu – there’s something about the blend of flavours here that just works so well. The slightly crispy caramelized tofu provides the perfect backdrop to the other flavours and textures of fresh cilantro and mint, and the spicy dipping sauce. Every single time I cook with tofu I’m amazed at what a fantastic, inexpensive source of protein it is. The rolls are vegan and they’re also gluten and dairy-free and can be made several hours in advance of serving. (Just omit the fish sauce and use a little soya sauce in its place if you’re catering to vegans or vegetarians.)

This recipe comes from A Taste of Wintergreen.

Vietnamese Tofu Spring Rolls

  • Servings: about 16-24 half rolls
  • Print
  • 16-24 large rice paper wrappers (about 22 cm in diameter)
  • 100 grams of thin rice vermicelli noodles, cooked and drained, and chopped a bit to make eating easier
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, washed and trimmed (remove most of the stems)
  • 1 cup mint leaves, chopped
  • 1 lb (454 grams) firm tofu, well-drained
  • 3 tbsp soya sauce
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp sunflower or other oil

Dipping sauce:

  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp sweet Asian chili sauce
  • 4 tbsp fish sauce (or 2 tbsp soya sauce for a vegan version)
  • juice of one fresh lime

Begin my slicing the block of tofu lengthwise into four pieces. Then cut each of the four long pieces into four more pieces lengthwise – for a total of 16 pieces. Combine the soya sauce, sesame oil, sugar, and salt and pour this marinade into a glass lasagna pan. Lay the tofu in the marinade and turn gently to coat. Let the tofu stand in the marinade for 30 minutes while you prep the remainder of the ingredients.

Place the prepared cilantro and mint in a bowl together. Cook and drain the noodles then chop a couple of times roughly (with kitchen scissors) and place in a bowl. Lay out a large glass or similar pie plate large enough to fit the rice paper wrappers. Bring kettle of hot water to the boil.

Once the tofu has marinated for 30 minutes, heat 2 tbsp of sunflower oil in a large skillet. Gently transfer the tofu to the skillet and allow to brown on medium high heat, at least one minute on each side or longer if necessary.

To assemble, pour boiling water into the glass (or similar) pie plate and place a rice paper wrapper into the hot water. Remove carefully, after about a minute, and place another wrapper in the hot water. Begin by placing a tablespoon or so of the cilantro and mint mixture in the centre of the wrapper in a horizontal line. Add a few noodles, then place a strip of the tofu on top.  If your strips of tofu are too long – break a piece off and reserve to use with other broken pieces. Fold the sides of the wrapper in and begin rolling the wrapper tightly around the contents. Set aside and continue. You will need to replace the boiling water in the pie plate as it cools to ensure that the rice paper wrappers are softened.

Once all the rolls are made – slice in half with a diagonal cut. Mix together the dipping sauce ingredients and either wrap the rolls in cling wrap and chill, or just serve immediately.

 

 

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25 Comments

  • Reply cheri January 20, 2016 at 7:09 pm

    Hi Lindy, love these spring rolls and the dipping sauce.

    • Reply Lindy Mechefske January 20, 2016 at 7:23 pm

      Thanks Cheri – I’m always surprised when I make them at how much I enjoy the tofu in them.

  • Reply Stacey Bender January 20, 2016 at 7:23 pm

    Tofu is always better than I think it will be. These sound marvelous.

    Lola is looking cute and concerned that you are embarking on a new project. Do you have another book in the works?

    • Reply Lindy Mechefske January 20, 2016 at 7:29 pm

      So true about the tofu!
      Lola WAS concerned. She doesn’t like it when her leash follows her like that! And she was cross because I put a scarf on her. If I put a coat on her – she is immobilized. It was minus 19 degrees before the windchill that morning. Beautiful but crisp!
      And yes – am busy working on a new manuscript.
      So nice to hear from you. Hugs to Buddy and Ginger. xo

  • Reply Laura mechefske January 20, 2016 at 7:43 pm

    Craving these so badly!!! Can’t wait to come home and make them again!! Xo

  • Reply Amanda January 20, 2016 at 8:06 pm

    I love your thoughts on starting new things. I feel the same way…And about the seasons and ask the things I’d like to do in the kitchen. This recipe is beautiful. So perfect for the time of year and the sauce looks so good. What beautiful photos. Cute doggie!

    • Reply Lindy Mechefske January 21, 2016 at 1:17 pm

      Thanks Amanda! Can’t believe how good it is to be back at home. Can hardly tear myself away from the kitchen. Going to make your homemade ricotta (oooh- I’ll add a link above!). ❤

  • Reply Johanne Lamarche January 20, 2016 at 8:20 pm

    I have a Chinese friend who makes spring rolls from scratch and often drops off big platefuls for us to enjoy. She has ruined restaurant spring rolls for us forever! Now that I see the labor of love that goes into making spring rolls I am all the most grateful to be spoiled. Yours are absolutely mouthwatering and just in time for the Chinese New Year! Love the shot of the snowy driveway and your adorable dog Lola.

    • Reply Lindy Mechefske January 21, 2016 at 1:20 pm

      Hi Johanne – thanks so much and yes, I’d forgotten but you’re quite right – these would be perfect for Chinese New Year. What a great idea!

  • Reply Cynthia Reyes January 20, 2016 at 10:47 pm

    Great post, Lindy. I can relate to the desire to procrastinate. And your dog looks like she’s saying: “enough with the pictures! Let’s continue this walk!” Those rolls look yummy.

    • Reply Lindy Mechefske January 21, 2016 at 1:22 pm

      I can see that you speak ‘dog’ Cynthia – because you’re absolutely right – Lola was saying that!! She’s a real character and such a big help in the kitchen!

  • Reply Tasty Eats Ronit Penso January 20, 2016 at 11:08 pm

    I’m not a big fan of tofu, but in some dishes it is indeed a perfect ingredient, like you have here. Not to mention I’m a big fan of Vietnamese cooking, so… 🙂

    • Reply Lindy Mechefske January 21, 2016 at 1:25 pm

      I’m coming around to tofu Ronit – but have to agree – it’s not usually my first choice. However sometimes it does the job when almost nothing else will. My daughter made me a green thai tofu curry that I’m now hooked on.

  • Reply Darya January 21, 2016 at 3:24 am

    I agree that starting a new project is the most challenging moment in the life of a project; so challenging it is sometimes hard to get started at all!
    Like you, I cannot imagine being far away from my kitchen for long: your spring rolls sound delightful, light and fresh, I could probably eat the entire batch (and feel neither light nor fresh in the end). I love the combination of flavors here, and how light you keep the dipping sauce (I usually add peanut or almond butter to it!)

    • Reply Lindy Mechefske January 21, 2016 at 1:28 pm

      Darya – this made me laugh out loud – especially eating the whole batch and feeling neither light nor fresh in the end! Hilarious! Will try adding peanut butter to the dipping sauce next time. Sounds so good – almost like a Thai peanut sauce.

  • Reply Angie | FiestaFriday January 21, 2016 at 8:05 am

    Oh, I just love these spring/summer rolls! You rolled them so perfectly, too!

    • Reply Lindy Mechefske January 21, 2016 at 1:29 pm

      Aw Angie – a long way from perfect but thanks! ❤

  • Reply chef mimi January 23, 2016 at 9:43 am

    Lovely, beautifully written post. Wait, aren’t you. A Taste of Wintergreen?

    • Reply Lindy Mechefske January 27, 2016 at 3:56 pm

      Thanks Mimi – yes and thanks!! I was A Taste of Wintergreen (the name of my last blog and book) but changed it a while back to Love in the Kitchen and still miss the old name 🙁

  • Reply Elly January 23, 2016 at 12:17 pm

    I love these!! So yummy 🙂

  • Reply Food from Michelle's kitchen February 10, 2016 at 5:34 pm

    I love reading your posts, and I love tofu too.

  • Reply gotasté February 26, 2016 at 5:23 am

    hi Lindy, thanks for sharing this lovely recipe. I thought by moving to Hong Kong i’ll be able to enjoy the four seasons only to realized that the seasons here are not distinct at all. Always gloomy.

    Have you thought of writing a novel with recipes in it? Honestly, you write so much better than some of the titles that I’ve been reading. Sincerely, Danny.

    • Reply Lindy Mechefske March 4, 2016 at 2:20 pm

      Danny – that’s such a huge compliment. Thank you.
      Interesting about Hong Kong – I’ve never been. But right about now, we are the dreg ends of winter in Canada and almost anywhere else on earth sounds appealing. I’m so tired of the cold and can hardly wait to be warmed through again. Roll on spring!
      Lovely to hear from you! Lindy

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