I stared at my fairly empty website for a few moments, deliberating. I would very much enjoy stocking my page with restaurant reviews, both scathing and gracious – but alas, reviews of local restaurants are entirely irrelevant to anyone beyond a fifteen mile radius of the given eatery.
Then I remembered: spring rolls.
Let me explain. A few nights ago, my wife and I travelled north along Lake Michigan to my parents home. What stood in their kitchen, lying in wait to be sliced, sauteed, baked, fried, etc., was a bountiful harvest from the local farmer’s market. I was initially frustrated and confused about what I should create from this multitude of home-grown edible crops, but we finally threw together a light watermelon gazpacho (made with a billion dollar bag of Xanthan gum), thai tofu spring rolls, some marinated eggplant with peppers and onions, and finally some blackened catfish with basil and sweet corn cream sauce.
But as this entry is titled ‘spring rolls,’ it is clear that I must now move on to the main point, which is, of course, ice cream.
My parents had some of those rice based spring roll wrappers laying around so my wife and I resolved to recreate our favorite thai appetizer. I would like to therefore, out of the kindness of my culinarily adventerous and incorigible heart, spread the gospel of easy asian appetizers across the land, like Johnny Appleseed or Jesus. Just think about that one for a moment. It may or may not make sense in a few decades.
Because we’re cheap/we didn’t have any access to freshly captured, innocent little delicious tiger shrimp we settled for tofu as the backbone and protein for our springrolls. Here’s how its done:
1. Shred copious amounts of carrots
2. Chiffonade or finely chop into strips copious amounts of lettuce (whatever kind of lettuce you have available, or, if you prefer, indulge yourself with a bit of lollo rosso, cress, whatever floats your boat).
3. Once you have the veg prepped, take some oil – wok oil, sesame oil, vegetable oil, olive oil, white truffle oil, whatever kind of oil (other than the kind used for making gasoline or greasing engines) and fry up the tofu with a little fresh ground pepper and rock salt. Remember to use a towel and slight from your hand to press the water out of the tofu before frying. I typically use firm tofu as it tends to hold its originally intended form during the cooking process. I also recommend slicing the tofu into long, thin rectangles to fit the shape of the cylindrical spring roll. Throw the tofu on some paper towel post-fry to drain the oil.
4. At some point, you should also cook up some very thin rice noodles. Strain them, pop ’em in a bowl and chill until its time to assemble your appetizer.
5. Set up your workstation: make sure you have a clean cutting board with access to all your ingredients.
6. Acquire your spring roll wrappers. If you are unsure about the asian stock of your local market (or massive domineering corporate superstore), here’s a quick link with more info on spring roll skins: (link to gourmetsleuth definition of spring roll skins)
7. Dip two stacked spring rolls skins, one on top of the other like two sheets of paper, in warm water for about 5 to 10 seconds. When you take the skins out, they will continue to absorb water, so it is exorbitantly acceptable if they are still a bit stiff when you remove them from the water. Lay the skins on the cutting board, drop the tofu in the middle, followed by carrots and lettuce, and finally plop some of those noodles on top.
8. Carefully roll up your little asian taco by folding in two ends and wrapping up one side. Once three sides are sealed, push in the ingredients so they don’t flop out, then carefully and tightly roll up and seal the last side. The skins, now wet, will easily stick together like annoying cling wrap, so be careful at this point.
9. Serve with your favourite asian sauce. I love thai peanut sauce, it causes me to grin. As Sigur Ros so elequently states, “Inní mér syngur vitleysingur.” Inside of me, a fool sings. That is what happens when I straight up drink a pint of peanut sauce.
For a visual, check out my wife Kaitlyn Newberry’s food photography blog – clicking on this link will transport you across cyberspace.
But the fun doesn’t end there. Ohhhhh, no it does not indeed. The beauteous aspect of these versatile spring roll skins is that they are so, well, versatile. Try stuffing them with fruit and dipping in yogurt. Or stuffing with chocolate and ice cream and bananananas. Whatever your favourite desert is, you can get super creative and make it asian by stuffing it into a spring roll skin (not really asian, but you know what I mean. Maybe I should instead say, ‘whatever your favourite desert is, you can get super creative and make it FUN by stuffing it into a spring roll skin” because we all know that desert is the most excessively boring meal of the day).
Well, my work is done here. I’ve done enough spring roll proselytising for one day. Now go out into the world and make spring rolls from all nations, dipping them in peanut sauce, yogurt, and chocolate ice cream. Amen.