I have to say that Coffee has chosen a very apt theme for this month! St. Louis is blazing hot, and the water vapor hangs heavy in the air, making it exhausting to step out during the day. It is the kind of weather where the thought of eating rich foods is oppressive and I'm seeking sweet relief in lighter fare. When I read the theme, I thought of all kinds of things to make- maybe a fruity drink, a cold soup, or a chilled sorbet or a salad. In the end, I turned to my bulging list of recipes bookmarked on my laptop and came upon a post that had inspired me a year and a half ago!
This wrapped salad goes by many names: summer rolls or Vietnamese rolls or soft rolls or salad rolls. We all love spring rolls with their tasty vegetable filling and crisp golden wrapper, and these rolls are their more summer-friendly no-cook cousins. When I had read this post from the blog Blog Appetit, I was impressed by the numerous ideas, and the detailed instructions, and useful links for making summer rolls. Truly inspiring!
Ready to wrap and roll?
The only ingredient that is absolutely necessary for making summer rolls are these spring roll wrappers:
They are large rice flour discs, dried thoroughly until they resemble plastic. I bought the ones with little squares marked on them. I was able to find these in Whole Foods, and I am sure they are available in all Asian and international grocery stores.
Next comes the dipping sauce that is going to make these rolls tasty and irresistible.
Here is how I made it: In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce + 1 T sambal oelek + 1 t honey + 1 t chunky peanut butter + 1 t fresh lemon juice. Taste and keep adding more of any ingredient until you like the balance of flavors.
Tip: Substitute ground chilies for the sambal oelek if you are unable to procure it. Or just use any chili sauce of your choice. Use smooth peanut butter if you prefer it, or leave it out altogether.
Now for the goodies that will be used as stuffing:
1. Tofu: I used some extra-firm tofu, drained out the water, then cut 1/2 inch slices and patted them dry on a kitchen towel. I made a little batter with 1 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch), 1 tbsp soy sauce, pinch of red chili flakes and a little water. I dipped the tofu in this batter, then pan-fried it in 1 tsp oil until golden-brown on both sides. After frying, I cut the tofu into small sticks.
2. Crushed peanuts: I roasted 1/4 cup raw peanuts until light brown, then cooled them and pulsed briefly in the food processor to chunky pieces.
3. Carrots, shredded.
4. Cucumbers, peeled and de-seeded, then cut into thin slices with a mandoline.
And finally, some bright green goodies:
1. Red lettuce, torn into bite size pieces
2. Mint, shredded thinly
3. Cilantro, minced
Set all the stuffing ingredients out nicely. Place the bowl of dipping sauce nearby. Set a clean lint-free kitchen towel out, this will be the rolling surface. You need hot water to soak the wrapper and soften it. I used a thali (plate with an edge) so that it was wide enough to contain the whole wrapper. The wrapper needs to be soaked for a minute or so. You can soak 2-3 wrappers at a time. For something so thin, the wrapper is surprisingly sturdy and I was able to wrap them very easily.
Placing the filling:
Layer small amounts of all the filling ingredients in a small strip in the lower half of the wrapper. Sprinkle on a tsp of dipping sauce. You want a little bit of the dipping sauce in the roll, and most of it to be served on the side.
Folding the sides:
Fold in the bottom, then the sides, like an envelope. Then roll from the bottom to the top tightly to make a cigar shaped roll.
The rolls are ready! They have been packed into a container ready to be taken on a picnic, to see Shakespeare in the Park.
Take a bite!
Verdict: I will be making these rolls a dozen times this summer! They are so delicious! Once you get the prep done, the rolling takes no time. The first time I made them, my mother was very skeptical when I told her that the rolls would be uncooked. "Agaa, kacche nahi ka lagnar?" she asked me...meaning, are they not going to taste raw? She helped me to roll a few, and my dad rolled most of them, to perfection, I might add. At the picnic, everyone enjoyed the rolls enormously, and my mother was convinced that the method works. She said that it tastes like Neer Dosa, a soft dosa. Now she has bought a packet of wrappers to take home with her :)
I made the rolls for my parents again yesterday, to take on their flight en-route to an Alaska cruise. This time, I used thinly sliced red bell peppers, and they looked so pretty inside the translucent wrapper! This is a great picnic food, because it tastes good cold, and is very summery.
I bought sturdy colorful plastic picnic plates this year, and will never be using disposable plates for a picnic ever again. Our picnic at the park was virtually trash-free (except for one paper napkin each)...we took our colorful plates and spoons, and packed all our food in food boxes, not in use-and-throw plastic bags. Even the beer that we bought there was sold in bright reusable cups (to my delight) by the ecologically sensible folks at Schlafly Brewery.
Hope you enjoyed this taste of something lite, and see you in a couple of days with something spicy. For a wonderful collection of inspired lighter fare, check out Coffee's round-up!