Our springtime dish is a favorite appetizer made with oodles of raw vegetables and delicate rice paper that gently satisfies our desire for freshness and crunchy texture.
Tantalus was a Greek mythological figure who faced the fate of having luscious ripe fruit dangling just beyond his reach and pure cool water just barely touching his lips. We are so much more fortunate in that our “Tantalizing Thai Rolls” are well within our grasp, and with attention, are fairly easy to make and truly satisfying. The only temptation is to curb the desire to eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner!
The picture offered at the bottom of this article demonstrates the type of organizational effort that sets up an assembly line process making this dish a breeze to prepare. The varieties of ingredients are endless as are the various types of sauces that can accompany these creations. I will offer my favorite variation on a theme and encourage you to play with the medley of various ingredients that suit your palate and are in season.
These types of rolls are popular in Asian Fusion restaurants, and Thai or Vietnamese establishments. Sometimes the menu will offer spring-type rolls which are deep fried, so inquire as to whether these are the “fresh” variety if you want the healthier choice.This recipe is perfect for the growing gluten free population because the main envelope caressing the veggies is created from magically thin rice paper that is available in many different specialty or health food shops. The trick to using this rice paper component is to get just the right malleability by submersing each sheet individually for a few seconds in hot water. When they are soft and pliable but not torn or mushy, they are ready to be rolled! Be prepared to serve them that day, as the longer they hang around, the softer the paper becomes and the integrity of the rolls are compromised.
The real star of the dish is the delectable sauce made with peanut or almond butter. Remember, if you bring this to a pot luck dinner, label the sauce well as some folks are highly allergic to nut products and you want to avoid any issue. Most people are amazed by how tasty and light this fare can be, not to mention the tempting colors of the variety of vegetables which assures the abundance of good nutritional value!
Thai Fresh Rolls
1 package extra-firm / low-fat tofu cut into thin strips and patted dry with paper towels. Combine 1/2 cup tamari (low salt), 1/4 cup grated fresh ginger, 3-4 cloves of pressed garlic, 1/4 cup mirin (Japanese rice wine) blend all together. Marinate overnight or for a few hours in refrigerator…turning occasionally. This is the protein component of this dish.
Filling: ORGANIC if possible…
Peel and wash 3-4 carrots
3-4 celery stalks leaving leaves on!
4 scallions using both white and green parts
Cut above into very thin strips
1cup shredded cabbage
1large bunch fresh cilantro coarsely chopped
1cup basil leaves also chopped
Bean thread noodles prepared as per package instructions. You can also use thin rice noodles, cooled and cut into 6 in. Lengths, added to the vegetable mixture
Optional daikon (Japanese white radish), etc…
The process begins… fill a 8 in. Pyrex pie plate with some boiled water and tap water mixed. Should be quite warm to the touch. Place an 8 in. Rice paper in the water letting it float until all sides are soft…a few seconds.You can turn them over carefully until the patterned texture disappears on the paper.Remove and place on a linen dish cloth. Pat dry a little and start to fill with the ingredients assembled using 1 or 2 of each variety assembled towards the bottom center of the paper. Cover the mixture with the bottom end of the paper, turning in the outer sides rolling tightly as you go along in an upward motion. You can cut each roll in 2 pieces with a sharp knife as it makes a more colorful appearance and is easier to handle for guests to dip into the sauce. Carefully place on platter and cover loosely with foil or plastic wrap. Refrigerate until serving time.
These rolls are best accompanied by a dipping sauce below. This can be served in individual small bowls so that your guests can dip to their hearts content as they make their way through each delicious roll.
Peanut Dipping Sauce
3 cloves fresh garlic or more to taste
2″ chunk of fresh ginger root peeled
1/2 cup hot water
1/2 cup organic peanut or almond butter, unsalted or combo
2 tbsp. sweet white miso
1 tbsp. low sodium tamari (soy sauce)
3 tbsp. Fresh squeezed lime juice
Drop of Hot sauce or sesame oil to
Use a food processor to blend well. Thin mixture with additional water or lime juice or thicken with more nut butter. Refrigerate for up to 4 days. Shake well before each use or return to processor to re- blend before serving. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.
Tease your taste buds with these tasty treats!