MEATLESS MONDAY: Veggie spring rolls

One of my all-time favorite foods to make are Vietnamese-style spring rolls. They’re the healthy alternative to the more popular fried egg rolls. Substitute the meat with more veggies for an even healthier option.

Not only are they highly-customizable, they’re simple and a lot of fun to prepare with a partner, with a total prep time of about 20 minutes. And because you decide how many you want to make, they can serve as a tasty appetizer or the full meal. I usually opt for the latter.

Ingredients: 
The only necessary ingredients are rice paper, which you can buy at any local oriental grocery store, and your desired veggies. Pictured above are my spring rolls with lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, celery and mint leaves.

Other popular veggie spring rolls ingredients include: rice noodles, tofu, Thai basil, cilantro, diced tomatoes, bean sprouts,daikon radish, avocados and bell peppers.

You can even use leftover veggies from another meal and roll them into spring rolls. I always keep a few packs of rice paper in my apartment even if I don’t actively plan to make spring rolls in the near future. I recently made 12 spring rolls for me and my girlfriend with leftover veggies from some guacamole I made.

 

Directions:
• Lay out four plates. One with your veggie ingredients, one with warm water to dip the rice paper, one to roll the spring rolls and one to lay the finished spring rolls.
• Dip the entire rice paper briefly (for a few seconds) in warm water and then move the rice paper to a different plate.
• Mix your dipping sauce in a separate container. We’ll get to that later.
• Add your ingredients in a line the size of the radius of the rice paper. It might take one or two spring rolls to get the veggie-to-rice paper ratio just right.
• Roll the veggies away from you with two hands like you would roll a cigar.

Rolling spring rolls can take some time to master. Remember: rolling them perfectly and making them visually-appealing doesn’t make them taste any better. Practice makes perfect. You’ll be surprised at how much easier your second effort making spring rolls will be.

To make the peanut sauce that you can sometimes find at Vietnamese or Chinese restaurants, mix 2 tablespoons peanut butter, about 4 tablespoons Hoisin sauce, 2 teaspoon Sriracha sauce and 5 tablespoons water. Mix thoroughly and microwave for 25 seconds and stir again.

 

Chicken and shrimp spring rolls:

If the veggie option doesn’t do it for you, chicken and shrimp add a savory flavor. Saute thin cuts of raw chicken or shrimp halves in vegetable oil and onion flakes on medium high until it begins to turn a golden brown. Then add about about a table spoon of oyster sauce and continue sauteing for another five minutes.

A little chicken and shrimp go a long way in spring rolls. One medium to large chicken breast should make about 12 to 15 spring rolls. For dipping sauce for chicken or shrimp spring rolls, try mixing low-sodium soy sauce with red chili pepper. Or try store-bought fish sauce, which can also be purchased your local oriental grocery store.

If you want to have people over for a party or get-together, try setting up a make-your-own spring roll bar with all the assorted ingredients cleaned, cooked, chopped and ready to roll.

 

This piece is one in a series of “Meatless Monday” recipes. Try this recipe and tell me about your favorite variation in the comment section below!