Spring rolls, summer rolls, or rice paper rolls. It does not matter what you call these, they are wonderful. They make a nice light meal that can satisfy almost any palate.
They are easy and come in as many variations as you have imagination. There are as many vegan possibilities as there are options with meat. My family loves to eat spring rolls family style. I put out all the ingredients and everyone builds their own. Little Man generally ends up eating deconstructed spring rolls. Snuggle Bunny’s generally turn into spring balls. Buster thinks the whole process is an eating contest. It is all good fun in the end.
In my mind spring rolls have five (or six) important parts:
Wrapper – The rice paper wrapper is softened in warm water and used to roll up everything that follows.
Protein – My favorite meats are chicken, pork, and shrimp. I’ve made spring rolls with adzuki beans as a vegan option. Almonds, peanuts, and cashews are also good choices if you aren’t allergic.
Noodles or Greens – These will form the bulk of your spring roll. Either softened rice noodles or shredded lettuce can be chosen. Actually you can easily try spinach, watercress, or another fun leafy green.
Vegetables – Choose a few other vegetables that provide color and flavor to the mix. Blanched snow peas, grated carrot, grated zucchini, shaved cabbage, green onions, avocado, bean sprouts, and cucumber are just the tip of the iceberg. Try adding fermented vegetables like sauerkraut or pickles if you are adventurous enough. Snip some fresh basil, mint, and cilantro from your herb garden as well.
Fruit (optional) – Asian pears, mangoes, peaches, standard pears and more are worth trying.
Sauce – There are many options: sweet, sour, and spicy. You can find many possibilities using an Internet search.
Some of my favorite combinations are:
peach, avocado, and spinach with almond sauce
pork, cabbage, and pears with Dijon sauce
chicken, snow peas, and carrots with almond sauce
mango, cashews, cucumbers and cilantro with a sweet vinaigrette
Asian pear, cashews, and mint with sweet vinaigrette
Here is a great link with pictures showing how to work with the rice paper wrappers and wrap the spring rolls.
Today I started with pork chops and then searched the fridge for the rest. I consider this a great way to use up stray produce from the back of the fridge. I had snow peas, green onion, and cucumber from the CSA, herbs from the garden, purple cabbage, a slightly bruised pear, lettuce, avocado, and one stray carrot.
Oh, wow! I didn’t think that I had this much to say about spring rolls. Just so you know, it took me longer to write this post than it did to make the meal. Here is today’s recipe:
Marinaded Pork Chops for Spring Rolls
3 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp coconut aminos
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 lb pork chops (I would use this same marinade for chicken or shrimp)
In a zip-sealed bag mix all of the liquids with the salt. Using tongs to place the pork chops in the bag. Coat well with the marinade. Seal the bag with as little air as possible. Let the bag rest in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high. Grill the pork chops until fully cooked. Turn down the skillet if they are browning too quickly. Cool and slice thinly.
While the pork chops are marinading, slice and grate all the fruits and vegetables you will offer in your spread.
Start a pot of water to boil when you heat the skillet for the pork chops. Make sure it is enough water to soften your rice noodles.
Blanch the snow peas for 2-3 minutes in the boiling water. Strain them out into a serving bowl and pour the remaining water over the rice noodles in a large bowl.
Strain the noodles when soft. Keep this still warm water to soften the rice paper wrappers. Reusing this hot water saves on a lot of dishes and a lot of time.
Prepare your choice of sauces:
1 cup raw almonds, soaked 1-2 hours (or your favorite nut butter if you don’t have a high powered blender)
5 Tbsp rice vinegar
3 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp coconut aminos
Pinch of salt
a dash of garlic powder and/or ginger powder, to taste (fresh works, too)
Blend on a medium speed until well chopped (6 on my Vitamix for about 30 seconds). Increase the speed to high for another 30 seconds or until smooth. Use the tamper as necessary. If you are using nut butter, then simply whisk these ingredients together in a bowl.
1/4 cup safflower oil (or other mild flavored oil)
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp coconut aminos
1/2 tsp garlic powder
pinch of salt
Whisk together in a bowl.
1/4 cup of rice vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp garlic minced
1 1/2 tsp sugar
Optional: Add a drop or two of sriracha paste or chili oil for a sweet-spicy sauce.
Whisk together in a bowl.
Now simply soften your rice paper wrappers, fill as desired, and serve with sauce.
Let me know what your favorite fillings are!