Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Vietnamese Summer Rolls

When I lived in Worcester, MA, I frequented a Vietnamese restaurant called Dalat. My absolute favorite thing on their menu were the fried tofu rolls with peanut dipping sauce. Contrary to what it might sound like, it's just the tofu that's fried; the roll itself is made with a rice wrapper. As good as these summer rolls are, it's the sauce that makes them fantastic. Many have tried to replicate Dalat's sauce, with little success. Its composition may be like Atlantis, not meant to be discovered.

The recipe below is my second attempt at recreating this condiment and, while the resulting sauce is delicious in it's own right, it lacks the magical fairy dust (or maybe the MSG or the fish sauce) in Dalat's original version. Hopefully these rolls with almond butter sauce (we rarely have peanut butter on hand) will satisfy your Dalat cravings until you can make your way back to the Woo. To those of you that can still get the real deal, I probably speak for all the Dalat lovers who have left town when I say "please eat enough for the rest of us".

Vietnamese Summer Rolls with Almond Butter Dipping Sauce
Makes about 12 rolls and about 1 1/4 cup of dipping sauce

For the rolls 
  • 12 rice paper wrappers, plus some extras in case you break a few
  • 2 oz thin rice vermicelli, cooked according to the package's directions.
  • 1 16 oz / 455 block of tofu, cut width-wise into 8 slices and crisped up in the oven using this method
  • 2 oz / 55 g shiitake mushrooms, wiped clean, stemmed and sliced into strips.
  • About 24 mint leaves 
  • About 24 basil leaves
  • About 36 cilantro leaves
1.  Cut each of the eight slices of tofu into three strips.
2.  Soak a rice paper wrapper in water until it looses its rigidity, about 45 seconds. Place it on a smooth surface and put about 1/4 cup of cooked vermicelli in the middle of the lower third of the wrapper. Top the vermicelli with 2 tofu strips, about 1/8 cup of cabbage, 3-4 mushroom slices, 2 mint leaves, 2 basil leaves and 3 cilantro leaves. Fold the lower portion of the wrapper over the filling, then fold in the sides. Carefully pinch the filling and roll it upward, making sure the filling is tightly wrapped but being careful not to tear the wrapper. Seeing someone actually do this is helpful, so you might want to check out this video (the guy isn't super entertaining but he is instructive). Repeat the process to assemble the rest of the rolls. If you'd like to store the rolls, put them in a tupperware lined with a damp paper towel and then cover them with another damp paper towel.

For the dipping sauce
  • 1/2 cup almond butter
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 teaspoon miso
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger or 1 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 1-2 teaspoons Sriracha sauce, depending on your desired level of spiciness
Put all the ingredients in a a blender (my little Magic Bullet is especially useful for this) and run it until the mixture is smooth. Taste and adjust the soy sauce, spiciness and thickness to your liking.


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  2. Hahahaha! You are also my father, which may make your opinion slightly biased.