Guilt-Free Indulging: Spring Rolls

When people think "spring rolls", the first thing that comes to mind
is often a crispy, golden cylinder filled with bits of meat and
vegetables.  Delicious, but not a health food by any means.

Then again, most people envision "health food" to mean crudite
or some other form of raw veggies.  While I don't have anything against
raw veggies and dip, it's also nice to have a quick dish on hand that
looks (and feels) like you put some effort into it.  I think the spring
roll combines the best of both worlds.

For a healthy snack or light lunch, try Vietnamese spring rolls (on
restaurant menus, sometimes listed as summer rolls).   They're
surprisingly quick and easy to make at home, requiring very few
ingredients.  Vegetarian/vegan guests are also easily pleased by this
recipe-- just omit the shrimp and make sure to serve peanut sauce
instead of the chili sauce for dipping.

Image courtesy of allrecipes
Image courtesy of allrecipes

round rice wrappers can be found at Asian supermarkets-- a pack of 20
is usually only a couple bucks. If you do a fair amount of Asian
cooking, it's worth it to pick up fish sauce, chili sauce, and hoisin
sauce if you haven't already got them stocked in your pantry.

The remaining
ingredients (shrimp, tofu, rice vermicelli, veggies and herbs) can also
be easily obtained from a local supermarket.  I like the adaptability
of this recipe; haven't been disappointed by anything that I've thrown
in there yet.

Image courtesy of allrecipes


Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Prep: 20 min

2 oz. rice vermicelli, cooked and drained  (I omit this frequently in favor of the tofu and extra veggies)
8 rice wrappers
12 large shrimp - cooked, peeled, deveined and halved
lettuce leaves - remove spine and chop
1/2 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and julienned
1 med. carrot, peeled into long strips or julienned
12 oz. firm tofu (1 box), sliced into 1/4-inch thick pieces
a few tablespoons chopped fresh Thai basil, mint, and/or cilantro

Set up a shallow pan of hot water next to your work area.  The pan
needs to be large enough to soak an entire wrapper.  I use my 12" everyday pan, which is perfect.

Dip one wrapper into the warm water.  Take out in a few seconds, when pliable, and lay on your work surface.

Fill the spring roll with lettuce, veggies, tofu, and shrimp.  Add
herbs to taste.  I'm particular to more basil than mint, but to each
their own.

Roll the wrapper over your fillings like a burrito, making sure to
tuck the ends in; transfer to a plate and cover with a damp paper
towel.  Serve immediately with chili or peanut dipping sauce.

Dipping sauce

4 tsp fish sauce
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp lime juice
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp white sugar
1/2 tsp chili sauce

Peanut sauce from Trader Joe's works just fine, too. :-)

If you need to keep the rolls for a while, cover them with a damp
paper towel and store in an airtight container.  The rice wrapper will
become hard and unappetizing if you let it dry out.  I made these to
bring to work for lunch a couple days ago, and they survived overnight
with no deleterious effects.

What are your favorite healthy appetizers?


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