I absolutely love this time of year, with the trees full of blossom and the wisteria out in flower. Not only does it look stunning, but it smells glorious too! Here in Bath, the weather is finally starting to warm up and we’ve actually managed a few meals in the garden this past week. Our dinners have definitely shifted to lighter dishes, and I’m looking forward to sharing some of our favourite summer-inspired recipes over the coming weeks.
The rolls are a vegan twist on the classic Vietnamese Summer Roll. Instead of meat or prawns, the rolls are filled with a rainbow of fresh veggies, making them both visually beautiful and delicious.
My family loves summer rolls! We typically eat them as a light evening meal, enjoyed out in the garden, but they’re also great for buffets and picnics. We like to add strips of smoked or marinated tofu into the rolls for protein. When accompanied with a peanut dipping sauce, they’re surprisingly filling!
Have you ever tried making summer rolls before? I find that they fall into the category of ‘easy when you know how’. The first time I tried to make them, I got myself in a real tangle with the rice paper. I soaked it for too long then it folded in on itself and was beyond saving.
I was determined not to be defeated by a rice paper though, so I did some research and discovered that with a couple of easy steps, rolling summer rolls is a cinch. I found this 37 second YouTube tutorial especially helpful.
I’ve rolled countless rolls now, and my only failure was that initial one. My rolls aren’t very neat (neatness isn’t a forte of mine!) but the rolls work. They taste good. And most importantly, Lil’ L loves them. I’ll keep working on the neatness.
Learning from my past mistakes, I thought I’d put together a step-by-step guide on how to successfully roll rice papers. Even if it helps one person out, I’ll be more than delighted.
So firstly, we need some rice papers…
You’ll find them widely available in oriental supermarkets. They’re either called rice papers or spring roll wrappers. I buy Vietnamese Banh Trang from Hai Na Oriental Supermarket in Union Street in Bath. You get about 45 papers (22cm / 8½ inches in diameter) in a pack for £1.89, which is great value.
It’s important to prep all the ingredients before you start rolling (known as ‘mise-en-place’ if you happen to be French or a chef). I typically use a large carrot, small courgette (zucchini), sweet pointed romano pepper, some red cabbage and a romaine lettuce. For a protein kick, I add in strips of organic smoked or marinated tofu (I’m currently loving the Taifun brand).
Once everything is ready, prepare a bowl of warm water. It doesn’t matter what kind of container you use, as long as it’s big enough to fit your rice paper.
Want to know something funny? To take the shot below I ended up pressing the shutter with my nose!! How ridiculous is that? You only dip for a second so no time to set up the timer!
Anyway, back to the guide… Take a rice paper in both hands and dip half of it in the water. Quickly keep turning the paper in the water (like you’re turning a steering wheel) until the whole paper is wet. Shake off the excess water and lay the paper on a plastic chopping board or smooth work top (not wood as it sticks!) The paper is still quite firm when I remove it from the water but it continues to soften up as it absorbs the moisture. (I find that if you dip it for too long, it goes gloopy and impossible to control).
Arrange your veggies on one half of the rice paper, leaving a border either side. You want to make sure that there are no sharp edges poking out as the rice papers are delicate and easily tear.
Squash the filling together then start rolling. Gently pull the rice paper up and over the vegetables, tuck in the edges as you roll. Try to keep it as tight as you can (like you’re rolling a burrito). Here comes another nose shutter shot!
One thing that surprised me when I first made summer rolls is that they are sticky! I never saw this mentioned in recipes, so I googled it and, yes, they are meant to be sticky. Some people recommend wrapping each roll in cling film (plastic wrap) to stop them sticking together but I didn’t like the idea of the plastic waste (plus M was worried that he’d accidentally eat the cling film) so I found a way to get round the stickiness… roll them in toasted sesame seeds!
Not only do the rolls feel much nicer to hold when they’re covered in seeds, but the sesame coating actually boosts their nutritional profile too. Sesame seeds are nutritional powerhouses.
Once rolled and seeded, place the roll on a plate and repeat the process. I make eight rolls for four people, but if your rice papers are smaller than mine, you may want to roll more.
Just before serving, I cut the rolls in half. I give everyone their own little dipping bowl for the peanut sauce (so they can double dip to their heart’s content), then it’s time to tuck in!
Makes 8 rolls (using papers 22cm / 8½ inches in diameter)
Hands on time: 35 minutes Ready in: 35 minutes
1 large carrot, finely sliced
1 sweet pointed romano pepper or bell pepper, deseeded and finely sliced
1 small courgette (zucchini), finely sliced
120g / 1½ cups red cabbage, finely sliced
1 romaine lettuce, sliced into ribbons
200g / 7 oz smoked or marinated tofu, thinly sliced (I use Taifun)
8 rice papers (spring roll wrappers) or more, depending on their size
75g / ½ cup toasted sesame seeds
Peanut Dipping Sauce
115g / ½ cup natural smooth peanut butter (I use Meridian)
2 TBSP tamari or low-sodium soy sauce
1 TBSP white vinegar
1 TBSP maple syrup (I use Clarks)
60ml / ¼ cup warm water
2 tsp fresh ginger, finely grated (or substitute with ½ tsp ground ginger)
Sesame seeds, for garnish
Chop the veggies and tofu into thin slices.
Tip the sesame seeds onto a large plate.
Fill a wide bowl with warm water.
Working with one rice paper at a time, take the paper in both hands and dip half of it in the warm water. Quickly rotate the paper for a few seconds (like turning a steering wheel) until the whole paper has been submerged in the water. Shake off the excess water, then lay the rice paper on a plastic chopping board or worktop (don’t use a wooden board as it will stick). The paper will continue to soften up as it absorbs moisture.
Arrange your veggies on one half of the rice paper, leaving a border either side. I use a few ribbons of lettuce, a few strands of red cabbage, then 2-4 strips each of tofu, carrot, pepper and courgette. Make sure that there are no sharp edges poking out as the rice papers are delicate and easily tear. Squash the filling together then start rolling.
Gently pull the rice paper over the filling. Tuck in the edges as you roll. Try to keep it as tight as you can (like you’re rolling a burrito).
Roll the summer roll in sesame seeds. Shake off the excess seeds and set the roll to one side. Repeat the process. I make eight rolls for four people, but if your rice papers are smaller than mine, you may want to roll more. Just before serving, cut the rolls into two.
To make the dipping sauce: place all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk together with a fork. Add a splash more water, if needed, to reach desired consistency. Taste test and adjust the vinegar, sweetness, ginger levels if desired. I give everyone their own little dipping bowl so they can double dip to their heart’s content! Just before serving, sprinkle on some sesame seeds for garnish.