One of my favorite aspects of food is discovering flavors unique to the cuisine of a specific country. For example, the first time I tried authentic Thai food when visiting Thailand I was blown away by the flavors lighting up my palate. Lemongrass, galangal, fish sauce, coconut milk, all came together in the most incredible dance that will resonate in my memory forever. The first time I had Vietnamese Pho, I was enamored with watching the rare flank steak cook in the hot broth. I became obsessed with the freshness that the addition of lime juice, basil leaves, and bean sprouts brought to the hot, salty broth. For me, the perfect combination of flavors is something I love to chase in life.
The other aspect of food that tends to blow my mind are the similarities that exist in cuisine between countries that are oceans away. We are all humans after all. Everyone eats and our eating habits tend to reveal how similar we are all, even though some prefer to believe otherwise. Take, for example, the concept of hand pies. I use hand pie as a loose term. What I mean is that every culture has some version of meat or vegetables wrapped in some type of dough-based outer layer that can be eaten with your hands. Tacos in Mexico. Empanadas in Argentina. Meat pies in Australia and New Zealand. Calzones in Italy. Döner kebabs in Turkey. Gyros or spanikopita in Greece. Sandwiches or hoagies in America. Spring rolls in Vietnam. We all eat with our hands!
So I’ve been on an Asian cooking kick lately. Probably because since moving to Paso Robles, I have limited access to a diverse selection of restaurants, particularly Asian ones. Though there is one bomb Thai restaurant in Paso Robles called Basil Thai, it’s a little pricey to eat on the regular. I miss being able to drive over to Convoy street in San Diego, which is basically San Diego’s Asian restaurant row, for a cheap bowl of ramen from any one of ten ramen restaurants. Or being able to easily pick up a bowl of pho from any one of my three favorite Vietnamese restaurants to sooth my hangover from a wild Saturday night. Or taking a drive over to University Heights to Bahn Thai when I’m craving truly authentic Thai food. Seriously, some of the best Thai food I’ve had other than the actual Thai food I ate while in Thailand. If you haven’t been, you need to go!
Fresh Spring Rolls
Anyways, I have been cooking quite a few Asian dishes at home to satisfy my varied cravings. On the same evening I made this easy Thai noodle soup, I decided an appetizer was necessary as well. So I whipped up some spring rolls and peanut sauce that turned out incredibly well for my first go of it. And that’s because spring rolls are SO easy to make!
When you’re having a craving for something in the Asian flavor profile and want to also eat something healthy, make these spring rolls please. Spring rolls, aka Asian hand pies, are perfect for a snack, an appetizer, or as the main deal. The best part about spring rolls is you can put your own spin on them depending on what ingredients you have in the refrigerator. Although, they will taste all the better for using super fresh produce! I opted to use tofu in my spring rolls because I try to eat as little meat as possible. However, you could just as easily use grilled or boiled shrimp or any kind of protein your heart desires. Though best when eaten fresh, spring rolls can be stored in the refrigerator for 2-3 days when wrapped individually in plastic wrap.
The Dipping Sauce
For my spring rolls, I chose to whip up a quick peanut sauce. There’s something to be said about the contrasting flavors of a salty peanut sauce with just enough umami paired with the fresh, crisp, crunch of a spring roll. If you wanted to skip the hassle of putting together a peanut sauce, dip your spring rolls in some Sriracha. Or you could put together a quick dipping sauce of soy, rice wine vinegar, and sesame oil. Add a bit of lime juice for a hit of acid.
The Wine Pairing
I first made these spring rolls around the time I was starting my new gig at Adelaida. So it felt appropriate to open an Adelaida white wine to pair with my spring rolls. Adelaida is well known for the classics, like Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon, but I fell in love with Adelaida for all of the Rhône varietals they produce.
I popped open a 2011 Adelaida Roussanne with my spring rolls and it ended up being a lovely complement to the Asian flavors. Roussanne is a rich white wine known for an almost oily coating mouthfeel and hints of almond or marzipan. That richness was a lovely pairing to the crisp freshness of the spring rolls and cut the heat from the peanut sauce quite well. The silky, honeyed texture of the 2011 Roussanne rounded out the flavor profile of the dish as a whole.
If you make some spring rolls, tell me about your versions and wine pairings in the comments below or on Instagram @palm.and.vine
These vegetarian spring rolls are the perfect snack or appetizer to kick off an Asian flavored meal. Fresh spring rolls are made all the more delicious with peanut dipping sauce or any sauce of your choosing. There is no strict formula for spring rolls. Use whatever produce you like and get the freshest produce possible. Julienne enough vegetables for as many spring rolls as you'd like to make.
- 1 package spring roll rice paper wrappers
- 1 package firm tofu
- 1 package vermicelli rice noodles
- sesame seeds
- 1 bunch scallions
- 1-2 carrots
- 1 hot house cucumber Any cucumber that you prefer is good
- 1 jalapeno
- green leaf lettuce
- bean sprouts or alfafa sprouts
Boil water to cook vermicelli rice noodles. Follow noodle cooking instructions on the package. Remove the noodles from the hot water with tongs or a pasta fork. Turn the heat off on the boiling water and set aside the pot of water to use with rice paper. Be sure to rinse the rice noodles under cold water to stop the cooking process.
Rinse a few leaves of the green leaf lettuce. Wash all produce and julienne as many carrots, scallions, jalapeños, and cucumbers as needed to make the number of spring rolls desired. Also cut 1/2 inch slices of tofu.
To make each spring roll, dip one sheet of rice paper in the warm water left over from cooking the rice noodles. Only dip for 2-3 seconds to soften the rice paper wrapper. Lay on a clean surface. Place one small piece of green leaf lettuce in the center of the rice paper wrapper. Then layer on rice noodles, tofu, julienned vegetables and bean sprouts. On the edge that is perpendicular to the filling, fold each end of the rice paper wrapper over the ends of the filling and press on each side. Then working from the bottom up, fold and roll the rice paper wrapper over the filling tucking in the filling as you go. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve with your dipping sauce of choice.
An Asian peanut sauce perfect as a dipping sauce for spring rolls, vegetables, or over rice noodles.
- 1 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
- 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 tsp Sriracha or other hot pepper sauce
- 1 lime
- 1-2 tbsp water, as needed to thin sauce
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tsp sesame oil
Heat vegetable or olive oil over medium heat in a small sauce pan. Add the garlic and ginger, stirring frequently until the aromatics are softened and fragrant. About 2-3 minutes.
Turn heat to low. Add peanut butter, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, juice of 1 lime, honey, Sriracha, sesame oil, and fish sauce. Stir consistently until peanut butter has softened. Allow to simmer for 4-5 minutes so all of the flavors can combine. Add 1-2 tbsp of water as needed to get sauce to desired creamy consistency. Taste and add any additional lime juice, fish sauce, etc. as needed.
Serve warm or at room temperature.