Summery Asian Eats
I can spend many hours in V & T Supermarket in Hempstead, Long Island. Well actually, I can spend many hours in the sauce aisle alone. I stopped in during some errands recently and felt inspired enough to cook a labor-intensive lunch along with a bunch of fresh summer rolls for my father and sister. With time on my side as a teacher within summer break, I have the luxury of preparing food for hours and hours. Also, travel makes me miss the opportunity of making my own food. Bring it on!
I got a whole bunch of sauces. Part of me is just a sucker for Asian packaging.
Though I don’t go for this stuff, they have all kind of weird fake meats in the freezer section, like these vegan fish hams.
Flash forward hours and we have my lunch. A stir fry with rice vermicelli, Chinese broccoli, bok choy, a deliciously marinated tofu with lemongrass, tons of Thai basil and cilantro and topped with crushed peanut and green onion. The recipe came from my new favorite cookbook authored by the mother of one of my last year’s students. Easily veganizable and very heavy on the vegetable, I am sure to be trying out other recipes soon. This dish was perfect.
Now on to the summer rolls. If you’re going to make summer rolls, you best make a bunch. There is so much prep involved that you want to make it worth your while. For herbage, I used cilantro and Thai basil…
The innards: More rice vermicelli; cucumber, carrots and yellow squash from the Seaford Farmers Market; red pepper; tofu I fried up (more on that later); and crushed peanuts. Not pictured is the Chinese broccoli greens and avocado, which I cut in the very last moment before rolling. I stored the avocado slices in lime juice for the entirety of the rolling time. I am not a fan of oxidized avocado. Ok, so the tofu. It gets a bad rap; some are scared of it. Of course I am not, but these were for my dad and sis too. I fried and salted the tofu for them basically. One thing that helps when exposing non-vegans to vegan food is to be mindful of common vegan food barriers. Spongey untreated tofu is not appealing to many. I get it.
It was time to get rolling! Expect that the first few will be loose water weinies; use those to taste and see if ratio of innards works or if anything needs tweaking. Or to test your sauce. [I used a sweet chili sauce right from the jar because it is perfect. I also mixed up maple-sweetened peanut butter with ginger oil, sriracha, lime juice, and I forget what else.] As you continue to make your rolls, they’ll get tighter–that’s the goal: amply stuffed but tightly rolled.
A bunch of finished summer rolls. Careful with storing, the rice wrappers can dry out and they can stick to each other. Before packing into glass storage, I lubed each up with a very thin layer of sesame oil. I also put some of the oil in the bottom of the container. When you eat them again, let them sit out on the counter for a bit. Since everything is water-based, cold will be the dominant taste and texture. Letting them sit to warm up nearer to room temperature and you can taste more of the flavors of the innards.
The colorful veggies make each roll unique.
Here is the cross-section. Well worth all the prep and effort. Happy Summer!