Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Inside-out Spring Rolls

Inside-out Spring Rolls

I really love Vietnamese spring rolls (the raw kind—though the fried ones are good too of course) but it takes forever to roll enough, at least for a family my size! So this is my way to get the fresh tanginess of spring rolls without the work. It's basically the spring roll fillings, chopped small and served on top of rice or soba (the Asian buckwheat noodles). The recipe is very adaptable and is really just a framework—use whatever vegetables sound good to you, and vary the sauce to your taste. I never measure when I make it, but I've tried to estimate what I usually use. It seems like a long list of ingredients, but it's very easy to put together. The only hitch is that the tofu needs to be prepared ahead of time.


1 block firm or extra-firm tofu (14 oz), cut into 4-6 strips

Marinade/sauce (all amounts approximate):

2 cloves garlic, minced/pressed

large chunk fresh ginger, chopped small or grated (about a TBS, grated?)

1/8 tsp Sriracha or other “hot” stuff

1 TBS sesame oil

juice of 1 lime and/or 1 tbs rice vinegar

1 TBS brown sugar

about ½ cup soy sauce

2-3 TBS peanut butter

water—a few TBS

Vegetables—prepare some or all of these, according to your taste:

2-3 carrots, grated

1 cucumber, chopped

2-3 green onions, sliced


cilantro, chopped (lots!)

spinach, chopped (a fair amount)

fresh basil, if desired, to taste

fresh mint, if desired, to taste

rice or soba, prepared normally

To make the baked tofu:

Several hours before the meal, prepare the marinade by mixing all the marinade ingredients except the peanut butter and water in a baking pan large enough to hold all the strips of tofu laid flat (I like to use a glass baking dish). Taste the marinade to make sure you like the mix of flavors; it can be infinitely varied. Marinate the tofu for an hour or so, flipping a few times. Pour off the marinade into a bowl and save it to make the base of the sauce later. Bake the tofu at 300-325 degrees for about 2 hours, flipping it every 45 minutes or so, until it is well-browned and a bit dried. This isn't exact—just when you like the texture, take it out. Transfer the tofu to a plate, and refrigerate until later. (You basically are partially dehydrating the tofu by baking it long and slow—for more info you can go to this blog post, from which I learned this technique. Tofu prepared this way can be used in many different ways or just eaten by itself—it's delicious!)

To make the sauce:

Warm the peanut butter in a small bowl in the microwave for 20 seconds or so to make it easier to combine with the other things. Gradually stir in some of the reserved marinade. Add the peanut butter mixture to the rest of the marinade and stir till combined—it may take some time to fully incorporate the peanut butter. Taste, and adjust; usually I add some water because the marinade itself is very concentrated, with all the soy sauce. You want a thick but pourable sauce. Refrigerate until serving time.

To serve:

Prepare the rice or soba. (If using soba, run cold water over the cooked noodles to cool them.) Toss together all the vegetables in a large serving bowl. Add the chilled tofu, cut into bite-sized pieces. On each person's plate put rice or soba, with a large scoop of the vegetable mixture on top, and a few spoonfuls of the sauce drizzled over everything. Enjoy!

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