Spring rolls are small rolled appetizers that can be fried, steamed or eaten raw. They are commonly found in China, Vietnam and several other Asian countries, but of course have now spread around the world. The rolls can be filled with an assortment of vegetables or meats. The wrappers can also vary, for example a crispy spring roll will be made using a wheat flour wrapper whereas a Vietnamese one is made using softened rice paper.
When I lived in the states there was a Thai restaurant that had the best spring rolls. The spring rolls were fresh like Vietnames spring rolls. Instead of serving them with Nuoc Mam Cham sauce, the standard clear dipping sauce, they were served with a spicy plum sauce. In all the years of living in Europe I had never come across spring rolls like those. That is until last year when I found them on a Sushi-Asian restaurant. But unfortunately when my spring rolls arrived I was left quite disappointed. The plum sauce tasted salty and just horrible. Not able to get the craving out of my head, I knew I had to make the sauce and spring rolls myself.
This recipe is inspired by fresh Vietnamese spring rolls. But rather than using chicken or shrimp, tofu will be used instead for a vegetarian version. The sweet, tart and slightly spicy plum sauce compliments the ingredients perfectly!
Before we get to recipe, I want to make it clear that this is not like other plum sauces you may find at the grocery store. My plum sauce is a bit more like a smooth and creamy chutney. So please no angry emails on how my sauce is not authentic, or Chinese, I’m not claiming it to be so. All I’m claiming is that it tastes really really good and that it satisfied my craving.
- 300 grams or 10.5 oz halved fresh plums,weighed after pitting
- 1 tbsp finely minced ginger
- 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
- ½ tbsp sunflower oil
- 1 tbsp Chinese plum wine
- ½ tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp light soy sauce
- 2 tbsp water
- 1 small jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
- pinch of ground white pepper
- 1 star anise
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
- 150 g or 5.3 oz firm tofu
- 1 tbsp light soy sauce
- 2 tbs fish sauce
- chile flakes to taste
- ¼ tsp granulated garlic
- 8 sheet of rice paper, plus extra in case they rip
- 100 g or 3.5 oz rice vermicelli noodles, cooked according to package
- 1 large carrot shredded (90 g or 1 cup)
- 90 g or 1 cup shredded Japanese Diakon radish
- 6 lettuce leaves, shredded
- Sunflower seeds, to taste
- mint leaves, to taste
- basil leaves, to taste
- cilantro (coriander) leaves, to taste
- large shallow bowl with water for soaking the rice paper
- Over medium flame heat the vegetable oil in saucepan. Once warm saute the minced ginger and garlic for 3 minutes. Add the pitted halved plums and stir to well combine, cook for 5 minutes. Next add the remaining ingredients to the saucepan. Again stirring to well combine. Cover, turn the heat down to low and simmer for 30 minutes stirring now and then.
- After 30 minutes the plums should have mostly broken down. Use a potato masher to further breakdown the ingredients. Cover and simmer another 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. Pour sauce into a blender and blend into a smooth and creamy sauce. Allow to cool slightly or refrigerate before serving.
- Slice the tofu into thin slices. In a shallow bowl combine the remaining ingredients then add tofu for marinading. Set aside and proceed to next step.
- Tip: For a vegan version omit the fish sauce.
- The key to fast assembly is to have all ingredients laid out in a row ready to go. Grab one rice paper and soak it in the water for 15 seconds, it should be soft and flexible. (Make sure to read package instructions) Lay the soaked rice paper on a flat surface, place a few of the herbs in the center. Next add a little bit of the carrots, then the Diakon, lettuce, tofu, sprinkle some sunflower seeds and last top with more fresh herbs. Fold the right and left side into the center and on top of the filling ingredients. Gently begin tucking the bottom of the paper and rolling towards the top all the way through until a tight roll has been achieved. Repeat this process until all ingredients have been used and you have 8 small rolls.
- Serve immediately with plum sauce. If not serving immediately wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Tip: Rolling the perfect Spring Roll takes time and practice. You may experience breakages in the rice paper in that case the roll can be re-rolled in a new sheet of rice paper. It is advisable to have extra sheets on hand.
I used the leftover plum sauce to topped some battered baked chicken breasts. The batter was crushed up unsweetened cornflakes. I have to say that I was surprised how well the flavors complimented each other. Enjoy, and if you use the plum sauce for other recipes please let me know, so I can try it too;)
Have a great week ahead everyone!