Vegan (and Gluten-Free) Summer Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce

Delicious, light and tasty (we have so much in common)!

I cook a lot.

I have prepared many many different dishes from a large variety of different cuisines.

But, every once and a while I come across a recipe that I haven’t made before and it’s exciting.

Yet, I always proceed with caution.

I look at the list of ingredients and think if the flavours are ones that both my wife and I will enjoy.

I skim through the instructions and figure out if it is something I can pull off without too much stress and a constant desire to order in.

I read between the lines to see if this will take up the whole day and make every dish, pan and pot in the kitchen dirty.

I decide if the meal will be a good balance of tasty, healthy and within our budget.

And then, if satisfied, I’ll drop everything and drive to the grocery store, tongue almost literally wagging out the window, to buy the necessary items so I can go home and cook this new and potentially world-changing dish.

Hyperbole much?

Well, this recipe is one such recipe.

It may look like a lot of ingredients and steps, but it is remarkably simple.

It may look ordinary or plain, but it is delicious and the sauce is absolutely incredible.

It may look hard to put together, but I promise you it is easy.

And I’ve struggled with things that need to be stuffed and rolled before (don’t ask, I’ll start to cry), and I found this to be so wonderful and stress-free to make.

I couldn’t recommend this dish more.

You must make these summer rolls!

Ingredients

Thai Baked Tofu

1 lb Tofu

2 Tbs Vegetable Oil

3 Tbs Tamari Soy Sauce

2 Garlic Cloves

1 Tsp Lime Zest

3 Tbs Lime Juice

1 Tbs Agave Syrup

1/2–3 Tbs Thai Red Curry Paste

Summer Rolls

18 Rice Paper Sheets

1/4 lb Rice Vermicelli Noodles

1 Large Carrot

1 Large Red Bell Pepper

3 Small Radishes

1 Large Avocado

1/3 Large English Cucumber

1 Bunch Mint

1 Bunch Cilantro

1 Bunch Thai Basil

Peanut Dipping Sauce

1/3 Cup Peanut Butter

1 Tbsp Tamari Soy Sauce

1 Tbsp Agave Syrup

1 Tbsp Lime Juice

1/2 Tsp Chili Garlic Sauce

Hot water

Steps

  1. Enter the kitchen and survey the surroundings looking for hidden cameras and mocking family members. For those who “can’t cook” as well as those who think they are incredible, it’s important to give both the illusion of confidence as well as carrying some humility in case you burn the house down. When ready, set oven to 400 degrees.
  2. As the oven is heating up, cut tofu into your favourite three dimensional shape. I suggest triangular prisms or rectangular “boxes” or, if you are a show off, dodecahedrons. Do not attempt to cut tofu into two-dimensional shapes as your family will want to eat sometime in this lifetime.
  3. Zest your limes with a zest that you’ve been saving for the right moment (hint: this isn’t it) and then mince your garlic aiming for perfect 1/64 of an inch cubes that you could (but shouldn’t) post on social media.
  4. In a small bowl (or the largest bowl you own if you really love large bowls — may be worth seeking professional help for at a future date), mix tofu marinade ingredients: vegetable oil, soy sauce, minced garlic, lime zest, lime juice, agave syrup and red curry paste. Use as much red curry paste as you think you and your guests “can handle” without sending someone to emerg or anyone wondering if you are exacting revenge (bide your time, bide your time). I find this is around 1 1/2 Tbs.
  5. Toss tofu in the sauce sort of like how you toss your kids in the pool, only using a spoon to make sure the pieces are well-coated (mixing your kids in the pool with a spoon will be considered odd) and place in a well-sprayed glass baking dish large enough for all pieces to sit in one layer without having to touch any of the other tofu pieces (they will be able to touch later, if desired). Place glass dish in the oven for 40 minutes.
  6. While the tofu is baking, prepare the vegetables for the summer rolls starting with the carrot. You can peel the carrot if that makes you happy and love placing the peels upon your head in your dream of having orange hair or not. I leave the peel on out of guilt. Using a sharp knife, cut the carrot first into thin slices, then cut each slice into thin batons, resisting the urge to toss all of these carrot batons into the air to “let it rain”.
  7. Convert the cucumbers, red peppers and radishes into batons as well and place next to the carrots on a large plate in their own little piles. If separate piles of differently coloured vegetables makes you feel uncomfortable and a tad racist, put sunglasses and Groucho Marx disguise on and close the curtains.
  8. Using a knife, open the avocado and remove the pit and scoop the delicious flesh out keeping each half intact. Try not to smile too much when scooping the flesh as you may notice your family packing their bags “just in case”. Slice each half into long, thin strips.
  9. Put a medium pot full of water on the stove and salt the water as an homage to the ocean; cover and turn to high. Once boiling, place the noodles in the pot pretending it hurts you more than it hurts them. Don’t overcook the noodles regardless of what your very specific and odd horoscope said this morning. Place the cooked and drained noodles in cool water while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  10. Toss the rinsed herbs onto a cutting board and, after an appropriately-lengthened-heartfelt apology, chop them as aggressively as you can allowing all of your pent-up feelings of frustration, inadequacy and jealousy towards herbs to drain from your system.
  11. Remove the tofu from the oven using oven mitts or large pieces of old shag rug you have laying around to remind you of the 80s and scoop tofu pieces into a bowl allowing them to come to room temperature or any temperature below “ow, it’s burning”.
  12. On the counter, arrange all of your prepared ingredients like you arranged your stuffed animals/action figures/shampoo bottles as a young child with big dreams and fill a large, flat container (frying pan, baking dish, bed pan) with warm tap water and briefly allow your mind to wonder how your life would be different if you were an amphibian (wetter).
  13. Place a single rice sheet in the warm water for 10 seconds (11 if you are feeling particularly risque — also fun if feeling risque is to strip naked and “dress” yourself with cooked sticky rice). When the rice sheet feels flexible, place it on a slightly damp cloth on the counter taking care to stretch it out so it lies flat without ripping it. Caution: the rice sheets will be fun to handle and you will be tempted to throw them at the ceiling fan which you should not.
  14. Repeat for a second sheet (note: many other similar recipes only call for one sheet, but I, for one, feel better knowing there won’t be any accidents which is also why I often wore two pairs of underwear in my 20s).
  15. Once the rice sheets are placed on top of each other (calm down), you can begin to construct the rolls. There are no rules here. Feel free to be orderly and predictable or random and chaotic or pouty and seductive (bonus marks for nailing chaotic, predictable and seductive at the same time). I suggest making a small bed of rice noodles on the lower third of the rice paper, upon which you place two or three pieces of tofu. Then scatter a small amount of each vegetables and top it all off with a sprinkle of each herb. Resist the overwhelming urge to over stuff the rolls. We’ve all been there. It ain’t pretty.
  16. Carefully lift up the rice paper closest to you and roll it over the fillings like you’d roll a pig in a blanket if you happened to have a pig and a blanket and always wanted to roll them together for giggles. Fold in the two sides to make a complete package and then roll the rice paper again. You should now have what looks like the summer rolls you’ve dreamed of making since you were a little boy or girl (pick one). Repeat until all of the rice sheets or all of the fillings are used up.
  17. Place all of the sauce ingredients (except for the water) in a bowl and stir to mix (why else would I stir, I always wondered?). Once combined, slowly add a little water at a time until you achieve your desired consistency. If you are unsure of what consistency your prefer ask your mom.

And now, you are ready to eat.

Ask your family or friends or enemy combatants to join you at the table.

After exchanging a few pleasantries, pick up a roll, swirl it in the sauce and raise it skyward, looking at it like you just discovered fire before taking a bite.

Close your eyes to give the impression that the food is so good that you honestly can’t look anyone in the eyes at the same time (the food is that good, but seriously, you don’t have to close your eyes).

Enjoy the playful mix of fillings, coated with the delicious sauce that you make a mental note to make a vat of for the next time you need to eat away your sorrows.

It’s healthy. It’s light. It’s tasty. And, in the blink of an eye, it’s gone.

You have to make these rolls.

They are yummy.