Fresh tofu summer rolls are packed with crunchy vegetables, seasoned rice noodles and fresh herbs. Served with peanut sauce, they are a perfect appetizer or light lunch.
So, tofu. Thoughts? Yes? No?
I know usually people have pretty strong feelings (of like, or dislike) for tofu. But, whether you love it or hate it - you have to admit, it is healthy and full of protein.
And it's a blank canvas that will soak up the whatever marinade or seasoning you add to it to give you a completely different and unique flavor every time, so really, what's not to like?
These Tofu summer rolls are more than just your average vegan snack option. If you've been shying away from experimenting with Tofu, this is one recipe that might convert you to an enthusiast too. (And if not, maybe these Tofu Wraps or this Kung Pao Tofu will!)
Tofu Summer Rolls - Origin
Summer rolls or gỏi cuốn are arguably one of the most popular Vietnamese dishes known globally. But, funnily enough, they are believed to have their origin in China.
It's believed that these are inspired by Chinese egg rolls, and given a different spin with the signature freshness and flavors of Vietnamese cuisine.
Summer rolls are pretty versatile - and can be made with any fresh vegetables, herbs, noodles, and protein of choice, wrapped in rehydrated rice paper, and served with a dipping sauce. Ideally this bold, perfect, Vietnamese Peanut Sauce!
That is the basis of these Tofu summer rolls as well. They are pretty easy and straightforward to make - and also pretty easy to wrap once you get the hang of it. Be sure to watch the video in the recipe card to see how it's done!
How are summer rolls and spring rolls different?
Spring rolls are wrapped in a paper-thin wrapper consisting of flour and water. This type of wrapper is thin and crispy, and the rolls are served hot.
Spring rolls are most often packed with a mixture of pork, shrimp, beans sprouts, and cabbage before being fried and are frequently accompanied by a vinegar, sweet and sour, or Worcestershire-based dipping sauce.
Summer rolls, unlike spring rolls, are served cold and have a translucent wrapper (rice paper). These rolls are also known as Vietnamese spring rolls, summer rolls, fresh spring rolls, or rice paper wraps.
They're Vietnamese in origin and often comprise of rice noodles, carrots, lettuce, cucumbers, herbs, and shrimp or pork wrapped in a rice-paper wrapper. Summer rolls are generally served with a Vietnamese peanut dipping sauce.
This recipe requires extra-firm or firm tofu. Soft or silken tofu will not hold up to the cooking. If you want to skip or replace the tofu with another protein like chicken or shrimp, you can do that.
I have also fried the tofu in a little oil - which is optional, but it gives it the perfect crispy exterior and great texture. It's slightly crispy, perfectly tender, and deliciously seasoned that is so much better than just raw tofu.
Rice vermicelli or rice noodles are a staple in Asian cuisine, and they add the perfect chewy bite and texture to these tofu summer rolls.
Noodles in summer rolls are not usually seasoned but I feel like this is missed opportunity to infuse more flavor into these rolls, so I love to give them a quick toss in a simple mixture of soy sauce, rice vinegar and sriracha.
I love to use cucumber, bibb lettuce, and carrots -which are all vegetables that are traditionally used. But, these Tofu summer rolls are pretty forgiving and you can use any vegetables of your choice. Feel free to add some cabbage, thinly sliced bell pepper, or bean sprouts.
I love a combination of fresh leafy herbs like cilantro, mint, and Thai basil in my fresh spring rolls. Feel free to use the herbs you prefer. I have even used regular Italian basil which was delicious.
Of course, your tofu summer rolls will be incomplete without these! You can easily find rice paper wrappers for fresh spring rolls in the Asian section of the grocery store. They can be a bit tricky to work with until you get the hang of it, so be sure to check out the video, and instructions below, for tips!
Step by Step Instructions
Cook the noodles
- Cook your vermicelli noodles according to the package instructions. Rinse them in cool water and let them to drain and cool down.
- In a big bowl, mix together the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sriracha and sugar. Add your rice noodles to it and toss to coat.
Make the Tofu
1. To make 12 equal-sized tofu sticks, cut the tofu block in half horizontally, then vertically into 6 equal pieces.
2. In a shallow bowl, add the soy sauce and tofu sticks, turning to coat all sides.
3. In another shallow bowl, put some cornstarch and add the tofu sticks in batches, turning until well covered.
4. In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon of oil and add the tofu sticks.
5. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until browned, then turn and cook for another 8-10 minutes, or until all sides are browned. Allow the tofu to cool to room temperature before using in the rolls.
1. Take a large cutting board and lightly oil it. This helps keep the rice paper from sticking to it.
2. Fill a pie dish or large shallow bowl halfway with warm water, place a rice paper wrapper in the bowl, and soak for about 10 seconds before transferring to the prepared cutting board.
Do not soak for longer than that. Your wrapper should still be a little stiff when you remove it from the water. Don't worry, it will continue to soften as you work with it.
3. On the bottom third of the rice paper - place all your ingredients one by one. Tofu, followed by noodles, then lettuce - and so on.
4. Roll up from the bottom, then fold the sides over the contents and roll tightly until you have a fat cigar shape. Continue with the rest of the rolls.
Place seam-side down on a serving platter. Serve with Vietnamese peanut sauce (essential!).
They are so fresh and delicious!
Tofu Summer Roll Tips
- Prep and lay out all your ingredients beforehand so you have everything on hand when you start wrapping these Tofu summer rolls.
- Pay close attention to the layering of the ingredients inside your wrap - as this is what makes for the beautiful look of the summer rolls when served.
- You can add vegetables like bean sprouts, spinach, and any other salad greens
- If you don't like tofu, but want to keep these vegan, you can replace the tofu with another vegan protein like seitan or tempeh.
- While rolling, carefully lift each side of the rice paper so that it doesn't rip.
While fresh spring rolls are best eaten, well, fresh, I often meal prep these to last a couple of days and they keep pretty well for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
Unfortunately the only reliable way I have found to keep the rice paper wrapper from drying out is to INDIVIDUALLY wrap the rolls in plastic wrap and then store them in an airtight container.
I don't like to use disposable plastic wrap as a rule, but it seems to be the only solution for these rolls, which will otherwise harden when exposed to cold air for longer than a few minutes.
Tofu Summer Rolls
- 6 oz vermicelli noodles
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sriracha
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 1 16- oz package firm or extra-firm tofu
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons peanut oil or canola, vegetable, or olive oil
- 1 head bibb butter or Boston lettuce
- 1 cucumber peeled and cut into match sticks
- 1 large carrot peeled and cut into match sticks, or grated
- ½ cup fresh cilantro
- 24 leaves mint
- 24 leaves Thai basil
- 12 8.5 inch round rice paper wrappers
- peanut sauce for dipping
- Cook or soak vermicelli noodles according to the package instructions. Drain and rince with cool water until cooled.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sriracha and sugar. Add the drained noodles to the mixture and toss to coat. Set aside.
- Slice the tofu block in half horizontally, then slice vertically into 6 equal pieces to make 12 tofu sticks of equal size.
- Pour the soy sauce into a shallow bowl and add the tofu sticks, turning until all sides are coated.
- Add the cornstarch to another shallow bowl and add the tofu sticks in batches turning until completely coated.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, and add the tofu sticks. Cook 2-3 minutes until browned, turn and and a second tablespoon of oil to continue to cook until all sides are browned, about 8-10 minutes. Set the tofu aside to cool to room temperature.
Assemble the rolls
- Lightly oil a large cutting board.
- Add warm (not hot) water to a pie dish or large shallow bowl, place a rice paper wrapper in the bowl and soak for about 10 seconds and remove to the prepared cutting board. (The wrapper will still be slightly stiff but it will keep softening as you work with it. If you let it sit too long in the water it will get slimy and sticky and impossible to work with.)
- On the bottom third of the rice paper wrapper (closest to you), place a stick of a some noodles, a lettuce leaf, a few carrot and cucumber pieces, a few leaves of cilantro, 1 or 2 mint leaves and 1 or 2 Thai Basil leaves. Roll up a little from the bottom, then fold the sides over the filling and continue rolling tightly until you have a fat cigar shape. Continue with the remaining rolls.
- Serve right away with peanut sauce.
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