Thai-Inspired Peanut Sauce and Vietnamese Spring Rolls
Filed under: appetizer ideas, easy dinners, fancy made easy, healthy stuff, low fat, vegetarian dinner, you have got to try this!
When we visited Austin, Texas a few weeks ago, J’s brother and his fiance took us to a Vietnamese sandwich shop called Bite Mi. I had never really heard of sandwiches with all the delicious Vietnamese flavors like that of the signature pho, but I tell you what! These sandwiches were awesome. They also had these crazy canned beverages like Chrysanthemum tea or Jasmine Green tea which were both delicious. To top it all off (and my favorite part of the experience), their side item to the sandwich was a spring roll. Not the fried kind–The cold, basil, mint, noodle, shrimp or tofu kind with spicy peanut sauce for dipping. There is a restaurant in Nashville that serves these just the way I like them. And I happily pay the 8 or 9 dollars because they are so damn good. Halfway through our meal at Bite Mi, I commented with a big ole bite of spring roll and peanut sauce, “Man, I wish I could make these!” Fiance Nicole, rather nonchalantly, commented back, “They’re not that hard. Those wrappers are super cheap and easy to find.”
WHERE HAVE I BEEN?? Every time I had gone to the store, I had looked for those rice paper wrappers. All I can ever find are the wonton wrappers in the refrigerated section. So when we ate at their favorite Korean place in Austin, we visited the Asian grocery in the same strip mall. And I picked up 2 packages of rice paper spring roll wraps to smuggle back in my suitcase…only to find that Kroger had them in the Asian section when we got back to Nashville. I suppose I just didn’t know what I was looking for, eh?
Anyway, these things are super easy to make and handle. You just follow the instructions for hydrating the wrappers. They are easier to deal with if you just make sure all of the surface area has been covered by water and then quickly transfer to your work area while they are still hard and papery.
Then you just pile in whatever filling you like and then wrap up like you would a burrito. Just make sure you include fresh basil and mint. These are a must, trust me.
Our filling included:
- plain chinese noodles, cooked
- marinated and baked tofu– I just marinate in soy, bake until slightly crispy, and let cool before I start the spring rolls. This is also a great way to use any leftover tofu or protein you have from a previous meal. Shrimp, tempeh, pork, anything you like.
- bean sprouts
- matchstick carrots
- fresh basil
- fresh mint
- sliced cucumber
- chopped fresh green onions
Now for the Thai-inspired Peanut Sauce.
J looked up several recipes while I was baking the tofu, and none of them really appealed to me. So I just kinda threw together bits and pieces of things I saw. I don’t have exact measurements because I was adding and tasting as I went. I just knew I wanted it to be like a peanut sauce we buy in the jar, but better and less spicy. This recipe makes a lot of sauce, but it’s great on everyday leftovers, and we ate it up in a week.
Here’s what I came up with:
- jar of natural peanut butter, creamy (the unsweetened kind)
- half can of coconut milk (you may have to use more or less depending on the consistency of your peanut butter–just get it to the creamy consistency you like, and it will be good)
- 2 or 3 tablespoons of soy sauce
- a few tablespoons of water (again, just have a cup of water near you, and add until you get the desired consistency of creamy)
- juice of 1 fresh lime
- lime zest of that lime
- approximately 1 tablespoon of fish sauce (sounds weird, but it just adds that little something)
- a couple shakes of dried ground ginger
- several dashes of Mongolian fire oil or chili oil or whatever spicy sauce you usually use to add the heat
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- approximately 1/4 cup sugar or sweetening agent like agave syrup –be careful with this, especially if you used a sweetened peanut butter. Add a little at a time until you get your desired sweetness. I like a perfect blend of sweet, salty, and spicy, but that may not be your forte.
I kept adding the fire oil until I got some heat. The sugar balances it nicely.
The spring rolls will keep for a few days, so if you have leftovers, they are EXCELLENT for the next day’s lunch.