No-Cook, All-Veggie Spring Rolls
By Dennis Linden
In celebration of this month’s Chinese New Year on February 16, May Lau, a long-time team member of our Mail Order Department, shares her twist on the traditional Spring Roll. The roll itself is incredibly simple to form as well as being a deliciously healthy way to deliver a serving of nutritional vegetables that has just the right amount of spicy kick to make the package interesting. With the exception of the easy preparation of her slightly spicy peanut dipping sauce and a quick grilling of a few sliced portabella mushrooms, May’s ingredient list consists of just four common vegetables, uncooked, plus Melissa’s Hawaiian-style Tofu that she uses as a flavorful meat substitute.
“I am of Chinese descent. Our culture is really big on fresh vegetables and healthy dishes,” May explained. “The veggie spring roll is an excellent example because it encompasses fresh vegetables readily available at your local market, wrapped in a thin sheet of rice paper, paired with the perfect dipping sauce. It is super-fast to prepare, healthy, and delicious! It is my secret recipe to help me eat healthy as I am always on the go!”
And she’s right. After just one sacrificial sheet I got the hang of the rice paper very quickly. O.K., maybe it took two sheets. Having a slightly greased surface, as May suggests, is a tip that should not be overlooked. While the rice paper looks very delicate, especially after being dipped in hot water, do not be intimidated as the sheets are actually pretty forgiving and can take a surprising amount of culinary abuse. I also learned the hard way not to stack the completed rolls on top of each other until they have had a chance to “air” separately for several minutes or they tend stick together. If handled properly, one can eventually stack a batch of rolls on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and store overnight without a problem. Longer storage? Not applicable considering the deliciousness factor!
I think a big part to the success of May’s recipe rests in the julienne process itself. The definition of this cut is “thin, short sections”. After taste testing of my first few rolls, I went back to the ol’ julienne board and gave all the veggies another slice thinner. That tweak definitely softened the texture of each bite. So think tender thin and uniform for all julienned components, which will lend a more cohesive consistency to the combined flavors of the veggies laced with May’s spiced up peanut sauce.
Of course, the amount of kick added to that dipping sauce is totally personal. May’s one teaspoon of Thai Red Curry Paste was doubled after the first bite, but that’s just my medium-heat palate preference. Adjust accordingly. Also the consistency of the sauce can be flexed to taste. So have a second can of coconut milk on hand to thin out the sauce by adjusting the liquid vs peanut butter ratio, if preferred. Happy dipping!
May Lau has been a team member of Melissa’s busy Mail Order / Custom Service Department going on twenty-three years! Her duties include processing and accounting for all on-line orders that come in via this web site as well as manning our Customer Service desk to field questions about our products, advise on an order’s status and handle the occasional consumer complaint.
“I believe that my most important role at Melissa’s is to provide customer satisfaction,” said May. “I view each customer as my own and strive to create a personal relationship by customizing every order to meet individual needs. Whether it be via phone, email, or web site, it is very important to treat everyone who takes the time to contact us as more than just the next number in line, but as a valued customer who deserves the best attention, service and products that Melissa’s has to offer.”
Outside of the office May devotes much of her spare time as a volunteer supporting various animal rights campaigns and programs. Not only was her feline daughter, Abbey, one of a three-kitten litter born to a pregnant stray that May had rescued, but she also placed Abbey’s two brothers with Melissa’s own Chef de Cuisine, Chef Tom Fraker. Also, like so many of her generation these days, May’s 97-year-old mother requires a lot of her attention. Her daily visits to the convalescent residence usually includes some sort of homemade treat or fresh fruit from the office to brighten her mom’s day. I am sure that includes an occasional tasty spring roll or two; after all, any recipe with peanut butter in it transcends all generations! Enjoy.
Easy Veggie Spring Rolls with Thai Peanut Sauce
Yield: 10 rolls
2 TBS vegetable cooking oil
1 tbsp. Thai Red Curry Paste
1 can Thai Coconut Milk
1 cup creamy peanut butter, no salt
2 TBS Melissa’s Organic Blue Agave Syrup
8 oz. small carrots, julienned
8 oz. celery, julienned
8 oz. cucumber, julienned
½ small head Iceberg Lettuce, shredded
1 package Melissa's Organic Tofu Hawaiian Style, julienned
2 TBS vegetable cooking oil
2 large Portobello mushroom, stems removed, julienned and grilled
1 Package Spring Roll sheets
Sauce: In a non-stick sauce pan sauté the curry paste in the cooking oil for a couple seconds to release its flavors. Then add in the coconut milk and whisk the mixture to dissolve any lumps of the paste. Turn the heat down add peanut butter and agave, whisk until a thick, smooth sauce forms. You can thin the sauce out by adding more coconut milk or thicken it with more peanut butter.
Prepare all the filling ingredients, then arrange on a cutting board ready for construction of the roll.
Fill a large, shallow pan with very hot water or simmering on a very low flame stovetop, then dip each spring roll sheet for a just a few seconds to soften. Lay the softened spring roll on a clean cutting surface coated with a little bit of cooking oil. Place the six filling ingredients in a band along base of wrapper. Fold the bottom of the sheet over filling.
Next, fold in the left and right sides of the sheet toward the center, then roll up tight towards the top of the sheet to completely enclose filling. Top each spring roll with the peanut sauce or serve separately on the side for dipping.