Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Sesame Tofu Summer Rolls with Lime and Coconut Peanut Sauce

I have been wanting to make summer rolls for a really long time now, and I decided that it was definitely time to give it a shot. Even though I've been enjoying summer rolls for years, I really wanted to make them right, so I spent some time really paying attention to how much and to what ingredients were rolled in them when I would order them. Every restaurant added some different things here and there, but they all had the same base ingredients. I spent a lot of time thinking about what I was going to roll in my summer rolls, and I think I came up with a pretty refreshing combination. I am totally content with vegetable summer rolls, but I wanted to fancy them up a bit, so I added tofu.

I really enjoyed making the summer rolls, and I was really happy with how they turned out. I think you will be too! This is a time consuming recipe, so just take your time and have fun with it.

I started with the Sesame Tofu. I marinaded it in a sauce that I borrowed from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman.

Pan Fried Sesame Tofu

Everything you will need:
1 block extra firm tofu (not silken) pressed
Click here to learn how to press tofu

Soy and Sesame Marinade
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
2 Tablespoons sesame oil
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
1 tablespoon raw sugar
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon peeled and minced ginger
1/2 cup minced scallion

To cook the tofu
2 tablespoons of corn oil
I used corn oil because it is a neutral oil. You could also use grapeseed oil.

First, you want to toast your sesame seeds. You can do this by setting a skillet to medium heat, and then pouring the seeds into the pan. Shake and stir often until the seems start to turn a gold color (about 3-5 minutes). When done, Combine all of the ingredients and stir until the sugar is dissolved and everything is mixed together.

Once your tofu is pressed and ready, stand the tofu up long ways and cut down the middle so you're making two flat pieces. Then, cut each block into medium-sized cubes or rectangles. Once you have cut your tofu, mix and coat the tofu with the soy and sesame marinade, and place in the refrigerator. After about a half hour, mix the tofu again and marinate for another half hour.

Once the tofu is done marinating, it's time to get cooking. Put the oil in a skillet over medium heat, and when it's hot, slide in the tofu. You will not want to place the tofu on top of each other, so you may have to work in batches. Cook about three to four minutes and flip one over. Make sure the bottom is brown and golden. If it looks that way, then carefully flip the rest over and brown the other sides. Once finished transfer to a paper towel and let some of the oils soak off the tofu. Cool until you're ready to make the summer rolls.

Sesame-Tofu Summer Rolls

I had a little bit of trouble at first rolling the ingredients, so before you start here are some tips:

*Have all of the ingredients chopped up and ready to go. I placed everything that I had in bowls and formed a line.
*Have a pot of hot water that you will dip the summer roll wrappers in. You don't want it to be too hot because you will need to dip your hands in it. Try to get it to the temperature where if it was any hotter, than it would be too hot.
*Be gentle with the wrappers because they are fragile, but when rolling, be generous when you fold the corners. At first, I wasn't folding them in enough, and the rolls were not rolling as compact as I wanted. Eventually I got the hang of i
t and so will you!
*Go to an Asian Grocery store to buy the right brand of rice sticks and summer roll wrappers. I wasn't able to fin
d the right brands or enough options at the local grocery store. When I went to the Asian Supermarket they were able to point out to me the best brands for making the rolls. I also found out that the wrappers are also called Spring Roll wrappers.

Remember, this is the fun part, so don't get frustrated. It takes a little practice, but you will soon be on your way to summer roll heaven.

Everything you will need:

1 half of a head of lettuce, shredded
1 cucumber, diced small and de-seaded
3 carrots, shredded
1 half cup cilantro
Several mint leaves
1 block or pan friend sesame tofu
about 6 cups of rice noodles
15-20 summer roll wrappers
a hot pot of water

-The first thing you want to do is make sure you get all of your ingredients ready. I went ahead and ripped the lettuce with my hands and then placed it in my food processor to shred it. You can probably also chop it manually, but if you do use a food processor remember not to puree it. You don't want it to be mushy. If you can buy already-shredded lettuce at the store, then do that. I looked around, but didn't find it.

-I did the same with the carrots.

-I also mention to de-sead the cucumber because you don't want the summer roll to get watery.

This is a picture of the brand of rice noodles that I used. To cook these, you want to bring a pot of water to a boil, then turn off the heat and place your noodles in. I used two bunches of noodles, which ended up being around 6 cups cooked. Soak for around 10 minutes in the hot water and then drain the noodles. Run cold water over them until they are cool. You will want them to be cool enough to work with. Make sure you then drain all of the water out of them so your summer roll isn't watery.

Once everything is ready and lined up, it's time to work with the wrappers. When I first tried to do this, it took me probably about 10 minutes with the first five rolls until I figured out how to do this correctly. Take one wrapper out, and soak in water for 30 seconds. You don't have to say one-Mississippi.... just count like normal. The wrappers seem thick, so you would instinctively want to soak them until you see that they become thin, but the reality is that it keeps thinning after you take it out of the water, so just count to a quick 30 and take them out. You have to do this with your hands, so grab each side of the circle wrapper after you take it out of the water, and lay it on a flat surface next to your ingredients. At first I tried to use tongs to grab the wrapper, but it ended up folding like saran wrap, and it became a chore to straighten it all out. I eventually let the water cool a bit and used my hands, and life became much easier!

So, you have the soaked wrapper on a flat surface and all the fillers ready. I started with about 1/4 cup noodles. I placed the noodles about 2 inches away from the top of the wrapper. Then I grabbed lettuce and made a generous layer on top of the noodles. I then sprinkled the carrots over that. I made a layer of the cucumber right in front of the noodles. Then, I sprinkled about a teaspoon of cilantro across the cucumbers. I broke up a large mint leaf into two and placed that on across the cilantro. If the leaves are smaller, use two. Finally, I took two pieces of the sesame tofu and placed them next to each other in front of, or partially covering the cucumber.

Grab the top of the summer roll and start to roll over the top of the ingredients until it finally covers it and fold the corners in. I realized that I wasn't folding the corners in enough, so fold them in pretty tight and continue to roll (and fold) until you can't anymore. Then, place on a plate and try the next one. You'll eventually get the hang of it. I just continued to roll until I ran out of noodles. I still had some tofu left over, but I pretty much used everything else up. I think I actually needed to chop some more cilantro at some point because I ran out of that. But, I compensated for that in the measurements above. I ended up making 16 rolls. Serve immediatly with the Lime and Coconut Peanut dipping sauce!

Delights and After Thoughts:

Sesame Tofu: One mistake that I made with the tofu was marinating it for too long. I pressed the tofu the night before, so I thought that I would marinate it overnight. But, when I went to cook it, it didn't make my tofu crisp as I had planned on. I believe that the long marinade defeated the purpose of pressing the tofu. So, I did some research afterwards and found that most recipes recommend marinating tofu for an hour after pressing, and no longer. So, that is why I suggested an hour in my recipe.

Since they were being rolling inside the summer rolls, the texture of the tofu wasn't a priority, but if I was making a stir-fry, I would hope to get them crispy the next time! I really felt like the sesame tofu made an excellent addition to the summer roll, and the sweet sesame flavor was quite delightful.

After you are done, save the leftover marinade. I used the rest for a noodle bowl, but you could also throw it in a stir fry, or use to dress up a salad. If you have any recommendations or tips for cooking tofu that would be great. I would love to read them!

Summer Rolls: Since I rolled 16 of these things, I made sure to bring them into work the next day for everyone. There was no way I was going to be able to finish 16 summer rolls! I was really happy that I got excellent feedback from everyone, and I even told them to be brutally honest, so I think I'm on the right track.

I originally wanted to cut them in half, but since I didn't get the hang of rolling them tight until roll #13, most of them would fall apart if I did that. Regardless, making them was really fun, and it would make a fun date night activity.

The great thing about summer rolls is that you can roll in them whatever you want. You can feel free to leave out the tofu, or maybe use tempeh instead. You can experiment with using fruit, such as mango. Next time I think I am going to make simple summer rolls with just lettuce, carrots, and noodles. But, I plan on tossing the noodles in the soy-sesame marinade. I'll let you know how that turns out.

I also recommend using your own judgment when it comes to measurements. I really wasn't sure if I had chopped up an accurate amount of everything when I started, but I actually used up everything around the same time except a little bit of carrot and the tofu. Lucky me! It all worked out because I ended up making a noodle bowl (which I will blog about tomorrow) with the leftover tofu.

The Peanut Sauce that I served with it is not the usual sauce that I get when I order summer rolls, but it was delicious and really worked well with it. Everyone that tried it also seemed to really like it. I am adding that recipe next, so it will end up right above this one with a separate link. Have fun, and I would love to hear feedback or suggestions!

1 comment:

Beth said...

My God!!! I can't believe this. Such a complex recipie and it looks so professional and so good.I wish I worked at Full Sail so I could taste your dishes.