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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Summer Rolls with Smoked Tofu and Almond Butter Dipping Sauce


This dish is everything you want in a quick meal on a warm day. It's light, yet full of protein, and portable.

On a recent trip to Chinatown, I couldn't resist some smoked tofu made just across the East River in Long Island City. (Smoked tofu doesn't contain the cancer-causing compounds that smoked meats do.) Firm and flavorful, it's perfect a filling for summer rolls.

The day I made these rolls, I didn't get too elaborate because my goal was to prepare a quick lunch. I just used smoked tofu, cilantro and scallion, but other colorful veggies would be great additions: strips of bell pepper, cucumber sticks, avocado wedges, grated carrot or beet. Feel free to experiment with your favorite vegetables or use up the ones you find in your fridge.

I love a lot of cilantro in my summer rolls, but if you're not a big fan, or if you don't have any, you can substitute shredded cabbage, lettuce or any other leafy green.

If you don't have smoked tofu, use baked tofu instead, or tempeh strips sautéed in olive oil then drizzled with tamari. Cooked shrimp and leftover roasted, shredded chicken are other good options. 

For the Rolls:
  • 4 sheets round rice paper (spring roll skins)
  • 8 strips smoked tofu (about 4 oz)
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 2 scallions


When making summer rolls, strive for two things: a roll that is full but not over-filled, and one that is tightly rolled. The more fillings you have, the less you should use of each one. And be sure to line them up so that they fit together snugly. Use the leafy greens to fill in the gaps. Like anything, practice will improve your technique. It's always good to have extra sheets of rice paper handy in case of tears.
  1. On the stove top, warm an inch of water in a skillet just big enough to accommodate your spring roll skins. Once small bubbles start to form, turn off the heat.
  2. While the water warms, assemble the other ingredients. Slice the tofu into strips. Roughly chop the cilantro leaves and stems. Cut the scallions in half lengthwise, then into 2 or 3 pieces, similar to the length of the tofu strips.
  3. Once the water is warm and the heat is turned off (you can turn it back on later if it gets cold before you finish), add one sheet of rice paper. Allow it to soak until it softens, about a minute. Carefully transfer it to a dinner plate (it won't stick to the ceramic surface).
  4. Line up the tofu and scallions in the middle then mound a handful of cilantro on top. Take the edge of the rice paper closest to you and fold it away from you, over the mound. Gently pull it back, over the ingredients mounded in the middle, curling them underneath your fingers. While squeezing the center with gentle pressure, fold each side in toward the center, then roll the mound away from you.
  5. Transfer the summer roll to a glass or ceramic serving platter. Repeat with the remaining ingredients to make 3 more rolls.
  6. Serve the summer rolls with Almond Butter Dipping Sauce (recipe follows).

Makes 4 rolls

For the Almond Butter Dipping Sauce:
  • ½ cup almond butter
  • ¼ cup hot water
  • 2 tbsp tamari
  • 4 tbsp unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • Cold-pressed raw sesame oil to taste

  1. Stir together the almond butter and hot water until well combined, then whisk in the tamari, vinegar, ginger, garlic and cayenne. Add a few drops of sesame oil and whisk until the mixture is smooth and consistent. Taste it and add more sesame oil if desired. Adjust the seasoning if necessary.
  2. Cover the sauce and set it aside until you're ready to serve it, up to 2 hours at room temperature or longer inside the fridge.

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