This is most definitely not going to be a blog about food – I already told myself that. However, over the years, cooking has become an enjoyable hobby of mine. Especially since becoming a pescatarian in 2014 and a full blown vegetarian in 2018 (who also tries to eat very little animal products in general), I have had to learn new styles of making food, finding recipes and becoming more creative. The brats, cheesy chicken casserole, ribs, salmon on the grill and other things I grew up eating had to make an exit out of my life.
My mom is an excellent cook. She always spent time preparing meals for my brother and I when we were younger and always made sure I was getting the nutrition I needed (she never forgot to encourage me to drink milk or take my milk money which I did not enjoy at the time). As we got older and she had more time on her hands, she started to experiment more with her cooking. Making interest soups, Mexican chicken, pad thai, and other dishes from around the globe exposing us to flavors, cultures, and nutritious but delicious meals from our kitchen. Watching her do this undoubtedly had an effect on me.
I’m not going to be dishonest and say that I love every second of cooking. Sometimes I despise chopping vegetables and I have burn marks on my arms and fingers to prove that I’m not the most graceful around the kitchen. But the feeling I have when I make something delicious and the fact of knowing that I’m feeding and nourishing other people (99.9% of the time that person is Dan), truly gives me happiness.
Lately, Dan and I have been watching Chef’s Table which always inspires me. It is a beautiful show full of stories of chefs overcoming odds, living their dreams, saving their cultures, testing limits and doing what they were meant to do. Everytime after I watch it, I say, “I’m going to open a restaurant and serve the world’s best vegetarian food from around the world” (not really going to happen but it does give me fun cooking ideas!) The reason I brought up Chef’s Table is because recently, I watched two episodes set in Asia and it inspired me to try my hand at making a dish from Asia. After some research, I settled on Vietnamese Spring Rolls.
Not to make a long story longer, I found an Hmart about 15 minutes from here which was an amazing discovery and I will most definitely be back. I purchased the following for my spring rolls: rice paper, cucumber, lettuce, green onion and tofu. More traditional spring rolls use vermicelli noodles and either shrimp or meat which I purposely left out.
Making the spring rolls was a fairly easy adventure and for my memory, here’s what I did!
- I first chopped the cucumber and green onion into small strips and baked the tofu for about 12 minutes covered in soy sauce, ginger powder, and onion/garlic powder.
2. I created an assembly line for building the rolls.
3. Cooking the rice paper was the trickiest part of this whole endeavour. As you can see below, you dunk the rice paper in warm water for just a few seconds and it quickly transforms into the clear paper we all know and love. What they don’t tell you is that when you pull it out from the water, it bunches and sticks together. I did not figure out a best system for this and sustained a few burns on my fingers.
4. Assemble the rolls. I found that laying the rice paper down and then filling it in this order worked best: lettuce on the bottom, tofu on top, cucumber and green onion slices on the sides of the tofu. (notice the half eaten roll in the corner).
5. Once the filling is in, I pulled the bottom and top down over the tofu and then started on the right rolling my way to spring roll success! The rice paper was much stickier than I was expecting making it super easy to keep everything together.
Making these sticky, delicious, little spring rolls was a really fun Saturday project for me that only took about an hour max. I felt a good sense of accomplishment after they were all done and I was dipping them fervorously into a sweet chili sauce.