- Spring rolls:
- 5 carrots, peeled
- 1-2 cucumbers, peeled
- 1 package cellophane noodles (aka bean thread noodles or chinese vermicelli)
- 1/2c raw, unsalted peanuts, minced
- handful of cilantro, minced
- 1 package rice spring roll wrappers
- Peanut noodles:
- 2 TBSP sesame oil
- large pinch red pepper or chili flakes
- 1/2c-3/4c peanut butter
- 1-2 TBSP soy sauce
- splash of rice wine vinegar
- pinch of sugar
- pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1 package soba or udon noodles
Another long break, but here I am. Friends visited from California, exhaustion set in, and I fell a little behind. But now I’m back ! The past few weeks have been crazy busy, and my meals have reflected that. Sure, I could have told you how I cook rice and roast vegetables, but that’s all pretty standard. (If you want to see photos of things like that, though, check out my Small Bites Gallery !) All of this changed when I went over to my friend Mal’s for dinner this past week, and we made a dinner that was simple enough to make despite my exhaustion, but special enough to share here.
Spring rolls !
When it comes to food, I have a few crosses to bear. The first, as I explained in my breakfast quinoa saga, is that I’m determined to prove that healthy food is delicious. The second thing I’m set on demonstrating is that simplicity can be DELICIOUS. Caprese salad, anyone ?! TOAST ?!? Simplest things, tastiest rewards.
Spring rolls are super easy and relatively quick to make–once you find the few “special” ingredients you need and julienne some vegetables, it’s just a matter of putting everything together and digging in. While there are probably 100 different things you can put in spring rolls, we chose Mal’s usual/superb combination of cellophane rice noodles, carrots, cucumber, peanuts, and cilantro. In the future, I’d love to swap out carrots for daikon or jicama or use mint instead of cilantro. Seriously, you can really do whatever floats your boat, so long as it’ll fold up inside the wrapper. We ate ours with soba noodles and homemade peanut sauce, but they’d also go well with stir-fried vegetables and tofu if double-noodles is too much for you to handle. Baby.
Mal’s Spring Rolls and Peanut Noodles
Start by cutting the carrots and cucumbers into small matchsticks (julienne, if you will). Set them aside. Then, bring a pot of water to a boil on the stove, and cook the cellophane noodles according to the directions on the package–they take about a minute to cook, so keep your eye on them ! Once cooked, drain the noodles and run cold water over them to cool. They need to be cool enough to touch or else you’ll be suffering through the entire process of putting the rolls together.
Set up a little spring roll production station (or mise en place. I am just busting out all the french techniques over here). Have your noodles in a bowl, and put your vegetables, peanuts, and cilantro all in their own separate piles. Fill an empty baking dish or sheet pan with about an inch of water, and place that next to your piles. Now it’s time to assemble the rolls !
Place one or two spring roll wrappers at a time in the water-filled baking dish until they are soft and flexible–about 30 seconds to a minute. Place the wrapper on a plate. Grab a small handful of noodles, and place them in the center of the wrapper. On either side, add between three and four pieces each of cucumber and carrot. Then sprinkle cilantro and peanuts over the top of the noodles. Now comes the folding. Fold the bottom end up over the filling. Then fold up either side. Here’s the trickiest part. Using your fingers to keep the filling tight and in place, begin to roll the spring roll forward until it’s completely tucked over into a small…roll. Or eggroll shape. Or baby burrito. If that is too complicated to understand, please let me know and I can post a little video ! Basically you want to create the tightest and most efficient pocket for all your delicious fillings. If you find a better way to do that, by all means try it that way ! There also may be directions printed on the wrapper packaging. If your roll doesn’t want to stay shut, dabbing a little water onto the seal will help it stay closed. Repeat this process (soaking the wrapper, filling, and folding) until you have used all your vegetables or wraps. We used a store-bought sweet chili dipping sauce to dunk our rolls in. If you feel ambitious enough to make it, by all means go for it ! Otherwise, it can most likely be found in your average grocery store !
Now, onto peanut noodles. If you are planning on making these two dishes together as we did, I’d recommend making the peanut sauce first, then assembling the spring rolls, then cooking your soba/udon noodles. That way everything comes together pretty quickly and nothing has to sit around for too long.
Making the peanut sauce is pretty simple. Start by putting the sesame oil and chili flakes in a small pot or pan over medium heat. Let that cook for about 4-5 minutes so the oil gets infused with all of that spicy goodness. Remove from heat and dump it in a bowl (strain if you don’t want the chili flakes, or leave them in for an extra kick).
Add all the other ingredients, stirring vigorously–the peanut butter tends to seize up when combined with everything else, so feel free to pop it in the microwave or put it in a pan over low heat for a few seconds just to help it thin out. Adjust the spices as desired/needed.
Once that is done, cook the soba or udon according to the directions on the package–boiling water, wait a few minutes until its soft(er), drain. You know the drift. Pour the noodles back into the pot and add the peanut sauce. Stir to coat the noodles. If you have leftover veggies/nuts/cilantro from the spring rolls, feel free to toss them in with the noodles.
So there you have it. Simple AND delicious.