Ever since Scott made a layer cake at Christmas, he's been on a cooking kick. The sweet joy of success is eating your own creation! I have to give him credit for taking on the task of finding ingredients for and making such a foreign food, which we fell in love with at a local Vietnamese restaurant. With the aid of the classic cookbook Joy of Cooking, he recreated our beloved dish perfectly at home!
2 t. canola oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 t. peeled and minced fresh ginger
1/2 t. crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 c. water
2 T. soy sauce (or tamari or shoyu)
2 T. fresh lime juice
2/3 c. chunky peanut butter
1 T. brown sugar, or to taste
Heat the canola oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until golden brown (about 1 minute). Add the water, soy sauce, lime juice, peanut butter, and brown sugar. Cook, stirring, until thickened (about 4 minutes).
Serve warm or at room temperature. This sauce will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 1 week.
Now make the rolls:
4 large red-leaf lettuce leaves, washed, large stems removed, leaves torn into large pieces
1 large carrot, peeled and shredded
1 c. bean sprouts, rinsed
1/2 c. cilantro leaves, minced
8 scallions, washed and chopped, white and green parts
2.5 oz. vermicelli noodles, broken in half (or use cellophane noodles or rice stick noodles)
3 T. canola oil
1 lb. firm Chinese-style tofu, water squeezed out, cut into 1/2-inch chunks (I like to freeze my tofu for 24 hours, then thaw it. It improves the texture.)
8 12-inch round sheets of rice paper (This stuff is edible, even though it does not appear to be when first taken from the package.)
First make sure all your vegetables are prepared and ready to go. Put a large saucepan over high heat and bring 4 c. water to boil. Cook the noodles until just firm to the bite. Drain and rinse under cold water.
In the meantime, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat in a large non-stick skillet. Add the tofu to the hot oil and brown on 2 sides of each chunk. Remove from heat.
Lay a damp kitchen towel on the counter. Have a large bowl of hot water (115 - 120 degrees F). Dip 1 sheet of rice paper into the water, completely submerging it, and quickly remove it to lay flat on the damp towel. Slightly lower then center and leaving about 1 inch on the right and left, put a horizontal line of lettuce, then noodles, then bean sprouts, then tofu, then cilantro, then scallions, then carrots (about 1/8 of each ingredient). Fold the right and left sides in and overlapping the filling by about an inch so that the paper sticks to itself above and below the filling. Bring up the bottom edge of the paper to cover the filling and stick to the rice paper at the top of the filling. Now roll tightly into a neat cylinder.
If the rice paper starts to tear, overlap it with another sheet of paper (prepped in the hot water, as usual), using 2 sheets for one roll.
Cut each roll on the diagonal with a sharp knife and serve immediately as the rice paper will toughen with time. Serve with peanut dipping sauce and, if you want, some chili garlic sauce. Makes 8 delicious servings.