Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Fresh Spring Rolls with Tofu and Nuoc Mam Cham

We first had these spring rolls at a friend's house several years ago, shortly after my husband and I started dating.  He wasn't a huge fan of the rolls, but I really liked them.  Today I got it into my head that I wanted fresh spring rolls for dinner and I had a hunch my husband would like them better now since he's much more of an adventurous eater than he used to be after several years of eating my cooking (not sure if that's a compliment to me or not!).  I was right, too!  He enjoyed the spring rolls and I loved them.  Don't know why it took me so long to make them myself because this was a truly stellar meal and healthy to boot.  If you've never had them, they're assorted veggies and usually a protein of some sort (tofu in this case) wrapped up in a softened rice wrapper.  Might not sound all that special, but I promise the combination of crunchy veggies, crisp but soft, but sweet and sweet and sour tofu, chewy rice wrapper, and nuoc mam cham is divine.  Don't be intimidated by the multiple steps, they're quite easy to make.  Assembling the spring rolls can be a tad bit tricky because the wrapper likes to stick to itself, but it's really not a big deal.  They're actually a lot of fun, making them is kind of like a very different twist on taco night because each person can put whatever they want in their rolls!

The spring rolls are served with nuoc mam cham, which is a delicious Vietnamese dipping sauce with a perfect blend of sweet, salty, and sour flavors that really add to the spring rolls.  According to what I have read, there are countless variations on nuoc mam cham and you can pretty much use whatever proportions of the ingredients you'd like.  I got the base recipe from one of my favorite blogs, White on Rice Couple (read the comments for an interesting discussion), and there's some more great info about it on The Ravenous Couple.  You could use soy sauce instead of fish sauce if you want the spring rolls to be vegan, but I implore you to try it with the fish sauce if you are not opposed to eating fish!  Don't be scared off by the smell of the fish sauce if you've never used it before, I promise it's good in the nuoc mam cham (among other things).

 My selection of veggies: green onion, cucumber, carrots, and lettuce

For the filling, I used lots of veggies and tofu.  You can use just veggies, or add meat like cooked shrimp or chicken, or really any number of things.  I just slightly adapted my Baked Tofu Bites recipe to be cooked on the stove, and it was wonderful in the spring rolls.

Spring roll wrappers
Here are the wrappers.  They are very thin and translucent.  You can find them in the Asian section at the grocery store.  This package was less than half an inch thick but had 16 wrappers in it!  Another brand I have seen a lot is these Banh Trang ones.  If I can find them without any trouble here in Alaska, I'm sure you can find them, too!

 Nuoc mam cham, ready for dipping

Nuoc Mam Cham

2 cloves minced garlic
1 Thai chili or Sriracha sauce to taste (I used 1/4 t which is quite mild)
1 T sugar
1 T lime juice
1 t rice vinegar
1/4 to 1/2 C fish sauce according to taste (I used 1/4 C) *you can use soy sauce to make it vegetarian*
1/2 C water

Place minced garlic and Thai chili in the bowl of a mortar and pestle and crush thoroughly.  If you don't have a chili, add the sugar to the mortar and pestle with the garlic to help break it down.  Place in a glass jar with a lid along with all the other ingredients and shake well to combine.  Taste and add more of anything if you think it needs it.  The nuoc mam cham will keep well in the refrigerator and you can use it to dip other things in or as a marinade.

 Tofu and extra sauce, ready to go in the rolls

Sauteed Tofu

16 oz block extra firm tofu, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
about 2 T vegetable oil
2 T ketchup
2 T honey *you can use maple syrup to make it vegetarian*
1 T rice vinegar
4 T soy sauce
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 t Sriracha sauce

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium.  Add tofu cubes and cook, tossing tofu occasionally with a spatula, until lightly golden.  This will take about 20 minutes.  While tofu cooks, stir together remaining ingredients.  When tofu is finished, add sauce to skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until sauce has thickened slightly, about 2 minutes.  Scoop tofu cubes into a bowl and pour the extra sauce into another small bowl to serve along with the spring rolls.

 Assembled spring rolls, ready to be devoured

Spring Rolls

spring roll wrappers
prepared tofu and extra sauce
nuoc mam cham
veggies of choice, such as:
torn lettuce
thinly sliced carrot (I used a vegetable peeler to make ribbons)
thinly sliced cucumber
thinly sliced green onion
thinly sliced zucchini
sliced bell pepper
bean sprouts
Thai basil

Follow directions on spring roll wrapper package to soften wrappers.  Basically, fill a large bowl with hot water and submerge the wrappers in the water one at a time until softened.  Remove to a plate, gently dab dry with a paper towel if necessary, and fill with tofu and veggies.  Fold in the sides, then roll up like a burrito.  Serve with nuoc mam cham and the extra sauce from the tofu.


  1. Your spring rolls sound delicious! I love the sauce and that you put tofu in them!

  2. thanks for sharing.