There is a fantastic, wonderful, amazing Thai place in our neighborhood called Nicky’s. If you’re ever in or around Pittsburgh, go there!! I have had minimal success recreating Thai dishes at home, largely due to my fear of turning the heat up to high–my wok skills are a major work in progress.
Luckily, my favorite thing on the menu isn’t stir-fried–in fact, it isn’t cooked at all. I order fresh spring rolls (or summer rolls) literally every time we go to Nicky’s, but just recently thought to try making them at home. I was a little skeptical, especially once I picked up the rice paper in the Asian grocer, but hey–this is for science!–I continued on.
Using this recipe from Minimalist Baker as a guide and the menu at Nicky’s to inform my choice of fillings, I shopped, prepped, and rolled. These rolls came out AMAZING! For the same cost as a two-roll order at the restaurant, I made TEN at home. I gave half to my friend across the back alley, snap-chatting her a picture and the words “NAILED IT.” The only thing bad about these is that they stick together and wouldn’t keep well for long because of that, unless you could individually wrap them in saran wrap or something, but ain’t nobody got time for that. I trust that you will be able to take care of these in one night, anyway. Have a friend help!
- 8-10 spring roll wrappers (rice paper)
- 1 small head leaf lettuce
- 1 bunch Thai basil
- 4 ounces vermicelli or rice noodles (the thinner the better)
- 1 recipe pan-fried tofu (see below)
- 1/3 cup salted creamy almond butter
- 1 Tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp agave
- Fresh lime juice from half a lime
- 1/2 tsp chili garlic sauce (Sambal Oelek–you could sub sriracha!)
- Hot water to thin
- 8 ounces extra firm tofu, drained and thoroughly dried/pressed (I actually used smoked tofu that I got at my local Asian grocer because it’s already dry and I’m the worst/laziest tofu presser.)
- 2 Tbsp cornstarch
- 1 Tbsp avocado or other light oil for pan-frying
- Start by preparing rice noodles in boiling hot water for 8 minutes (or prepare according to instructions on package), then rinse in cold water and drain.
- Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat and cut pressed tofu into small rectangles. Toss in cornstarch and pan fry, not crowding the pan. This took me two batches–each batch took about 5 minutes to fully brown. Make sure you’re flipping to brown all sides evenly.
- Prep veggies–rip lettuce leaves in half if they are large, and pull basil leaves from thick stems. Make sure everything is rinsed and very dry. Mise-en-place is IMPORTANT here, because once you get to rolling, you’ll need to work quickly. Arrange veggies in bowls near your rolling station in the order you want them in your roll. I did basil-noodles-tofu-carrots-lettuce.
- Prepare almond butter sauce by adding all sauce ingredients except water to a small mixing bowl and whisking together. Add enough hot water to thin until a pourable sauce is achieved. Adjust flavors as needed (I added extra chili sauce, which if you know me, doesn’t surprise you!)
- To assemble spring rolls, pour very hot water into a shallow dish (I actually used my pizza pan) and immerse rice paper to soften for about 10 seconds. It will get slimy, transparent, and weird. It’s supposed to. Don’t stress.
- Transfer the paper to a damp towel and gently spread out edges into a circle. A few wrinkles are okay.
- To the bottom third of the wrapper add a layer of basil, a small handful of vermicelli noodles, a few tofu pieces, some carrots, and a few lettuce leaves. It seems like a lot, but it will fit! Gently fold over once, tuck in edges, and continue rolling TIGHTLY until seam is sealed.
- Place seam-side down on a serving platter and cover with damp warm towel to keep fresh. Repeat until all fillings are used up – about 8-10 spring rolls total.
- Serve with almond butter sauce and extra sriracha or sambal oelek. YUM! Serves 6+ as an appetizer or 2-4 as an entree.