Sunday, August 16, 2009

Smoked Tofu and Mango Summer/Salad Rolls

My first encounter with the recipe of this yummy Vietnamese-style Summer/Salad Rolls or goi cuon (not the fried ones called cha gio which is also called spring rolls) was at Bryanna's Vegan Cooking Class in 2004. I fell in love with it. The way she combined the flavors of ripe mango, marinated-and-baked tofu, carrots, basil leaves, cucumber, lettuce, vermicelli noodles, and peanut sauce is BRILLIANT! For the last 5 years, I lost count how many times I made this dish. I brought the summer/salad rolls to potlucks too. Every time it never fails to be the first dish gobbled up by my non-vegan or vegan friends attending the potlucks.

Recently, I went to a poolside vegan potluck hosted by Orange County Veggie Meetup group and brought these rolls. Again, they were gone in a matter of minutes. I decided to blog it and share my version with the world.

Like any recipe, especially the one that I use many times, this recipe went through many iterations of changes. Every time I made it, I may use slightly different ingredients. Thus it is not really the same as the original recipe. I invite you to be creative also and use ingredients that you like. However, I think the combination of the baked or smoked tofu and ripe mango is a 'must have'.

I sometimes use a store-bought-baked-and-marinated tofu for a short cut. There are a few vegan baked tofu brands with Thai or Teriyaki flavors (those are the best for these rolls) that are ready to eat. This is just perfect if you don't mind the cost and that you'll like to save time. You can also buy store-bought Teriyaki sauce to use for the marinade and then bake the tofu at home. I have done these before too when I am lazy or really busy. I usually make my own marinade, add liquid smoke to it, and bake the tofu. Don't be nervous about using liquid smoke! It is natural and vegan. You can read this blog about it. Apparently, liquid smoke is just smoke and water but adding a few drops of this liquid to your tofu marinade will make your tofu so flavorful and smoky. I provide my version of smoked-marinated-baked tofu below.

About the rice paper or banh trang, for those who are not familiar with Vietnamese rice paper, I recommend this blog about selecting rice paper. I prefer the Red Rose brand but I have also used the Three Ladies brand. For beginners, I definitely recommend these brands. Here is a blog about How to Make Rice Paper. I believe that's the traditional way. The ones that are sold in stores are probably industrialized with machines in factories. Here is also a blog for a Step by step how to roll these spring/summer/salad rolls or goi cuon (not a vegetarian recipe). I also provide the step by step pictures below. I hope with these you'll have an idea how it is done.

Vegan Smoked Tofu and Mango Summer/SaladRolls
Serve 16

Summer/Salad Rolls Ingredients:
16 Vietnamese rice papers
2 large ripe mango, peeled and cut in 4" by 1/2" thick
1 medium head of green lettuce, shredded thinly
1 English cucumber, cut in 4" by 1/2 " thick
2 cups julienne cut peeled carrots marinated with:
2 Tbsp. vinegar, 1 tsp salt, and 1 tsp vegan sugar
1 lb baked-and-marinated tofu or smoked tofu, cut in 4" by 1/2" thick
1 cup basil leaves, separate leaves from stems
Note: I like to use the Thai Basil type but I have used the Italian Sweet Basil too. Whatever is available in your area will be fine.
Optional: 2-3 cups cooked rice vermicelli or thin soba noodles

Clockwise from upper left hand corner: ripe mango, cucumbers, basil leaves, julienned-and-marinated carrots, smoked-baked tofu, and shredded green lettuce.

Peanut Dipping Sauce Ingredients:
1/3 cup hot water
4 Tbsp creamy peanut butter
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp agave nectar
2 Tbsp vinegar or fresh lime juice
1 Tsp sesame oil
1 Tsp Chinese Chili Garlic Sauce or Sriracha
2 Tbsp chopped green onion

  1. Marinade the julienne cut peeled carrots with the vinegar, sugar, and salt. Combine and set aside for 30 minutes to 1 hour. The carrots will be limp and seasoned or pickled. Then drain them thoroughly (you can do this 1 day ahead if you like).
  2. To make the peanut dipping sauce, combine hot water and peanut butter until it is well mixed and the peanut butter is melted and thinner. Then, add the rest of the peanut dipping sauce ingredients, set aside (you can to this 1 day ahead if you like).
  3. Prepare a large bowl of warm water (about 120F), a damp and clean kitchen towel(wet a clean kitchen towel and squeezed the water out), a large plate or cutting board. Set all the ingredients of the Summer/Salad rolls around you so that it is within reach. BTW, I learned this method at Bryanna's vegan cooking school in 2004.
  4. Dip a rice paper in the bowl of warm water and circle it around to make sure it is all wet and covered with water.
  5. Quickly put the rice paper on the damp kitchen towel. Let the water soaks through the paper. I usually count about 30 seconds before I put the ingredients on it and start rolling.
  6. Pile the ingredients on the wet rice paper. At this time the paper will be limp and pliable but it should not tear. If you wait too long the rice paper will be too soft and easily torn. You'll have to work QUICKLY.

  7. Start rolling like making burrito. I like to put the basil leave on the outside layer of the roll to make it prettier. I usually put the leave right side down. You can put 1 leave or 2 to 3 leaves in a row. You'll see the result later. It's nice!
  8. Then, continue wrapping it like burrito. Again, work QUICKLY!
  9. Roll and tada! Here is the final result and you'll see the leave behind the transparent rice paper. It's an art!
  10. Repeat steps 4 to 9, 15 times. It looks hard but with practice it will become easier and easier each time. If the rice paper is torn or stuck together, you can throw it away and start all over again. It's cheap, you know. Believe me, I have done that and been there before but I am persistent and determined to tackle this skill. I had practiced many times and ate many smoked tofu and mango goi cuons which is not too bad of an experience. DH loves it too that I practiced a lot.
  11. Then, you can eat the roll whole with the peanut dipping sauce or cut it in a diagonal like the picture below.

If you are allergic to peanut, I have a peanut-free dipping sauce for it. Check out the salad dressing in my blog titled Vietnamese Green Mango Salad. This dressing is great for a dipping sauce for this salad roll.

Regarding the smoked-baked-marinated tofu, you may want to check on Bryanna's blog regarding A Nifty Gadget for Pressing Tofu. This kind of tofu is great for this recipe. I don't have this nifty gadget myself but I usually buy an extra firm tofu. Bryanna suggesteds 2 parts soy sauce, 1 part maple syrup, and a little sesame oil for the marinade. I added 1 part of water, 1 tsp liquid smoke, 1 tsp garlic powder, and 1 tsp onion powder for the smoked tofu marinade sauce. Make sure that all the tofu slices are covered in the marinade sauce and let them submerged in the marinade for at least 4 hours. Then, you can bake them in a 400F oven for 15-20 minutes or pan fry them in a skillet. Basically, you can create your own version of the marinade sauce.

These rolls are to be eaten within a day (we have no problems with that). They are not good to be refrigerated and eaten the next day(have done that, too).

Enjoy these summer rolls(goi cuons) this summer!