7 years ago, i made these fresh vegetable spring rolls and brought them to a party with friends and their partners. my friend’s husband tried these fresh vegetable spring rolls. every. single. time. i have seen him since then, he has RAVED about these spring rolls. every time.
now, granted, i don’t see my friend and her husband that frequently, but still, 7 years. every time. all of that to say, at least one person besides me thinks these are really good.
now that i’ve totally hyped the spring rolls up, i should probably mention that they require some ingredients. some ingredients that may require a little searching and/or a little online ordering and/or a little substituting.
because i want you to be able to experience these spring rolls, though, i’m going to go through each of the ingredients and provide sources, alternatives, etc. we’ve got this!
rice wrappers: these very thin rice paper wrappers are sold dried and then you soak them briefly in water to hydrate them before filling them. if your grocery store has a decent international aisle, there’s a good chance there will be a package of these, likely near the rice noodles (in the thai/vietnamese section). if not, you can find them on amazon or at a local asian market, if you have one near you. (be sure to check the ingredients/label if you need gluten free.)
i wouldn’t substitute fresh gyoza wrappers or tortillas here. if you’re more excited about the flavors and ingredients here than the portability/appetizer-ness of a spring roll, you could skip the rice wrapper entirely and have a fresh vegetable spring roll-inspired salad bowl, like i did for lunch today.
rice vermicelli: basically same deal here as for the rice wrappers. you are looking for the skinniest strand you can find. if your grocery store/local asian market doesn’t have it, amazon does (or if you’re not concerned about gluten and, to a lesser extent, authenticity, you could substitute in angel hair or vermicelli pasta. not traditional but totally passable.)
sweet chili sauce: hang out in the international aisle a bit longer and see if you can find this. several big brands, including kikkoman, thai kitchen, and trader joe’s all make this, so i bet you’ll find it. the brand i have is mae ploy but use whatever you find.
hoisin sauce: again, i think there’s a good chance your grocery store may have this. depending on how granular the shelf stocker gets, this may be with the chinese sauces, rather than thai or vietnamese condiments. a quick google search indicates that there are a bunch of big brands who sell it, including whole foods. amazon has it too.
purple cabbage, shredded carrots, extra firm tofu: you’ve got this. the produce section of almost every grocery store has you covered here. if you can’t find purple cabbage or tofu, just skip it. if your grocery store doesn’t sell pre-shredded carrots, regular carrots + a food processor or coarse grater = shredded carrots.
peanut butter: i prefer to use a natural kind (the type that needs stirring) but use what you like. (i know i just said use what you like but, have you tried the valencia peanut natural peanut butter from trader joe’s? it’s super yummy. the fancy valencia peanuts give it a strong peanut flavor that i love. but really, you can use whatever you like.)
ok, last two ingredients. i *may* have held the two trouble makers for last…
bean sprouts: these add crunch but not a ton of flavor. if your grocery store doesn’t sell them (in the produce section, likely near the shredded carrots/tofu/fake meat/refrigerated salad dressings), then just skip them. we have purple cabbage and carrots for crunch, we’ll be fine without bean sprouts.
thai basil: alright, this is the one. this is the one that is fresh (so we can’t amazon it) and, in my experience, the most difficult to find. if your store has it, it will be in the produce section with all of the other fresh herbs (or maybe in the refrigerated case with the leafy greens, etc. – but it will most likely be along the wall where the cold stuff is).
if you can’t find it (i couldn’t this time), the best substitutes are actually fresh cilantro or fresh mint, NOT fresh italian-style basil. if you google this, you will find a lot of people who say that you can substitute “regular” basil for thai basil. while this is technically true, i think a better complement for the other flavors we have going on is mint or cilantro.
alright, hopefully that was helpful, not overwhelming. i already had a bunch of these ingredients (sauces, rice wrappers and noodles) because they repeat in various dishes i make (such as thai noodles) but if i were to go to my reasonably diverse/good selection “normal” grocery store right now to buy all of this, the only thing they don’t carry is thai basil.
so, if you live in/near a city (or even a “city” – portland has a population of about 66,000, which if you rank the states in order based on the population of their largest city, puts portland fourth from the bottom), these fresh vegetable spring rolls are totally within reach. and if you live in a more remote/less diverse area but don’t mind ordering from amazon, you should be good to go too. and if none of those apply to you, chick pea, tomato, and pasta soup is just about the most delicious thing i know how to make from simple pantry staples.
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