What I love most about cooking is the idea that food brings people together and forges connections. Few topics garner a more passionate response than when someone takes a stance on the best taco in town. And think about the excitement / nostalgia that happens when you bake a batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies to share? And just try getting into a debate over whether a hot dog is a sandwich (trust me on that one, it’s a wild conversation.) Food brings us together, and that’s a fact.
When we think about all the different cultures in the world, it’s so easy to see the differences in our cuisines. But what’s even cooler to realize is how some foods are so universal, they transcend cultural lines and find a place in every part of the world. Enter, rice.
Rice plays a starring role in so many of the world’s cuisines, and for good reason. Think pilaf, fried rice, jambalaya, paella, bibimbap, risotto, sushi, the list goes on. It’s easy to make and the perfect blank canvas on which to build flavors.
I grew up in a house where making a pot of rice with dinner was a requirement. My dad was always in charge of making a cup of rice in the same mauve glass pot that my parents still use to make rice today. The pot would come to the table and we would each scoop out a big spoon rice to eat with our leftover dal and sabzi. And while a classic bowl of basmati rice will always have a special place in my heart, living on my own is not exactly conducive to regularly making a whole pot of rice. So when I start planning out my weekly lunches and coming up with meal ideas, I instead turn to one of my other favorite forms of rice – the rice noodle and rice paper roll!
Rice paper spring rolls are one of those meals I regularly come back to for several reasons. One, the options are literally endless when it comes to filling your rolls. Two, the assembly is equal parts as easy as it is fun! And of course, spring rolls are such an easy way to pack in a bunch of delicious veggies and fillings that make any work lunch feel so much more special than just another salad.
For these guys, I really leaned into the sweet and savory combo, using tempeh as my protein of choice. I marinated my sliced tempeh in a sriracha based sauce that gives these rolls a little more substance and flavor to pair with the rice noodles than just filling them with vegetables, and it’s a total game changed for all my vegetarian friends. Some cool cucumber and creamy avocado make these rolls great, but adding some sliced mango into these rolls was what really took these to the next level. Maybe it’s because I grew up eating all the mangos, but I love the sweetness of the fruit with the slight savory heat from the tempeh and the sriracha dipping sauce.
You could of course fill these with any and all fillings you love, just roll them up burrito style and you’re in for a treat. The options are endless!
for the tempeh ::
- 1 8oz block of tempeh, sliced into strips
- 4 tbsp of soy sauce
- 3 tbsp of sriracha
- 1/2 tbsp of honey
- 1 tbsp of sesame oil
to assemble ::
- rice paper spring roll wrappers
- rice noodles, prepped by package directions
- vegetables of choice - lettuce, sliced cucumbers, avocado, mango, cabbage, carrots, etc.
- To prepare the tempeh, I like to quick steam it first. I fill a stove top pot with a couple inches of water and place a steaming basket in the pot. Bring the water up to a simmer and place the tempeh into the basket and cover the pot, steaming for about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and remove tempeh. Set aside while you assemble the sauce.
- In a medium mixing bowl, add the soy sauce, sriracha, honey, and sesame oil. Stir to combine and adjust flavor as desired if you prefer something sweeter or spicier.
- Once the tempeh has cooled, place all of the tempeh pieces into the bowl of sauce and gently toss until all of the tempeh has been coated. Cover the bowl and let marinate for a few hours. This step isn't necessary, though it will make a difference in adding more flavor to your tempeh.
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. On a lined sheet tray, line the tempeh into one layer. Bake for about 5 - 8 minutes in the oven on the first side, flip, then bake for another 5 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
- To assemble spring rolls, follow package instructions on the rice paper to soak. Fill with desired ingredients and follow the burrito method to fold.
- Serve spring rolls with your favorite dipping sauce, enjoy!