Yield: Yields 16 summer rolls.
Servings: Serve 6 to 8 as an appetizer
These vegetarian rolls make the perfect starter for a Vietnamese or Thai dinner. Use the firmest tofu you can find for this recipe and handle it carefully, as even firm tofu can break fairly easily. Serve with Pineapple-Lime Dipping Sauce.
Arrange the noodles, rice paper wrappers, lettuce, herbs, scallions, and cooled tofu around a large cutting board or tray set before you. Have a platter nearby for the finished rolls.
Fill a large skillet halfway with very warm water. Slide a sheet of rice paper into the water and press gently to submerge it until it becomes very pliable, 15 to 30 seconds. Remove the rice paper carefully, shaking gently to help excess water drain off, and lay it before you on a cutting board or tray. (If the water becomes too cool to soften the paper, reheat it briefly on the stove.)
Starting on the lowest third of the wrapper and working away from you, line up a narrow tangle of noodles (about 1/4 cup), a row of lettuce strips (about 1/4 cup), 5 to 7 good-size mint leaves, a row of cilantro or basil leaves, and a row of scallion strips. Leave about 1 inch of empty space along the wrapper’s bottom and side edges.
Starting from the edge closest to you, roll the wrapper up and over the fillings. Stop after the first turn to tuck and compress everything snugly into the wrapper. Once the first turn is good and tight, fold the right and left sides of the wrapper in onto the roll, closing off the ends, as though making an envelope.
Just above the cylinder you’ve already rolled, lay one strip of tofu. Roll the wrapper tightly, all the way to the top, and press the seam closed. If the wrapper is too dry to stick, dip your finger in the water and run it along the paper to moisten and then press the seam closed. Set the roll, seam side down, on the platter. Continue to fill and roll up the rice paper sheets until you’ve made 16 rolls. (Don’t let the finished rolls touch one another or they’ll stick.) Serve immediately (or drape a damp dishtowel over the rolls, wrap the platter tightly in plastic, and serve within two hours.)
Make Ahead Tips
You can assemble summer rolls up to 2 hours in advance as long as you cover them with a damp dishtowel and wrap them well with plastic to keep the rice paper from drying out.
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I've made these rolls many times with various dipping sauces over the years. This is the recipe that started me, and I've made countless variations since then; with or without noodles, with different herbs, vegetarian or not. The rolls can be made ahead, covered with plastic wrap, and stored in the fridge if needed. Excellent recipe!
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