I don’t know what’s wrong with me sometimes. A few days ago I agonized over what I will sending to my Foodie Pen Pal who happens to be a Vegan. Being the L.A. Foodie that I am, it seemed easy to just say, “Well, come on over to Los Angeles so I can take you out to lunch.” Right? LOL. Unfortunately, I can’t take the easy way out of this. If I had a choice to take my Vegan Foodie Pen Pal to lunch in L.A. I would certainly take her to my personal favorites like Rahel’s Ethiopian Vegan Cuisine on Fairfax Avenue where a tiny street block of Ethiopian restaurants and shops line the street. My discovery at Rahel’s was finding how delicious it was to eat Ethiopian curries and stews plus that wonderfully spongy Injera bread. It’s just a coincidence that it’s 100% Vegan. Then there’s my other favorite Vinh Loi Tofu in the Reseda where the chef/owner replaces meat in a large, piping hot bowl of Pho with his own homemade proteins from tofu. It’s rather strange how the House Special Duck Pho actually tastes like the real meat even though the protein is made from 100% tofu.
After an hour of serious food searching in my brain, I was able to think of food items to send to my Foodie Pen Pal when I visited Follow Your Heart Market & Restaurant; a well-known Vegetarian grocery store in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles. They have a large selection of foodstuffs in addition to a tiny restaurant under one roof. While I was shopping around for my Foodie Pen Pal, I decided to prepare something totally different for my own afternoon lunch, Vegan Vietnamese Spring Rolls.
In general, Vietnamese Spring Rolls are by far the easiest thing to make in the kitchen. It requires very little cooking and you can put just about any fresh veggies inside the rice paper wrapper.
I decided to substitute boiled chicken breast for Coconut Curry Tempeh, which is extremely flavorful. Tempeh is just just another word for prepared soybeans with grains. If you love curry, then you’ll love Coconut Curry Tempeh as it tastes a lot like Thai satay.
Sunny’s Vegan Vietnamese Spring Rolls (Serves one person)
6 pieces of Tempeh (Coconut Curry Flavored)
3 Sheets of Rice Paper Wrapper
1 Carrot julienned
2 1/2 Sprigs of Green Onion julienned
¾ Cup of Baby Spinach
2 Tablespoons Seasame Oil
1 Cup Hot Water
Heat a small frying pan on high and add the sesame oil. Add the tempeh and cook for about 2 minutes on both sides until golden brown.
Grab one sheet of rice paper wrapper from the package. These specialty items are typically found in Asian Markets, but I’ve also found them at Cost Plus World Market, Whole Foods, and major grocery chains in their Asian food aisle. When you open the package, you might notice a slight woodsy smell. It’s actually the scent of bamboo on which these wrappers were dried. Just add a lemon squeeze to the water if you’re not too keen of the smell.
Add hot water to a large shallow bowl and slide in a rice paper wrapper. Within 2 – 3 minutes, the rice paper wrapper softens up and is translucent in color.
Gently lift the wrapper, drain over the bowl, and lie it flat on a plastic cutting board.
Layer three pieces of Tempeh, 1/3 of the carrots, 1/3 of the green onions, and 1/3 of the spinach on top of the rice paper wrapper. Then roll the wrapper together with the filling. Tuck the sides inside and continue to roll until you’ve used up the entire wrapper. If the wrapper gets a little dry, just moisten it with water to loosen. Continue to make the rest of the spring rolls.
Cut into a bias and serve with Hoisin sauce or any other sauce of your choice.