I generally abhor salad prep. I love to eat salad. But the prep, no. So much washing and spinning and trimming and seeding and cutting. But these rolls and the dipping sauce. Oh I'll do it for them. They are one of my favorite ways to eat a load of vegetables in one sitting. The filling can be quite versatile. The only 'formula' (for me) is the inclusion of buttery avocado + crunchy carrots + refreshing cucumber + something leafy. Beyond that, almost anything goes. I love perilla leaves (aka shiso used in Japanese food which is how I initially fell in love with it), basil, kale, leaf lettuce, shredded purple cabbage, spinach, sprouts or microgreens, julienned sweet peppers etc. Fruit such as apples or mangoes cut into match-sticks, figs or pomegranate arils are also delicious. If I feel like it, I add a starch, like vermicelli noodles or black glutinous rice, other times tofu or even cooked shrimp (in which case it is no longer a 'veggie' roll of course). You get it.
But wait there's more! A delicious dipping sauce is paramount to the enjoyment of said rolls. This recipe is my go-to tangy tahini sauce, which can also be made with peanut butter or almond butter if nut allergy is not an issue. This is a surprisingly filling meal and also happens to be vegetarian (if not using shrimp), gluten free, dairy free and nut free. Which means veggie rainbow rolls for eeeeeeveryone!
Rice papers: What you need are the Vietnamese rice papers made with rice, salt and water. Do not confuse with "spring roll" wrappers, even though I have seen people call these types of rolls "rainbow spring rolls". It's really not the same. Spring roll wrappers are for deep-fried rolls. Ok?
NOW go make it :)
Avocado Veggie Rainbow Rolls + Tangy Tahini Dipping Sauce
Recipe serves 2 assuming 5-6 rolls per person (can feed more depending how stuffed the rolls are)
For the Rolls - Below is a suggested assortment of fillings. Feel free to sub in whatever seasonal veggies you enjoy!
10-12 sheets of Vietnamese rice papers (see head note on rice papers)
2 small ripe avocados, pitted and sliced lengthwise
1 organic cucumber, washed & peeled, cut into very thin disks OR cut into long sticks (length should be shorter than the rice paper diameter by about 1"-1.5" on each end)
3-4 medium sized carrots, grated on large holes or julienned
2 small handfuls of shredded purple cabbage
20-24 (2 per roll) perilla leaves, washed and spine trimmed off (if you can't find perilla leaves, basil leaves work well too or you can replace with any other leafy green like kale)
1 small bunch of pea shoots or microgreens
For the Dipping Sauce
Makes ~3/4 cup of sauce; you may have leftover for another meal of rolls or salad depending how fervently you dip!
4 tbsp tahini, unsalted (or peanut / almond butters if nut allergy is not an issue)
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp tamari (or light soy sauce if gluten intolerance is not an issue)
1/2 tsp fine sea salt (skip this is your tahini or nut butter is salted, and taste test it at the end)
2 tsp peeled & grated fresh ginger
First make the dipping sauce by placing all the ingredients into a blender and whiz for a few seconds until thoroughly blended. You can also use an immersion blender for this. Pour into dipping bowls and set aside. Tip - pour out as you need so you can save leftovers without contaminating the whole batch. Uncontaminated leftover sauce can be stored in the fridge and used later in the week on a salad or more rolls.
To make the rolls, wash and cut all of your vegetables and/or fruit BEFORE you begin rolling. This makes everything more efficient and less frustrating.
Once you are ready to begin rolling, fill a shallow dish that is larger than the rice paper with fairly warm water, about 1" deep. The warmer the water, the quicker the rice paper will soften. But not so hot as to burn your fingers or melt the rice paper roll into a gooey mess. I like to start with water as warm as my fingers can tolerate (similar to the temperature of my shower). I also keep a hot kettle nearby to refresh if the water cools down too much. Work with rice papers one sheet at a time. Soften by sliding a sheet into your water dish for 20-30 seconds. Keep touching it. The rice paper should feel pliable but still has the slightest stiffness to it because it softens a tad further as you work with the filling. Shake off excess water and place the sheet flat onto your work surface and begin piling on the goodies!
How and in what order is mostly up to you although I can share a few tips based on experience as well as a step-by-step pictorial below:
- Place the fillings on the lower half of the rice paper, to leave yourself room for rolling. Also leave about 1-1.5" room on either end.
- Generally easiest to place any large flat leafy items on first (like perilla, kale, spinach etc), remembering that the first items you lay down will be the ones that show through on the outside once the rolls are finished, if you care about the appearance.
- Trim any hard spines on kale etc otherwise it will be difficult to roll.
- Don't overfill or else the rice paper will rip as you roll. But don't underfill either or you'll wind up with flaccid rolls haha. It may take one or two rolls for you to get a good sense of how much to pile on.
- Roll away from you, towards the top.
Here is a step-by-step visual (clockwise):
It takes a wee bit of practice if you're new to this but you'll get it in no time at all. Cut each roll into 3 or 4 pieces and serve with the tangy tahini dipping sauce. These rolls are best enjoyed fresh at room temperature.