Rice Paper Rolls Vegetarian (Instant Rice Paper Sheets)
Easy - You got this
Naturally sweet carrot and cabbage stir fried with umami-filled mushrooms, wrapped in a textural and aromatic Vietnamese parcel, then dipped in a soy-based vegetarian dipping sauce. These healthy rice paper rolls are light, refreshing and addictive.
The umami flavour profile can be difficult to achieve in Vietnamese vegetarian or vegan dishes as the umami typically comes from fish-based ingredients such as fish sauce, anchovy salt, fermented anchovy sauce, dried shrimp, dried squid. In fact, a common way to boost umami flavour in Asian-style vegetarian or vegan dishes is with the use of MSG.
My parents are both devoted vegetarians and when I visit them and crave rice paper rolls, this dish will definitely make an appearance. Growing up, we had this dish with standard rice paper sheets that required dipping in water. Mum would often roll them for me as I didn’t have the dexterity to do it without perforating the sheet. Recently, I introduced them to instant rice paper sheets, a discovery I made on a trip to Vietnam, that don’t require water. They found the added textural component of instant rice paper sheets welcoming and addictive, and have not looked back since.
In this recipe, mushrooms provide the umami flavour through a special technique that involves repeatedly boiling the mushrooms, allowing their juices to evaporate and thus amplifying and concentrating the umami flavour. For additional flavour, you can substitute field mushrooms with dried shiitake mushrooms (rehydrated).
The mushrooms are complimented by a simple mix of carrot and cabbage. Mum has always told me not to include too many vegetables when making vegetarian cold rolls or rice paper rolls, as the conflicting natural sweetness from the vegetables can make it difficult to identify which ones are present. Furthermore, too much sweetness makes it increasingly harder for the umami flavours to come through.
Finally, a great way to add protein to this dish is adding tofu to your rice paper rolls. I suggest frying firm tofu to accentuate its nutty flavour and help the tofu hold it’s shape.
If you are looking for a vegetarian option and would like to entertain the family with easy rice paper rolls, do yourself a favour and give these rice paper rolls a go, to experience a vegetarian dining experience filled with texture and loaded with flavour.
Vegetable stir fry:
4 tablespoons of neutral cooking oil
500g whole mushrooms, halved then sliced
2 teaspoon sea salt
¼ cabbage, thinly sliced
2 small carrots, peeled and julienne
½ teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil (optional)
½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
Handful crushed peanuts (optional)
Fried tofu (optional):
100ml cooking oil
300-450g firm tofu, cut into 3-4cm squares, 1-1.5cm thick
Vegetarian dipping sauce:
3 tablespoons soy sauce
Juice from ½ lemon or lime
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 ½ tablespoons sugar
1 chilli, finely minced (optional)
60g Instant rice paper sheets or standard rice paper sheets
1 bunch mint
1 bunch Vietnamese perilla (optional)
1 bunch coriander (optional)
1 bunch Vietnamese fish herbs (optional)
2 baby cos lettuce or ½ iceberg lettuce
How to make vegetable stir fry:
1. In a large fry pan, add 2 tablespoons of oil and sauté sliced mushrooms with ½ teaspoon sea salt on medium-high until they sweat and their moisture evapourates.
2. Add 100ml of water, bring it to the boil and cook until water evapourates. Repeat this step four times until remaining water is used, then remove mushrooms and set aside.
Duncan’s tip: This step can take up to 25 minutes but is worth it. Cooking mushrooms using this method intensifies their natural umami flavour and gives them a firm and meaty texture.
3. Add remaining oil, vegetables, sea salt, sugar and stir fry on high for 5-7 minutes, or until cabbage and carrot begin to wilt. Return mushrooms, add sesame oil and remove from heat.
4. Garnish with cracked black pepper and crushed peanuts.
How to fry tofu:
1. In a large fry pan, add oil and bring to 180C. Shallow fry tofu for 2-3 minutes each side or until lightly golden, then remove and place on cooling rack or tea towel, and season lightly with sea salt.
2. Once cooled, slice into strips and scatter over stir fry vegetables.
How to make vegetarian dipping sauce:
1. In a small mixing bowl, add all ingredients and stir well until sugar dissolves.
Enjoy with instant rice paper sheets:
1. On an instant rice paper sheet add lettuce, a combination of Vietnamese herbs and stir fry mixture. Leaving the ends open, gently but firmly roll the rice paper roll to form a large cigar. Generously dip in the soy dipping sauce and savour each bite.
Duncan’s tip: Instant rice paper sheets will soften immediately at any exposure to moisture.
Duncan’s tip: If using standard rice paper sheets, pre-dip the sheets in cold water for 20 seconds prior to rolling. Ensure ends are tucked in when rolling standard rice paper sheets to prevent rice paper roll from breaking.