Bicycle Spring Rolls

There comes a time when every cyclist reaches into a jersey back pocket, extracts a pro-biotic hyper-nutrient choco-green exfoliant chia protein bar and instead of ripping away the wrapping like the savage carbo-craving road shark she is, she freezes.  Tongue, stomach and heart revolt.  A chilly voice in her head announces the rebel demands: We don’t want to eat an energy bar.  Ever.  Again.  Last year, reflecting on the long PanMass Challenge ride she’d just finished, Jody said to me, “I am sick of f_______ energy bars!  I can’t stand it!  Next year I’m going to make my own.”  Fortunately, she reconsidered.  And that’s why you’re being treated to Bicycling Spring Rolls this week.

Who wouldn’t prefer a homemade spring roll to a nutrient brick in a paper wrapper?  They’re crunchy, refreshing and even, yes, good for you.  They perform an tango on your tongue regardless of whether they’re washed down with water or beer, plus, as you can see from the photos, they’re fun to make.  And to paraphrase Michael Pollen, they’re made out of things your grandmother would recognize as food, assuming your grandmother had a passing familiarity with Southeast Asian cuisine.  You can take spring rolls on a ride or on a picnic, and once you’ve got the basic method down you can adapt them to what’s in your fridge.  Prefer chicken or shrimp instead of tofu?  Use it.  Like more crunchy elements?  Add them.  Just remember, several smaller spring rolls will hold their shape better than a single behemoth one.  Also, with firm crunchy vegetables, thin julienned strips work better than square dice, whose sharp corners can puncture a delicate rice paper wrapper.  Jody has a few more tips below.  The single drawback to spring rolls, is their ephemerality.  Make and eat (soon) is the rule.   After a day the individual components start to love each other a little too much and the resulting moisture breaks down the wrapper.  We ate half the first batch after photographing them.  The remainders went for breakfast the next morning, a good thing considering the oyster and wasabi mayo omelette from last week.

The PanMass Challenge is only two weeks away.  Jody and the rest of Team Rialto-Trade have been training (and raising money) like cycling fiends for the two-day 200-mile ride that benefits the Dan Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.  They’ve raised $70,000 of a $100,000 goal.  I’m on the support staff this year – team photographer and swag-wagoner during the ride itself.  If you’d like to help fight cancer, click here.  If you want something good to take along on a ride, any ride, make yourself some spring rolls.  Or maybe do both.  Enjoy.  Ken

Bicycle Spring Rolls-2

  • Servings: 16 - 20 rolls
  • Print

Bicycle Spring Rolls

Ingredients:

  • ½ pound firm tofu, cut into ½-inch dice
  • ½ cup organic crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 small fresh bird peppers, sliced as thinly as possible–add more if you like things really spicy
  •  Zest of 1 lime
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 6 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons grated ginger
  • 2 tablespoons grated garlic
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 cup cooked short grain brown rice
  • ½ cup finely grated peeled carrot
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 8 oz. shiitake mushrooms, steamed and thinly sliced
  • 24 small cooked green beans, cut in half crosswise
  • 1 small cucumber, peeled and cut into matchsticks – ¼-inch thick and 2 inches long
  • ¼ cup  torn mint leaves
  • ¼ cup torn cilantro leaves
  • 20 12-inch rice paper rounds–I used brown rice  wrappers.

 

Directions:

  1. Set the tofu pieces on paper towels while you work on the other ingredients.  You want to extract some of the moisture.
  2. In a small bowl, put the peanut butter, honey, chilis, lime zest, juice of half a lime, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 teaspoon ginger, 1 teaspoon garlic,  and mix together well.
  3.  In a large bowl, mix the remaining lime juice, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and the sesame oil.  Add the tofu and toss to coat with the mixture.  Add the rice, vegetables, and herbs and gently mix together, taking care not to break up the tofu.
  4.  Fill a flat dish with 1 inch of water.
  5.  Dip a rice paper round in water.  When it is flexible, but not completely saturated, which should only take a few seconds, remove from the water and lay the soaked rice paper out flat on a bamboo mat or cutting board,  Carefully smear a teaspoon of peanut butter down the middle.  Top with scant ¼ cup of the filling mixture.  Lay a few beans and cucumbers down the middle.  Fold in the two side ends.  Starting at one end, fold the paper over the filling and then continue rolling to form a tight bundle.  Set on a flat surface.  A bamboo mat is perfect because it allows a little air circulation.    Repeat until you have 16 to 20 rolls, taking care not to have the rolls touching each other.  Allow to air dry for 10 minutes. flip over and dry on the second side for 10.
  6.  These can be stored in the refrigerator overnight with a loose covering so they don’t get too soggy, or wrap individually in plastic if you are going to eat them on the rode the next day.

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Jody Notes:  

When we first started training for  the PMC 3 years ago, I was happy to fill my jersey pockets with Cliff Bars (my favorite were the black cherry), Goo and Energy Shots.  On the actual ride, we got to eat FLUFFERNUTTERS!  Three years in, the thrill is gone.  I crave real food, savory food on my rides.  I’ve made what I call “cycle sandos,” little Tuscan rolls filled with sandwich stuff.  But this year, I decided to expand and experiment with rice paper wrappers.  This is a recipe I’ve used a number of times when I’m organized.  Other times, I just pull things out of the fridge and roll them up.  One time it was salami, tapenade, cheese and  arugula.  The key is to use ingredients that aren’t too wet.   

Typically, spring rolls come with a dipping sauce.  Not only would it be a pain to carry a little container of dipping sauce, but you’d get laughed at.  So I put the sauce ingredients  inside the rice paper–peanut butter, honey, soy sauce, lime juice and sesame oil.  It works.  

Click on something to see it with a little more detail.  Left and right arrow keys will move you through the photos.

Join the conversation–leave a comment!  We’d really like to hear from you.

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85 thoughts

    • Ha! Try biking in Europe sometime, with a swag wagon following along with prosecco, prosciutto and various cheeses. Here you go, let me get you a fresh bottle of chilled Pellegrino. Biker heaven. Ken

    • Cycling in Europe is so much better than driving. Depending on the country, you could have miles and miles and miles (er, make that kilometers and etc) of bicycle routes, paths, and lanes all with little signs letting you know which way to go. Best countries: Switzerland (veloland.ch), Germany, and the Netherlands – you may never have to be on a road with cars if you plan right. Plus the drivers are almost all cyclists, too, so they’re generally respectful.

      • I agree. I’ve been biking in Italy twice–1st, the Veneto; 2nd, Puglia/Basilicata–and even on roads with cars I found the drivers incredibly accommodating. Bicycles are treated like vehicles and entering roundabouts, for example, and blending with the traffic is nothing like the white-knuckled do-they-see-me-is-she-going-to-let-me-in experience that it is here. Looking forward to Provence in a few weeks. Thanks for commenting. Ken

  1. So I’m a little confused. I thought spring rolls were the fried ones, and summer rolls were the fresh ones. In any case, these look fantastic and I am basically obsessed with this roll. I have the rice papers in my pantry but never have the lettuce which is usually used so I am excited to give this rice-based one a try. It looks much more portable having the sauce on the inside. Good luck with the ride. It’s sounds like a great event, Luna Bars or not.

    • You’re correct. And if we were doing a post that truly reflected regional Vietnamese or Chinese cooking, then I would have drawn the distinction–I actually thought about going into all of that, then thought, “Nah, let’s keep it focussed on simple technique for portable food.” Depending on who you talk to, the terms are used interchangeably or, as you’ve pointed out, with the distinction fried vs. fresh distinction. The wrappers are also different. Fun either way. Ken

  2. Couldn’t agree more about those energy bars: a necessary evil for those of us with less creative energy or time for food. But I always crave something savory on the road, so I will try this recipe and share this tip with my bicycling friends. Best of luck on the Pan Mass this year. Yours, Amy

    • This going to sound a little weird, but you know those hard-shell plastic cases they make for carrying a bar of soap in your luggage? They’re the perfect size for two rolls, and they won’t get squished. Ken

  3. Really great idea and not just for honorable adventures like the PMC. I’ve found a husband that claims to dislike salad will eat a ton if wrapped in rice paper. Now, where the heck do you find brown rice wrappers? They look beautiful!

  4. You are good people. This looks like a very good recipe and this blog post is as good as they get. Enjoy the ride, the sustenance and the photography. Looking forward to hearing about Jody’s favorite post-training meal.

    • These are fun to make, but they don’t stick around long if you’ve got kids in the house (which is as it should be). Ours have at least learned to yell out before automatically consuming something unusual in the fridge–if only to make sure it’s already been photographed before they eat it. :-) Thanks for good wishes. Ken

  5. AMAZING. I have to try this the next time my husband and I go for a longer hike, or any hike. Energy bars are always too sweet for me (KIND bars are the only type I can eat anymore), and I’d love to have a savory snack when outdoors. Great photos, too. But you know I love your photography, Ken. :)

  6. Who could ever turn down a spring roll? The texture and flavours simply explode and crash in the mouth. And the ‘protein bar’ is surely the Crumbling Pigs’ Arsehole of the culinary/cycling/breakfast world. Lovely recipe, and very good advice and helpful photos: I had previously thought that making spring rolls myself would be beyond me, but no more. Thanks to you both. Sophie

    • God, I nearly fall out of my chair laughing every time I think of that phrase. Hahahahah…. Spring rolls are quite easy to make, lots of fun, and leftover chicken breast becomes much more interesting wrapped some crisp veggies and shiitake mushrooms than in a sandwich. Ken

  7. What a wonderful idea. I have to admit that spring rolls wouldn’t be my first choice when thinking of portable food – and believe me, I’m always looking for new, different and tasty food ideas to pack into a pocket – but I now find myself totally convinced. Excellent idea.

  8. These sound amazing! I have been following you blog for a few years. Your photographs are amazing and the recipes delectable! I too ride in the PMC, leaving from Wellesley. Would love to meet you and say hello! BTW…I tried a recipe that you posted last year for steel cut oats, a real savory dish with preserved lemons. It was great! I just made my first batch of preserved lemons this week, since that ingredient was so had to find. Thanks for the inspiration!

  9. Great sounding recipe! I too am a fellow Pan Mass rider, leaving from Wellesley. I love reading your blog, the recipes, delectable, the photos amazing! I have tried quite a few, one of my favorites was one breakfast made with steel cut oats and preserved lemons. A real savory dish. Since the lemons were hard to find, I was inspired to make my own!

    See ro on the road!…Ride On!

    • Haha! Great! We’ve got a post on preserved lemons in the works. Aren’t steel cut oats the bomb! My latest iteration of them involves an egg, julienned lacinato kale and a drizzle of Vietnamese dipping sauce. Thanks for commenting. Ken

  10. I have only just discovered spring rolls and have a garden full of veges to go into them. The smear of peanut butter is inspired! You guys have it sorted!! Gorgeous shots too by the way.. c

    • Thank you, Cecilia. I grew up in the Midwest, sometimes found myself atop a hay wagon, and I know just how the air feels and the light looks in your picture. Thanks for stopping by. Ken

  11. Glad to hear Gewurztraminer is a good match. We visit Tramin, home of Gewurztraminer, on our Trentino Alto Adige cycling tour. Plenty of places to try that ‘spicy’ wine from Tramin. :) Along many lovely bike paths. And I don’t miss those fluffernutters in the least, and nary a cliff bar to be found.
    Will you bring these for day 2 of our PMC ride?

    • Frankly, I think I’d eat anything, including the jersey itself, to find myself biking in the Veneto again. Regarding the spring rolls and day 2 of the ride, I’m afraid we’d need to have a giant spring rolling party the night before–and if previous experience is any teacher, we’ll be eating, drinking, and then, suddenly, crashing. Ken

  12. I liked your blog before but I am so with Jody on being sick of Clif bars. My son and I are very excited to try these out when we get back home.

  13. These look fabulous Asian ‘energy bars’ – definitely more up my street. Seriously addictive I imagine. The bike team look seriously professional in their matching kit. Go team Rialto!

    • Thanks, Torie. The original photo is quite hilarious. I had about two minutes to take the shot right before a fundraiser for the team was scheduled to start. I asked everyone to put on their jerseys and caps and step outside. Below the waist everyone is wearing ordinary street clothing! (Like newscasters in shorts.) The full kit is great. RIALTO runs down the outside legs of the the black bibs. Ken

  14. Das richtige Power Food, leicht, und sschmackhaft. Gerade wenn es heiß hergeht wie bei uns in Berlin. Morgen sollen es 40 Grad werden.

    • Das ist furchtbar heiß! (104 hier). Ich glaube, ich würde meine Frühlingsrollen in einem klimatisierten Haus statt essen auf einem Fahrrad. Viel Glück. Ken

      That is terribly hot! (104 here). I think I’d eat my spring rolls inside an air-conditioned house instead of on a bicycle. Good luck. Ken

  15. Hey folks. I finally made these and they are absolutely delicious. Keith was raving which does not always happen. I love the peanut sauce as well and look forward to using it in other ways. Like on a spoon. : ) Good luck in and on the Ride. You folks are the best.

    • Hey, Chip–You are too funny! Should be a great weekend. We’re blogging on Thursday morning–and I think we’re spending late Thursday or early Friday making spring rolls for the team. By lunchtime on Friday we’ll be heading for Sturbridge. Thanks for the good wishes. Ken

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  17. These look seriously delicious! I love the idea of adding the sauce right into the roll as I tend to agree that attempting to dip them while riding would involve much laughter and finger pointing from others. :)

    • Ha! By the last ten miles, I think everyone would have vastly preferred Lagunitas over the electrolyte stuff they were handing out at the rest stops over Gatorade. Jody made about 40 spring rolls on Friday morning, which everyone used on Saturday. They were a great hit. Ken

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    • Thank you, Gwynne, even if we did only win… sigh… second place. For the record, we experimented with an earlier version with rice sticks, but the resulting rolls didn’t seem sturdy enough to endure the rigors of a lengthy ride. :-) Ken

  19. Every dish you post just looks so dang delicious! These spring rolls are mouthwatering and I am going to make them for my end of the month BBQ. Thanks for sharing! :)

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  22. These look/sound fantabulous! HOWEVER… you’re using your juicer wrong. Put the lime half in upside-down so that after pressing the lime half is inside-out. It’s harder to squeeze, but you’ll get SO much more juice that way.
    (Unless you put it in that way for the photo. In that case… never mind.)

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  25. I forgot about this post. I read it last year and loved it (still do) I despise bars (except a good classic granola bar) this is such a good idea.

    I am a but if a soft roll addict (Café Zing @ Porter Square Books, Kickstand Café and now Myers + Chang). My daughter loves them too. In fact, for her 6th or 7th birthday we had a make your own soft roll party.

    Can’t wait to try this version. I like how the filling is mixed rather than layered.

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