Low-carb fresh Vietnamese spring rolls

In addition to Thrive Kitchen, the healthy cooking class program I founded and teach at Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco, I also host Lunch With Linda classes for my health care colleagues. For these classes, which serve both as team building and culinary education, I often teach a menu that includes fresh Vietnamese spring rolls because it is interactive. Recently, I was asked to present some lower carbohydrate alternatives. First, I felt panicked, then I felt inspired. Instead of rice paper wrappers for the spring rolls, I used blanched collard green leaves (and left out the rice vermicelli). I was really happy with how these turned out!

Servings: 12

Ingredients

Low-carb fresh Vietnamese spring rolls

  • 1 pound firm tofu
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons canola or peanut oil
  • 1 bunch collard green leaves
  • 10 leaves red leaf lettuce (leaves washed, dried, separated, and trimmed to fit within the diameter of the collard greens)
  • 1 small bunch mint
  • 1 large red bell pepper, julienned
  • 2 carrots, julienned
  • 1 English or 2 Persian cucumbers, julienned
  • 1 cup red cabbage, julienned
  • Serve with 1 cup of spicy peanut dipping sauce. Recipe ingredients below.

Spicy peanut dipping sauce (makes 1 cup)

  • 4 tablespoons creamy natural peanut butter (only peanuts, with no added salt or sugar)
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons water, to thin out the sauce, if necessary
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce, or red pepper flakes (adjust to taste)

Directions

  1. Drain tofu, wrap in paper towels, and press for 30 minutes by sandwiching between 2 cutting boards topped with a heavy object, like a pan. Cut pressed tofu into 24 bite-sized rectangles (about 1/4-inch thick, 1-inch by 1/2-inch pieces).
  2. Meanwhile, make the peanut sauce. Stir together all sauce ingredients in a bowl until well combined. Set aside until the spring rolls are ready to serve.
  3. Prepare the collard green wraps. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Trim collard green leaves off the stems and use a paring knife to shave down the thick part of the stem that is part of the leaf until it is flat and flexible. Blanch trimmed leaves by placing in the boiling water until flexible and bright green, about 30 seconds. Remove immediately to an ice bath (to stop the cooking process and preserve the color) and then drain on towels. Set aside.
  4. Once tofu has been pressed, dry well with a paper towel. Warm oil in a (preferably nonstick) skillet over medium heat. Add tofu rectangles in a single layer. Fry until golden brown, about 3 minutes each side. Remove from pan and set aside.
  5. Set up your mise-en-place for making the rolls: Set out all the vegetables, cooked tofu, and the collard green wraps.
  6. To assemble each roll, lay a collard green wrap on a cutting board or large plate.
  7. Arrange 1 lettuce leaf over the bottom third of the collard leaf, running your finger along the rib to crack and flatten it. Top with 3 mint leaves, a few slices of tofu and a handful of assorted julienned vegetables. Avoid the temptation to overstuff!
  8. Fold in the left and right sides of the collard leaf, then fold the bottom edge up and over the filling tightly and roll toward the top end, enclosing the filling completely and as tightly as you can.
  9. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
  10. Enjoy your spring rolls dipped in spicy peanut sauce! 

Nutrition Information (per serving)

  • Calories: 130
  • Total fat: 7 g
  • Saturated fat: 1 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Sodium: 170 mg
  • Total carbohydrate: 9 g
  • Dietary fiber: 3 g
  • Sugars: 3 g
  • Protein: 8 g

Contributor

Linda Shiue, MD