Dr. Sarah Cimperman, ND
Vegan, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free
Vietnamese-style summer rolls are light and refreshing. They’re also extremely versatile because you can add any fillings you like. This is a vegan version made with mango, mint, cilantro, red bell pepper, cucumber, and tempeh sautéed in coconut oil. Delicious and nutritious, these summer rolls contain everything that a healthy meal should: protein, fiber, and healthy fat. Serve one roll per person as a colorful starter or two or three as a main course.
Tempeh is a fermented food made from soybeans and it’s a healthy choice whether you eat meat or not. Soy foods have been portrayed as harmful but research studies show that consuming soy decreases the risk of developing hormone-related cancers and in breast cancer survivors it can reduce the risk of recurrence and death.1 In the United States, 93 percent of soybeans are genetically modified, so always buy organic soy foods including tempeh.2
A healthier take
Traditionally, fillings inside summer rolls are padded with rice noodles. To cut down on refined grains, I used fresh herbs instead, which add antioxidants as well as flavor. If you don’t have or don’t like cilantro or mint, you can substitute basil, parsley, sprouts, or thinly sliced leafy greens like kale. If you’re diabetic or avoiding sweet foods for any reason, instead of mango you can add any fresh, crunchy vegetables you like as long as you cut them into thin strips. Good choices would be scallion, celery, or zucchini. If you don’t have or don’t like tempeh, you can substitute another kind of protein like tofu or cooked chicken, duck, or shrimp.
Making summer rolls can be an acquired skill. Fortunately, rice paper wrappers come in large packs so you toss any mistakes and start over if you need to. The first one is usually the most difficult, but the more you make, the better they will hold together and the easier they will be to eat. If you’re consistently having problems, it’s likely that you are using too much filling or wrapping them too loosely.
- 1 block tempeh
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- Sheets of rice paper
- Mango, cut into strips
- Red bell pepper, cut into strips
- Cucumber, cut into strips
- Fresh mint leaves
- Fresh cilantro stems and leaves, cut into 3- or 4-inch lengths
- Cut the tempeh into half-inch strips and sauté them in coconut oil until browned on all sides.
- Warm an inch of filtered water in a skillet large enough to accommodate your rice paper sheets. Once small bubbles start to form, turn off the heat.
- Slide one sheet of rice paper into the warm water inside the skillet. Wait for it to soften, about 10 seconds, and then carefully transfer it to a round ceramic dinner plate and use clean hands to smooth out any wrinkles.
- Line up strips of tempeh, mango, pepper, and cucumber in the center of the rice paper. Top with a generous amount of cilantro and mint. Take the edge of the rice paper closest to you and fold it away from you. Gently pull it back over the fillings and squeeze them together with gentle pressure. Fold the right and left sides in toward the center, then roll the mound away from you (like you would a burrito). Place it seal-side down on a glass or ceramic serving plate.
- Repeat the process to make as many rolls as you like.
- Serve the summer rolls with Ginger Almond Dipping Sauce (recipe follows).
Ginger Almond Dipping Sauce
- 1/2 cup raw almond butter
- 3 tablespoons tamari
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar (unseasoned)
- 1 organic lime (zest plus 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed juice)
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
- 1 to 2 cloves garlic, grated
- Cayenne pepper to taste
Stir all of the ingredients together until smooth. Serve within an hour or store in an air-tight container in the fridge until ready to eat.
Sarah Cimperman, ND is the author of the new book, The Prediabetes Detox: A Whole-Body Program to Balance Your Blood Sugar, Increase Energy, and Reduce Sugar Cravings. She graduated from NCNM in 2002 and has a private practice in New York City. Her expertise has been featured on Fox News and Huffington Post and in Natural Health magazine, Whole Living magazine, and the Well Being Journal, among other publications. Dr. Cimperman also writes two blogs, A Different Kind Of Doctor and The Naturopathic Gourmet.
- Shu XO, Zheng Y, Cai H, Gu K, Chen Z, Zheng W, and Lu W. Soy Food Intake and Breast Cancer Survival. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2009;302(22):2437-2443. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19996398
- USDA (United States Department of Agriculture). Genetically Engineered Crops in the United States. [Web page]. USDA website. http://www.ers.usda.gov/media/1282246/err162.pdf. Accessed July 12, 2016.