Vietspices Search

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Gỏi Cuốn Chay (Almond Butter Tofu and Vegetables Summer Rolls)

click the picture for better image quality

There was a time that I cooked 30-days of vegan meals for my family. My husband accepted a vegan challenge and he made the whole family ate vegan for an entire month. He lost weight and his cholesterol dropped significantly without any changes to his exercise. So the benefits are there. My older daughter became addicted to vegan/vegetarian food since. Since she doesn't care much for eating meat, I have incorporated vegan meals into our diet more regularly. Here's one of their favorites: The Summer Vegan Roll - I suppose you can call it whatever depending on the season and ingredients you use. 

These light, healthy, and satisfying Vietnamese-influenced summer rolls are comprised of a hearty, crunchy textures and fresh flavors from pan-tried tofu and almond butter sauteed shiitake mushrooms, brown rice noodle, sweet and tart mango, and plenty of fresh herbs and vegetables. 
RECIPE: Summer Rolls
make about 15 rolls


1 block of firm tofu
8-10 fresh shiitake mushrooms
1 1/2 bell peppers, assorted colors
1 mango
1/2 English cucumber
1 bunch fresh mint leaves
1 bunch fresh cilantro
1/2 package of thin rice noodle
sesame oil
a pack of rice paper
1 package of radish sprouts, optional

for the almond butter sauce:
1/2 cup creamy or crunchy almond butter, salted or unsalted
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic, for sauce
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic, for tofu
Prepping Sauce

In a bowl, combine sauce ingredients except water and garlic, whisk to combine. Put aside 2 tablespoons of sauce for sauteing the tofu and shiitake mushrooms. 

In a small sauce pan, saute garlic with oil until fragrant and slightly brown. Pour the sauce and water into the garlic. Whisk to combine. Adjust those seasonings depending on your preference. The almond butter sauce becomes thick once they're off the heat and have cooled down.

Prepping Tofu and Shiitake Mushrooms

Shiitake Mushrooms - Most of the mushrooms shouldn’t be soaked in water and wash as they absorb lots of water. You just need to wipe well with cloth or paper towel. If you want to wash them, make sure to dry well or lightly squeeze each one to extract the excess water before cooking.
Cut mushroom into slices. It looks a lot in volume at beginning, but it will shrink to about half the size after they're cooked.

Tofu - drain the tofu and thoroughly pat dry with a kitchen towel or a paper towel.  Slice tofu in half thin.

Cut tofu into 12 strips.

Place tofu strips on a paper towel or a kitchen towel to keep them dry.

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of cooking oil. Add tofu to the skillet and fry until all sides of the tofu are brown. 

When I make a double batch, I use the pancake griddle to fry the tofu.

Sauteing Tofu and Shiitake Mushrooms

Use the same skillet to cook a tablespoon of garlic with sesame oil until fragrant. Add mushrooms into the skillet, mix it well. 

Cover and keep cooking until they shrink, soften, and become golden brown. Add fried tofu and the almond butter, stirring to coat. Cook for a few minutes until the sauce is absorbed. Remove from heat and let it cool down.

Cooking Noodle

Noodle and rice paper can be purchased at any Asian market for a lot less.  For convenience, I sometime get them both at BelAir market.  The brown rice noodle and rice paper made of brown rice are from Belair.

Bring a pot of water to a boil.  Add noodle and cook according to the package directions.  Rinse, drain and set aside.  
Prepping Vegetables

Bell Peppers - cut into long thin strips.

Cucumber - peel some of the rough outer skin of the cucumber then cut into long thin strips.

Mango - peel the mango skin, cut mango into strips.

Cilantro and Mint - wash, shake it to remove excess water.  

Radish Sprouts - cut them at the roots.  Discard the roots.  Wash and set aside.

Assembling Summer Rolls

Pour water in a shallow bowl for dipping the rice paper. You can also find the rice paper holder/water bowl at most of the Asian markets for a few bucks.

Immerse a rice paper in water until wet on all surfaces, give it a shake to remove excess water, then transfer to a plate. Place a small amount of desired fillings in the center. 

Roll the front edge of the wrapper over the filling away from you.

Fold the right and left sides over toward the center.
Roll it away from you once, then add radish sprouts at the edge of the roll for presentation then continue rolling into a tight roll.  

brown rice paper

Cover the roll up with a plastic wrap to keep them moist and fresh. Repeat until all fillings are used up.  

Serve summer rolls with almond butter sauce. Add a dash of sriracha sauce to the almond sauce for some spice.

When time is pressing, I would serve summer rolls as a self serve style. I simply lay everything out on the table and let everyone wrap their own roll.

Eat well. Stay healthy.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Loaves and Fishes - Serving the Homeless - June 2016

It was a fantastic day at Friendship Park.  We had plenty of help serving over 300 homeless guests.  A big thank you to all the kids who sacrificed their sleep to wake up early on a Thursday morning and come out to lend a helping hand.  Not only did they serve, they also prepped the food and assembled sandwiches.  It was a tour de force of their character and heart.

Thank you parents. You should be very proud of your kids. Thank you kids. We love you. I hope this experience has opened your eyes and hearts and give you a glimpse into the lives of our homeless citizens. The homeless guests really enjoyed your presence and you are making a big difference in their lives through these simple acts of kindness.

simple warm and comforting oatmeal served with milk, brown sugar, and raisins

delivering 100 bus passes to the homeless children at Mustard Seed School

Thank you all for your continuous support and generosity. I am extremely touched.

Here is a poignant comment left on The Spices Of Life blog from an anonymous reader who was moved by our work.

"Bless you and everyone involved. I have come close to becoming homeless and not having anywhere to turn to for help. Bus passes help immensely. Bless you for teaching your children about compassion and community."

Thank you Grant for sharing your thought about your experience at the Friendship Park.

"While I was serving food for the homeless, I was thinking what these people did not have, although they did have kind hearts. They were saying, “thank you & you are so kind” for almost everything they got. This shows me how kind these people are. They deserve something more than sleeping on the street and I realized that even I could make a difference."

“A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.” ~ Steve Maraboli

Friday, June 17, 2016

Loaves and Fishes - June 2016

I woke up this morning with a joy filled heart as I thought of one of my favorite motivational and inspirational quotes, "There are many things that seem impossible only so long as one does not attempt them."

What makes my day today is holding a 100 bus passes in my hands. My daughter and I drove to the Regional Transit early this morning to purchase them for the homeless children. Your donation makes it possible and it is precious. Thank you everyone for joining me in making life a little easier for those going through a difficult transitional period.

I would like to take this opportunity to send my gratitude to all the donors, and volunteers who made the last breakfast service a success.

A special thank you to my neighbor Sandy Lombella who recruited her walking group to gather at her kitchen to wrap breakfast burritos; Parm Sandhu who woke up at 5:00 am to cook oatmeal; Sherrie Redfearn Cahoon's father for boiling dozens of eggs; Sophia Rooney who spent half of her day with me grocery shopping, and driving around to drop off the food; all the volunteers who cooked the food, and took time off from work and your busy schedule to come out to serve in the very early of the morning.  What a group effort!

It has been two months since then. A few of my blog readers and friends emailed or texted me to remind me of our next breakfast service. One of those touching emails came from a reader who was concerned about the heat in Sacramento and she wanted to send a check to supply bottled waters to the 300 homeless people. Again, thank you so much for inspiring me and giving me the motivation to do more for those in need.

PLEASE COME and JOIN ME to spread some more good cheers.

Our upcoming breakfast serving is Thursday, June 30th at 7:30 am inside the Friendship Park at Loaves and Fishes.

Help any capacity you can; you can participate in one of three ways or from beginning to end:

1. Food Preparation 
2. Donating food/drinks or money to purchase food/drinks 
3. Serving Breakfast

Food items needed:

1. Turkey/Ham Sandwiches = $110 (donated by c Yen)

2. Hot Oatmeal with raisins = $50 (donated by c Linda)

3. 300 Hard Boiled Eggs = $25 (donated by Ethan)

4. 300 Granola Bars = $50 (donated by Thuy)

5. 300 Cups of Instant Noodle = $78 (donated by Ethan)

6. 300 Bananas = $46 (donated by Kristine)

7. 300 cans V8 juice = $86 (donated by Tonhi)

8. 300 Bottled Waters = $50 (donated by c Duyen)

Please let me know if you need a donation receipt so I can notify Loaves and Fishes. Thank you!

May your days be blessed.