The best part about my bi-monthly jaunt to the Asian grocery store isn’t just stocking up on potstickers, dried shiitakes, and chili sauce, but roaming the aisles looking for new stuff to try. From frozen sheets of tofu skin to whole lotus roots, I’ve (almost) tried it all—with varying degrees of culinary success. One of the best moves I ever made was working up the courage to try rice-paper wrappers. Something about them always intimidated me—their stiff translucence, for starters. How do those rough, papery sheets morph into those deliciously delicate rolls that I order every time I set foot inside a Vietnamese restaurant?
The trick to making perfect rolls at home is having a tea towel as your work surface; it helps absorb excess water and ensures a perfect, non-slippery texture. I use warm, not hot, water to soften the wrappers, and let them soak just until they’re pliable, about one minute. Any longer, and they become prone to tearing.
The versatility of rice-paper wrappers is part of their allure; you can roll just about anything up inside, including fruit (mango, strawberries, and mint is a nice combination) and leftover salad, and it’ll taste great. These BLT+As are a new favorite; they’re light and refreshing, but with all the savory flavor of a traditional BLT with avocado.
8 round, square, or triangular rice-paper wrappers
1/2 avocado, thinly sliced
3 oz. tempeh or other faux “bacon,” browned in olive oil
1 large tomato, sliced into rounds, then halved
1 cup shredded butter lettuce
Salt and pepper to taste
Set up your work station with a shallow bowl of warm water (wide enough to submerge the entire wrapper) and a tea towel. Submerge 1 rice paper wrapper in bowl of warm water, and allow to soften approximately 1 minute. Remove the wet wrapper and place on a clean, dry tea towel.Submerge 1 rice paper wrapper in bowl of warm water, and allow to soften approximately 1 minute. Remove the wet wrapper and place on a clean, dry tea towel.
Fill wrappers by layering ingredients, beginning with tomato. Leave a half-inch margin on the sides. Fold in sides and roll. Repeat with remaining wrappers. Serve plain, or with a barbecue-, vinaigrette-, or vegan mayo dipping sauce.