One of our favorite things to eat out is actually a dish we assemble ourselves: a roll-your-own fresh roll platter with faux fish, rice paper, and fresh herbs and veggies. Versions of it can be found at many Vietnamese and vegetarian Asian fusion-type restaurants, but we get ours at the Vegetarian House, a vegan mainstay in downtown San Jose, where it’s called the Sea Fruits Grill. The whole thing is enough for a very satisfying meal for two, and it’s fantastic in the summer heat.
Here’s their original:
A pretty big chunk of the work is assembling the components. It features mints and basils you’re not likely to find in many places, though luckily the Bay Area is incredibly diverse. The platter typically has: rice vermicelli with chopped scallions, thin slices of cucumber, mint, Vietnamese perilla, and Vietnamese coriander, with a big hunk of something meat-like and a bowl of warm water to soften the rice papers.
Vietnamese parilla has a strong minty flavor with an almost smoky edge
Vietnamese coriander doesn’t look or taste much like cilantro, but has a pleasant fragrance, so give it a try, haters!
Vegetarian House’s fake meat is a really tasty, flaky fish substitute wrapped in seaweed and crusted with ground peanuts and sesame seeds. Seldom satisfied with fake meat available in the grocery store, I wanted to try the recipe in Miyoko’s Homemade Vegan Pantry cookbook, which relies on yuba for substance, seaweed for flavor, and agar to hold it all together.
Yuba is the ‘skin’ that forms on top of soymilk as a byproduct of making tofu, and it’s chewy and a little bit slimy and can cook up crispy and flaky
The result: not precisely like the original at all, but still tasty and fun to eat! We also made a couple adjustments for nutrition (wilted kale instead of lettuce) and, well, negligence (I forgot to pick up a cucumber so I used julienned carrot), but it worked well. I even picked up the parilla and Vietnamese coriander at a local Asian grocery for a little authentic flair.
The just-barely-dampened rice paper is placed on a clean plate, where it continues to soften and become pliable while you pile on the fillings
Tuck in the top and bottom then roll tightly from one side to the other
Enjoy with a sweet/sour/spicy dip, like peanut sauce or mock nuoc cham (like that from Vegan Eats World)