rice bowls and salad rolls: winter meets spring

Yesterday I made Number Four one of his favourite breakfasts—Pocket French Toast. So by dinner, it only seemed right that my vegetarian Number Three be treated to something she could eat “every single night”: a brown basmati rice bowl with rice paper salad rolls. I happen to adore these, so it made my motherly heart pump a little extra joy to make them.

I learned to make rice paper rolls from a Filipino chef whose kitchen I worked in for 2 years. There are endless variations on fillings, but a simple favourite of mine is green mango, red and yellow bell peppers, English cucumbers (all finely sliced), Thai basil and cilantro. I’ll often include matchstick carrots and organic sprouts. A Thai red chili dipping sauce made on the stove-top hits all the marks: hot, sour, salty, sweet. And with that, the simplest ingredients become bright, sexy and full of spring sentiment.

Rice bowls—like soup—are pretty much all I need in single bowl. I’m fond of using both Thai red and black rice (a gorgeous purple when cooked) to mix it up. And when combined with vegies and a spicy nut butter sauce or miso gravy, you’ve got a hearty vegetarian meal. The choice of fillings is as extensive as your imagination. For additional protein I like to include grilled, organic tempeh that’s been marinated in tamari, sesame oil, rice vinegar, lime juice, fresh ginger, brown sugar and red chilies. Tempeh’s distinct, nutty taste and firm, chewy texture makes it very versatile for marinating.

Going beyond traditional ingredients is fun. And using toppings such as toasted almonds, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, hemp and chia seeds, grilled sweet potato, shredded beets and carrot, kale, avocado and organic sprouts, leaves me feeling energized and completely happy. Right now, I’ll take every ounce of that I can get.

This meal is a winter-tamer if ever there was one!