Roasted Shiitake + Tofu Spring Rolls

Roasted Shiitake Tofu Roll - Filling

I only met my maternal grandmother once, when I was two years old. We – my parents and I – went back to my mom’s hometown because her mom was in hospital. My parents said that they booked an emergency flight, and no one in her family knew we were coming. My dad got out of the taxi first, much to the confusion of my mom’s family. They had no idea how he – or I – looked.

Roasted Shiitake Tofu Roll 2

There’s a bit of a gap in the story, the way my parents tell it. I don’t know when we made it to the hospital. I think it must have been relatively quick, because I do know that my grandmother hadn’t been told we were visiting. My grandmother was in the ICU and I was a little, germy being, so the hospital wouldn’t allow me to see her. Specifically, the nurse on duty wouldn’t allow me to visit. The way my parents tell it, I picture her to be plumped up with a sense of importance, an over-bureaucratic type. Of course, they’re biased against her, because she wouldn’t buy into any of their arguments of how they’d come all the way from America, how I’d never met my grandmother, or how I might not have another chance to do so. My parents and the nurse argued, so intensely and for so long that they’d forgotten about me. The two-year-old me got bored, and wandered off. I think it took them a while to notice, and raised a hue and cry – so I’d imagine, a toddler missing in a foreign land – and go searching for me. And – can you guess where they found me? Somehow, I’d climbed up the stairs, found the right room, and was sitting in my grandmother’s bed.

The story always ends there. I have been told that it was the only time I saw her, because she did not make it out of the hospital. I’ve only seen a few photographs of her, snapshots that are faded or blurry, or with her face turned half away. I have no memory of that day, or of her. No idea what I was thinking, or how I found her. Was it a chance meeting, mere coincidence? Or one of those magic instances of things that were “meant to be”, was it something that had to happen so that we would meet? Who knows? It’s a tiny reminder, to me, that sometimes the amazing and miraculous happens, and everything works out perfectly, just as we hoped it would. Just as it should.

Roasted Shiitake Tofu Roll HRoasted Shiitake Tofu Rolls


Roasted Shiitake + Tofu Rolls
Makes roughly 12 rolls
1 lb. firm tofu
1 ¼ – 1 ½ lb shiitake mushrooms
¾ lb. carrots
¼ lb. lettuce (I used little gems)
¼ lb. cabbage or other dark leafy green
1 bunch basil
1 bunch mint
2 tablespoons white miso
¼ cup hot water
1 large garlic clove, minced
About 12 rice paper wrappers (Amazon carries them, but I found at at Asian grocery store for 1/4 of the price)
Wrap the tofu in paper towels or a clean dish cloth, and weigh down with a heavy item for at least 20 minutes. This will squeeze out the excess moisture. Preheat oven to 400°F. Cover a large rimmed baking sheet with a sheet of foil.
In the meantime, slice the shiitakes into roughly ½ inch thick slices. Use a mandoline or vegetable slicer to cut the carrots into thin noodle-like strips. Wash and separate the leaves of lettuce basil, and mint. Wash and thinly slice the cabbage or other leafy green.
When the excess moisture has drained from the tofu, cut it into ½ by 2 inch pieces. In a small bowl, dissolve miso paste into hot water, and add minced garlic. Put the tofu and sliced shiitakes into a large bowl, and toss with the miso-garlic combine. Pour onto the prepped baking sheet. Roast the tofu and shittakes for about 20 minutes, or until the edges have caramelized.
To make the rolls, gather all of the filling ingredients near a clean work surface. You’ll have to fill each roll quickly. Fill a large bowl with warm water. Soak a rice paper wrapper for about 15 seconds, remove from water very carefully and lay as flatly as possible on your clean surface. Work as fast as possible: lay down the lettuce in a row, then the sliced greens, then the tofu and shiitake, then the herbs, lastly the shredded carrot. Clean surface, and repeat until the rolls are assembled. Serve with the sesame sauce (below) and sriracha.

Sesame sauce

1 tablespoon miso
2 tablespoons warm water
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
Juice of ½ lime
2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
½ cup tahini*
1 – 2 serrano chilis, minced and seeded and depithed according to your heat preference
2 tablespoons minced chives

In a small bowl, dissolve the miso paste into the warm water. Add the vinegar, lime juice, soy sauce. Whisk in the tahini, ginger, minced chilis, and chives.

*I  used homemade, unsalted tahini – so much cheaper – see this recipe

  1. Ambar,

    Super sweet how you found her:)

  2. Such a great story. Sometimes things in life are inexplicable, but that somehow makes them sweeter.

  3. I absolutely love that story! I was hoping that you’d found your grandmother during the whole kerfuffle and you did indeed! So sweet! :D

  4. Oh my dear girl. Your story is beautiful and touching and has brought a tear to my eye. You found a good place to get away from the shouting. A good, safe and loving place.

    I like this recipe!! I shall certainly be trying it out xx

  5. I think the universe wanted you to go so your Grandmother, to hell with rules. I had a similar experience before my Grandfather passed. I am happy to say that I got to see him smile before he went.
    These spring rolls are beautiful and fresh looking. And those last two photos are just stunning. Wow.

  6. Joyti, what a story!! And so beautifully told. I think small children are incredibly intuitive… I bet you just knew where to go and knew on a very deep and certain level that that was your grandmother.
    Your roasted shiitake rolls look awesome! My girl Lilah has just started making her own lunch for school and she’s a shiitaki maniac… I’m going to show her your post and see if I can get her inspired to make some rolls.
    xoxo to you,

  7. Brooke,

    Wow, what an amazing story! A miracle really, how you got to meet your grandmother. There must have been some strong connection pulling your little self to her! This recipe looks amazing. I must try it! Thank you for sharing that beautiful story and these yummy rolls :)

  8. Deb,

    Just the comforting story I need today. The last two weeks have been a blur. I am waiting for this chapter to end so the next may begin. I needed the reminder that life always turns out as it should! If I could have a slice of the Roasted Shiitake Tofu Rolls my week would surely turn spectacular!

  9. Emma,

    Such a lovely memory, your grandmother must have been so happy to see you. The randomness of life is wonderful!

    I love rice paper rolls but usually buy them; my attempts at making them have been sub-par but you might just have encouraged me to give it another go as yours look gorgeous :)

  10. This story gave me chills, I am not joking.

  11. Sissi,

    A very touching story. Your visit must have made your grandmother’s last days much more bearable.
    Wonderful spring roll idea. I also often play with spring rolls and even though I do eat meat, I sometimes put tofu instead of meat/seafood. I like the way you don’t close them at one end. They look much more beautiful this way.

  12. Joanne,

    However you ended up there, it makes for a GREAT story. I’m sure your grandmother was thrilled to see you in the end…and that definitely outranks worrying about infection!

    Love these little spring rolls. Filled with so much good stuff.

  13. Suzanne,

    Love this sweet story,
    Joyti. I think little
    you was on the right
    energy frequency and it
    drew you straight to your

    Thinking of you, today.
    I’m making your melted
    leek pasta tonight for
    dinner : )

    This recipe looks and
    sounds so nuturing. Hope
    you and Cookie are well!

    xo Suzanne

  14. What an amazing story! It warmed my heart.

  15. cheri,

    What a wonderful story, it’s amazing how you found your grandma and the right room. These rolls are beautiful, love this combination!

  16. I love miraculous coincidences like that! What a great memory to have. I’ve had spring rolls on my mind lately. Love the shitake and tofu filling in these!

  17. What a sweet story :) These spring rolls look awesome! I love making my own at home.

  18. I loved my maternal grandmother to bits. She was my best friend as long as she was alive. I am so glad that you found each other amidst the chaos even if for a little while. Such a sweet and moving story! The spring rolls are lovely too…filled with freshness and delicious things!

  19. I like to think about what powerful force, inner connection prompted the toddler you to find the right room. indeed, your story is a beautiful reminder of everyday miracles.

  20. Kaylia,

    That recipe looks delicious! Also thank you for sharing that beautiful story with us, what a sweet moment that must have been for your grandmother.

  21. I like your perspective and your belief that sometimes the amazing and miraculous happens. Lovely.

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