Healthy Spring Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce, and The Importance of Listening

Healthy Spring Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce
Vegetable Spring Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce

I think of myself as a good listener. I like being that person who can really take in what another person is saying, and make them feel heard. As it turns out, I’m only a good listener some of the time… the rest of the time I’m on a one-way street in my own head, and pretty clueless. Sure, I hear what you’re saying, and I think I get it… but I’m not really listening. Herein lies the problem, because it’s easy to mistake hearing for listening.

I stumbled across an article recently on the difference between listening and hearing – the difference between paying attention, and simply letting the sounds into our heads – and it got me thinking about how important that distinction is. The article focuses on how people who are deaf, or hard-of-hearing, listen to things with their whole bodies. They watch, touch, and perceive the world fully, while the rest of us, who have perfectly good ears, tend to shut out so much of the noise we hear that we forget to pay any attention at all. It’s almost as if we have the wrong definition of the word “deaf”.

“You hear the pneumatic drill, though you would rather not listen. You listen for your children’s voices in the playground, but you can’t always hear them. In urban environments, there’s usually a surplus of sound — so much, in fact, that it often becomes difficult to hear anything at all. But if we become too good at filtering things, have we also damaged our capacity to listen?” – Bella Bathurst, Sound Advice

It’s hard not to fall into the habit of shutting things out in a world so full of clamber and commotion, but it makes it just that much more important that we listen to the things that matters. When the noise isn’t just noise, it’s someone needing to be heard; when the buzz isn’t just buzz, but someone you care about. There are plenty of things in this world that make listening hard – sometimes the loudest sound we can’t seem to rid ourselves of is that in our own heads – but letting someone in, and letting them be heard, can be the greatest thing you can give them.

Someone once said, do not listen with the intent to reply, listen with the intent to understand. It is not the words that come after (the apology, the advice, the concern), but the listening itself that counts. That is something I truly want to work on – not just hearing, but listening. The hardest part, I think, is knowing the difference.

Healthy Spring Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce

This morning I awoke to the sound of birds chirping noisily outside my window. It’s been almost a week of sunshine, and today, rain. The cold dry air of winter has been replaced by the damp, earthy scent of spring, and along with it a little sense of self-reflection. Sometimes it’s hard to see the things that matter, and all it takes is a change of seasons to make things clear. Spring cleaning for the soul, so to speak.

In honor of spring (or, it finally feeling like spring), I made these fresh veggie spring rolls. Little bundles of fresh vegetables and herbs, wrapped in rice paper for a light and healthy snack. Spring rolls are in essence the same as egg rolls, only they haven’t been fried – I’m not entirely sure what the difference is between a spring roll and a summer roll, except that perhaps one is Vietnamese while the other is Thai? I admit my ignorance, here – please educate me!

Recipe Notes: Spring rolls can be made with most any ingredients you like. They are frequently filled with lightly dressed rice or cellophane noodles, but here I chose to use a mix of sprouts and finely julienned cucumber instead. You could also add a protein, like cooked shrimp or tofu, if you like.

Spring Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce
Easily made Vegan and Gluten-Free

Red and yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
Carrots, thinly sliced
Cucumber, thinly sliced
Avocado, thinly sliced
Baby bella or shittake mushrooms, sliced thinly and lightly sauteed
Bean sprouts, or other sprouts
Cilantro – optional
Thai basil – optional
Rice paper / spring roll wrappers

Peanut Sauce
1/4 cup natural creamy peanut butter
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 tsp. soy sauce, or gluten-free tamari
1-2 tsp. fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp. sriracha, to taste*
3-5 TBSP water or coconut milk, to taste
Fresh chopped cilantro or green onions – optional

*to make vegan, replace the sriracha with cayenne powder, or crushed red pepper flakes, to taste


1.   In a bowl, stir together all of the peanut sauce ingredients, adding the water or coconut milk at the end to thin the sauce to desired consistency. Taste and adjust the flavors to your liking.

2.    For the spring rolls, prep and slice all of the veggies and any other ingredients you plan to use for the filling Try to cut everything no longer than the length of a strip of bell pepper (a couple inches or so).
3.    Fill a pie pan about a 1/4 inch deep with warm water, take one sheet of rice paper, and soak it in the water for 15-20 seconds, until pliable. Be careful not to soak too long, or it will tear too easily to handle. After one or two tries you’ll get the hang of things.
4.    Lay the soaked sheet of rice paper on a clean plate and begin laying out your ingredients near the end of the rice paper closest to you, right in the middle. Make a neat little mound with the ingredients, then fold the left side of the sheet over the top of your filling, then the right. The two sides should meet, or almost meet, in the center of your filling.
5.    Beginning at the end closest to you, start rolling the rice paper around your ingredients, using your fingers to make a tight bundle. For a quick and easy video tutorial on rolling spring rolls, click here: How To Assemble a Spring Roll

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16 Responses to Healthy Spring Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce, and The Importance of Listening

  1. MadSCAR April 9, 2013 at 7:23 am #

    Love it! Thanks for recipe :)

    • Willow April 9, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

      You’re welcome. :)

  2. Elly McCausland April 9, 2013 at 7:40 am #

    Ah, the sight of these takes me straight back to Vietnam. I keep meaning to make some but have never been bothered to cook the noodles, prep the filling, slice everything up…plus I know they’d never taste as good…can you just send me a batch of yours?!

    • Willow April 9, 2013 at 2:48 pm #

      Heheh, to be honest with you, I was too lazy to do the noodles as well. I subbed the out for bean sprouts and thinly julienned cucumber in these, which worked pretty well (though it gave them a bit of a crunch!).

  3. Sacha April 9, 2013 at 10:10 am #

    Delicious, spring rolls are one of my favorites! Sauce sounds delicious too, can’t wait to try it :-)

    • Willow April 9, 2013 at 2:49 pm #

      Thanks! I love peanut sauces. They’re so easy to throw together, and you can adjust the flavors any way you like. :)

  4. Chung-Ah | Damn Delicious April 9, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

    I sure wish I was having this for lunch – spring rolls are my favorite!

  5. Charlotte Klein April 12, 2013 at 1:30 am #

    It’s so very weird that you post about this–the difference between hearing and listening–because it occured to me that I might suffer from the same problem. That is, I’m listening and engaged, but often my mind races and I’m running after ideas in my head. Then I think I’m a terrible person/friend/girlfriend/daughter, but THIS is something I will definitely take to heart: do not listen with the intent to reply, listen with the intent to understand.

    These look absolutely delicious. I’m always looking for easy veggie recipes, and I think I’m going to try these. Thanks so much!

    • Willow April 12, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

      Thanks, Charlotte! I’m glad to hear that what I wrote resonated with you. I think we all suffer from this problem to some degree or another, so don’t worry. Just acknowledging it is a big step in the right direction! :D

  6. movita beaucoup April 13, 2013 at 11:20 am #

    Lovely post, lovely recipe! I’m in desperate need of some spring rolls – mostly because it turns out one cannot survive on just bread and icing.

    • Willow April 13, 2013 at 11:47 am #

      Haha – I’ve been there! (Though the Fiance would argue on that point… he seems to be able to survive almost solely on simple carbs and sugars.) :P

  7. Amy April 16, 2013 at 8:44 pm #

    My mother attended a workshop a few years ago, and the leader asked the group, “Are you truly listening? Or are you simply waiting for your turn to speak?” I catch myself doing the latter a lot, so I’ve been working on listening better too. But if you were talking about how to make your gorgeous spring rolls, I’d definitely listen! Those have been on my “Foods to Try Making” list for months now!

    • Willow April 17, 2013 at 4:49 pm #

      Sounds like an interesting workshop! Now that I’ve started paying attention I notice myself doing that all the time, and I have to stop myself. Amazing what a difference it makes!

      As for the spring rolls, they are so easy! It takes a couple tries to get used to working with the rice paper, but after that there’s nothing to it. Plus you can pick and choose whatever ingredients you like, which is always a plus. :)

  8. Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes April 17, 2013 at 8:25 pm #

    What was that? Huh? Just kidding :) great post Willow – I am a HUGE fan of spring rolls and peanut dipping sauce, they are so fresh, vibrant and versatile!

    I think this is so important: do not listen with the intent to reply, listen with the intent to understand

    SO many people want to be heard that they forget to listen, they are too simply thinking about what they are going to respond with instead of just listening….sometime those speaking are not looking for a advice or a response, they just truly need someone to listen.

  9. Anonymous January 22, 2014 at 3:50 am #

    i’m confused when did Sriracha sauce contain any meat. it’s made of vinegar, chile peppers, garlic and sugar but no meat the rooster is just a logo not what’s in it

    • Willow Arlen January 22, 2014 at 2:17 pm #

      Sriracha typically contains fish sauce as one of the ingredients — while some vegans might overlook this, others try to avoid sriracha because of it.

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