Roll up, roll up: Put a spring in your step with these light lunches

It is time to ditch the boring sandwiches and try out these Asian-influenced dishes


Spring has well and truly sprung, so it’s time to ditch the boring sandwiches and try one of these light lunches instead.
I love rice paper rolls. They make you feel healthy and good about yourself even if you have bought them from a takeaway. We have an amazing couple here in Galway, husband-and-wife team Kevin Tan and Rebecca Tan Lee, whose Papa Rich restaurant has some of my favourite Asian food, from Chinese to Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese, and their rice paper rolls are to die for. They’re really simple to make at home though, so you’ll master this recipe quickly.

Spring is an exciting time of year here at Kai. Back in January, we sent in our grow lists to our favourite organic farm, Lough Boora in Co Offaly. Now the time has arrived for the roots to take a rest, replaced by leafy greens like New Zealand spinach and rainbow chard. Wild garlic and nettles appear, there for the taking, and, best of all, the Creme Eggs are back in the shops.
To me, rainbow chard marks that first touch of spring and summer coming down the tracks. These prawn wraps are a lovely way to eat it – loads of healthy ingredients but it tastes luxurious.

I’ve been dieting since 1983 so I like fun food when it comes to eating healthily, so this tofu bowl (you might know them as Buddha bowls) is a great go-to. I always liven it up with something spicy that gives a bit of a punch, so a black sesame or spicy peanut side dressing is key.

Roasted peanut rice paper rolls

Have everything sliced and ready to go before you begin putting these together. You can find rice paper wrappers at most major supermarkets or in the specialist Asian grocery stores. Katie Sanderson’s White Mausu peanut rayu is a sauce that blends peanuts, chilli, and garlic in oil. You can find it in good food stores nationwide (stockists listed at: Roll the bundles up tightly, burrito style, and serve with more of the peanut rayu for dipping. Serves four.


8 sheets rice paper wraps 

8 lettuce leaves 

1 large cucumber, cut into thin batons

1 large carrot, peeled and cut into thin batons

100g salted, roasted peanuts 

40g mint leaves  

40g coriander leaves 

4 tbsp White Mausu peanut rayu


Fill a large bowl with tepid water. Dip a rice paper sheet in for a couple of seconds to soften. Lay the wrapper on your work surface and start filling. 

Start by placing a lettuce leaf in the middle. Top with some of the cucumber and carrot sticks, peanuts, a sprinkle of the mint and coriander and some peanut rayu. 

Fold the two sides inwards and roll; you’re looking for a spring roll or burrito shape. Repeat seven times, using up all the ingredients.

Prawn, black sesame and rainbow chard wraps

This is like a lean, green version of pigs in blankets. If you like shellfish and Asian flavours you will love this one. A lovely snack for when you’re on the go. Serves four. 


35ml olive oil 

400g peeled local prawns 

Salt and pepper to season 

50g black sesame paste 

10g fresh ginger, grated  

1 clove of garlic 

1 small chilli 

15ml maple syrup

35g fresh coriander 

8 large rainbow chard leaves 

50g pickled cucumbers

1 small carrot, finely julienned 

15g mint leaves


Heat the oil in a wok or a large pan over a high heat. Add the prawns and stir-fry until they are pink and cooked through (about 2-3 minutes depending on size). Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. 

Add the black sesame, ginger, garlic, chilli, maple syrup, and coriander to a food processor and blend until smooth. You may need to add a dash of hot water if it is too thick.

Divide the pickled cucumber and carrot between each chard leaf and top with the prawns. Sprinkle with a few mint leaves and drizzle the black sesame dressing over it. Roll up and enjoy immediately. 

Tofu lunch bowl with soba noodles

You’ve probably seen these all over Instagram; they are often called Buddha bowls or rainbow bowls. The ingredients are typically arranged in sections going around the bowl like a clock, but arrange it whatever way you like. Serves four. 


200g brown soba noodles 

30ml sesame oil 

4 giant oyster mushrooms 

20ml tamari sauce (or dark soy if you can’t get it) 

140g tahini

1 tsp white miso paste 

1 tsp fresh ginger, grated 

30ml Sriracha sauce

Juice of 1 lime

400g firm pressed tofu  

1 avocado (sliced just before you want to use it)

170g kale, thinly sliced 

200g roasted pumpkin slices

200g cucumber 

60g carrot, sliced into ribbons 

20g toasted sesame seeds 


Cook the soba noodles according to the instructions on the packet.  Fry off the giant oyster mushrooms in the sesame oil for a few minutes until just softened and then add the tamari. 

To make the dressing, whisk the tahini, white miso, ginger, Sriracha and lime juice, adding a splash of hot water to loosen the mix a little.

To assemble, divide the noodles between four deep bowls. Then, going around the side of each bowl, add the oyster mushrooms, tofu, avocado, kale, pumpkin, cucumber and carrot, finally sprinkling the sesame seeds over the top.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection


Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.