Friday, March 18, 2011

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

I have always been a fan and enthusiast of Vietnamese food.  I used to work in an office where most of us regale to each other the ethnic cuisine we've enjoyed, the unique restaurants that we've tried, from fat German sausages in a red light district to spicy Indian curries at the corner of the busiest street in the business area.  

I've always liked leafy vegetables (Vitamin A - good for the eyes and a feast to the eyes too) and the Vietnamese cuisine's right mixture of  leafy greens intrigue me.  I will never get tired of eating mint leaves, basil, coriander and the way they are mixed and matched with different ingredients makes me salivate.

While on tour outside Ho Chi Min, our bus stopped at roadside restaurant for lunch.  I checked their menu and was a little disappointed by the limited number of dishes.  I settled for boiled pork and baked rice.  I was thinking, this is just like a Filipino dish. I was surprised when the waitress  placed on the table different kinds of leaves.  I confirmed to her my order was boiled pork only.  She did not speak much English but I got the impression that she knew what she was doing.  I am not one to complain of too much leaves on my plate, ha, not me. 

Next, the waitress placed a plate with stack of thin white plastic-looking squares beside it.  I examined it.  Is this a coaster or a place mat?
Next came my order of boiled pork in a mat of  lettuce topped with crispy thin slices of garlic. I started eating.  My hubby tasted it too and remarked, "For a boiled pork this is so tasty."  He does not like leaves, except for the lettuce.  I wondered where my baked rice is, so I asked the waitress.  She did not understand what I was babbling about so she called a young girl who is obviously a student with her school uniform.   The student (who turned out to be the daughter of the restaurant owner)  demonstrated how to eat my dish.  The above  square plastic-looking stuff is actually the baked rice roll.   Hmmmn, just add the word  'roll' in your 'baked rice'  and that would straighten out an ignoramus like me when reading the menu, I'd like to advise her.... but never mind, the girl was so charming.
She dipped the ends with water (so that explains the bowl of water which I thought was for washing my hands......Good thing I did not wash my hands on it). She then lined it with some leaves and put boiled pork on top of it.
She rolled it nicely and secured it with another dip of water at the end.  You could dip it in spicy vinegar and bon appetit!  For the above picture which is far from the perfect roll that the student made, I take the credit, that's the first roll that I made, the second roll that I ate, hehehe.  So yummy, that was the highlight of our trip to Cu Chi Tunnel which should be the topic of my next blog entry. 

Interested with Vietnamese cooking with good English instructions?  Here's a practical book:

From Publishers Weekly

Vietnam-born Nguyen writes passionately and knowledgeably about the history and fundamentals of Vietnamese cuisine and offers more than 175 tempting and largely non intimidating recipes, with the Vietnamese translation of the name beneath the English name and headnotes that provide excellent context and helpful tips. Chapters begin with alluring introductory text—the first set of recipes, for example, are the "Gifts to the Mouth," which the author explains is a translation of the Vietnamese phrase for snacking. The chapter includes such dishes as Beef and Jicama Hand Rolls, the Baguette Sandwich—the "one sandwich in the Vietnamese repertoire... a tour de force"—and Fried Shrimp Chips. Other chapters are Sacred Soups (Chicken Dumpling and Chrysanthemum Leaf Soup is one beautiful entry), Classic Meats (like Beef Flank and Ginger Simmered in Caramel Sauce), Vegetables Many Ways, and Delightful Sweets and Palate Refreshers, which features Grilled Bananas with Coconut Sticky Rice and Lemongrass Ice Cream. Chapters on noodles, poultry, fish and shellfish, and basic sauces, as well as guides to Vietnamese ingredients, round out this culturally rich culinary tour. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Description

When author Andrea Nguyen's family was airlifted out of Saigon in 19Vioetnamese Cookbook75, one of the few belongings that her mother hurriedly packed for the journey was her small orange notebook of recipes. Thirty years later, Nguyen has written her own intimate collection of recipes, INTO THE VIETNAMESE KITCHEN, an ambitious debut cookbook that chronicles the food traditions of her native country. Robustly flavored yet delicate, sophisticated yet simple, the recipes include steamy pho noodle soups infused with the aromas of fresh herbs and lime; rich clay-pot preparations of catfish, chicken, and pork; classic bánh mì sandwiches; and an array of Vietnamese charcuterie. Nguyen helps readers shop for essential ingredients, master core cooking techniques, and prepare and serve satisfying meals, whether for two on a weeknight or 12 on a weekend.
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