Monday Meal Review: Vietnam


“The husband eats hamburger; the wife eats spring roll”
“Ong an cha ba an nem”
Vietnamese Proverb

Even though Keith loves hamburger as much as he always has, and I love salad just as much, if not more…  I’m of the mind that there is no reason to eat different food at mealtimes, as long as everyone can assemble their own plate. This week, I put that theory to the test. The fresh spring roll recipe we tried contains both meat and a garden’s worth of vegetables. Perfect for all appetites.

There was just one problem: any time we’ve dined at a Vietnamese restaurant, Ava has turned up her nose at the spring rolls. I never thought I’d be able to get her to try them.

Which is exactly why I wanted to make them for this week’s Global Table.

Given our past experience with sushi, wherein Ava only had to fill and wrap one roll to become a forever fan of the Japanese food, I thought it was worth a shot at having her make Vietnamese Spring Rolls.

The question was, would it work?

I already know she loves choosing her own fillings, so was sure to fill the platter with a wide variety to make assembly more fun. I had something else in my favor: the fondue-like pot, filled with a vinegar and lemongrass broth, for dipping the meat.  What child does not like to dip?

Surprsingly, Ava was not interested in the “fondue” aspect of the meal, since she’s pretty much sworn off meat lately. I even invited her to dip a vegetable in the broth, but she declined.

Her reservations made me nervous – but there was no need.

The real fun began, when I got out the rice paper.

There is something about rice paper that fascinates adults and children alike.  It is brittle and dry until submerged in warm water. Then it absorbs the water, becoming pliable and, even,  a little bit sticky.

Short of adding the fillings, the rice paper turned out to be the biggest hit with Ava, especially as she learned to roll it all by herself.

As for Keith? He enjoyed all the fillings – perhaps none more than the beef.

Score another win for the “DIY” meal.


DIY Fresh Spring Rolls | Bò nhúng dấm [Recipe]

What I loved most about this dish:

We made these twice in one week. I loved the DIY aspect, of course… I’ll never tire of picking my own veggies and dunking the beef in the simmering broth.  (I was thrilled to find that little stove at the nearby Korean market for just $19.99. It even comes with its own carrying case, making it perfect for picnics, and other festive occasions). Beyond that, the herbs were my favorite part. I’ll always associate the combination of mint, basil, and cilantro with Vietnamese food. it’s at once refreshing and addicting.

What I loved least about this dish:

I suppose, if someone is in a hurry, the beef fondue part is an extra step. While totally fun, if you feel like the spring rolls are overwhelming, just leave off the beef until you’ve tried the spring rolls at least once. One reader suggested trying them with tofu, which sounds awesome!

Hot & Sour Dipping Sauce | Nước mắm pha [Recipe]

What I loved most about this dip:

Everything! I could drink this up – I love the combination of the garlic, chilies, and the tart lime (do NOT use anything but freshly squeezed – the bottled stuff gives this dip an off flavor).

What I loved least about this dip:

Nothing. Once upon a time I might have said the fish sauce, but I don’t even taste that anymore. This really is a staple. If you have kids, feel free to mix the garlic, fish sauce, sugar, and lime juice separately. Then add the sliced chilies only to the ramekins of those who can handle the heat. The others keep plain, gradually increasing the heat level over time.


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