Vietnamese spring rolls at the top of tailor-made recipes
- on Jan 21, 2021       By: BN
If there is one Southeast Asian delicacy that is likely to delight Western diners as much as Japanese sushi, it is undoubtedly the star of Vietnamese snacks, goi cuon. We call them "spring rolls" but also "summer rolls". Light, nutritious and appetizing, what more could you expect for a perfect starter?
The most classic variation is cuon tom thit (spring roll with pork and shrimp) which consists of slices of pork belly, shrimp, fresh rice vermicelli (bun), cucumber, Chinese chives, onion, carrot, green mango, lettuce and aromatic herbs. The whole thing is to be put on a thin rice cake that is rolled up and then dipped in a variable sauce, according to taste to enjoy it.
This easy and tasty recipe is truly enticing for both cooks and gourmets in a hurry. Easily accessible and adaptable, it is perfect for using the imagination by trying out new flavours. The ingredients for the dish vary from one region and one house to another to vary the taste pleasures. We thus find pork, chicken, beef and fish constituting the cooked garnish which is accompanied by raw vegetables. Popular and inexpensive, this is the coolest Vietnamese fast food you will be addicted to for a little hunger or for a memorable gourmet stroll.
Panoply of smells and flavours
If the rice paper is almost the same on different tables, there are about ten vegetables and fresh herbs, namely salad, mustard, carrot, cucumber, red cabbage, coriander, mint, basil, green mango or blackberry, asparagus, pineapple, green banana, and Enoki mushroom. These alone offer a whole range of vegetarian versions to their followers.
Common seasonings for Vietnamese spring rolls include Vietnamese pork pie, fried egg, cheese, and even pig ear. Beside the raw vegetables, a plate of rice vermicelli and a small bowl of sauce are, of course, unmissable. A mainstay of Vietnamese cuisine, the sauce is indeed the key to exquisite spring rolls. There are three sauces for spring rolls which, each with its own particularity, reveal where you stop in Vietnamese territory.
Vietnamese spring roll sauce, every region has its own scent
Northerners including Hanoian’s are usually used to nuoc mam, a sweet and sour sauce made from diluted fish brine.
Gourmets in the Central prefer mam nem, a consistent sauce made from fermented fish with a more striking taste than nuoc mam. Add sugar, lemon and a mixture of finely crushed chilli, garlic and pineapple to enhance the different flavours before serving with the spring rolls.
Southerners traditionally opt for nuoc tuong or fermented soy sauce which, salty and sweet, is seasoned with peanuts and sometimes coconut juice. In some cases, a small dose of pork bone broth is also added to add flavour to the soy sauce. Let us know that the fermented black soy sauce is a culinary habit among the Saigonese, marrying two traditions, Vietnamese and Chinese.
As for the cooked stuffing, the gourmet is perfectly free to choose the ingredients to their style. We find the most modest recipes called goi cuon khong nguoi lai, literally "driverless spring rolls" as the Vietnamese laugh. These are spring rolls completely stuffed with rice vermicelli and vegetables. In more generous cases, a few strips of Chinese sausage or tiny shrimp are present.
Adding more colour, with a few fried eggs and slices of pork belly, the alluring spring rolls are already ready.
In a sophisticated version, prepare the grilled fish or the red steamed talapia, you will have something to make your guests salivate. By adding slices of buffalo or beef thighs with steamed lemongrass, spring rolls are a speciality of the meal in many Southern regions. There remains a multitude of ingredients that lend themselves to unusual but always succulent marriages of flavours. It's no surprise that spring rolls have taken pride of place in high-end dining as the star of Vietnamese cuisine.
Spring rolls rolled or rolled by yourself?
How do you savour spring rolls, prefer ready-to-eat or make yourself, roll by roll, or from small handfuls? While some travellers prefer the first option to save time, others like to experience the dish by creating the rolls by themselves, like a local. Culinary delights are most likely to be appreciated not only by the recipe as is, but also by the way it is tasted.
Remember that in the list of 50 best dishes on the planet drawn up in 2020 by CNN, two Vietnamese dishes were acclaimed, the pho in 28th place and the spring rolls in 30th place. Whether it's the place to eat, at a street vendor, a tavern, a famous restaurant or a reception, spring rolls represent a memorable taste break. Besides, a trip to Vietnam is not complete without tasting some goi cuon. Trying to enjoy it by manipulating your fingers as you wish is definitely a double pleasure.