Saturday, April 24, 2010

Ho Chi Minh Hangover-- Springroll spin-off!

I still have the Ho Chi Minh hangover, I must admit. And though I am in no way connected to the tourism board of Vietnam, I have encouraged a lot of people to visit the place. It's budget-friendly and a must for BFFs.

Time was when Hong Kong was the cheapest travel abroad. Today, I venture to guess Vietnam is the one that's easiest on the pocket, but not lacking in adventure. If fashion shopping is high on your list though , then this is NOT the place to go. It's a foodie haven. Add to that lacquerware, embroidered linen, coffee and dried fruits.
I'm scrimping on the dried jackfruit to make my supply last. Its crunch and bite rivals the best chips, without the sodium and oil.And I still have my dried candied tomato safely hidden in my fridge. I'm saving it to go with my pan-fried white cheese. We only have one bag of coffee beans left, since we got home.

Fortunately, there are some foodie memories that are relatively easy to re-live and enjoy once again at our dinner table.

Springroll is a wonderful Asian staple, and there are indeed many versions which include our very own lumpiang shanghai and piniritong lumpiang gulay o ubod. The vietnamese version has a couple of twists that add novelty to the meal. For one, it has an odd kind of mushroom which we Filipinos call tenga ng daga (not an appetizing name if you ask me). Not really an ear of a you-know-what; but a dried fungus that when re-hydrated in water grows big 5-6 times its size!
It is best eaten wrapped in lettuce and dipped in sweet-sour fish sauce. So what you have is a combination of crunch, mildly sweet-sour-salty with the lettuce's counter-cooling effect.

What's great about this recipe is you can make your own tweaking. For example you can change ground pork into ground chicken...or make it half pork and half chopped's that versatile.

  • 250 gms ground lean pork
  • 1/4 cup chopped dried fungus (tenga ng daga), soak first, chop, then measure
  • 1/2 cup finely minced carrot
  • 1/2 cup cut-up vermicelli (soak first, before measuring). It can be rice vermicelli (bihon) or mung bean vermicelli (sotanghon)
  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepper to taste (you may opt just a dash of soy sauce, but use sparingly, otherwise it will overwhelm the flavor of the other ingredients)
  • spring roll wrappers
  • 1/2 c water with a few drops of lemon or calamansi
  • oil for deep frying
Simply mix all the ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
Prepare on your work table a kitchen cloth towel to make sure the wrapper doesn't stick.You can use springroll wrapper from the wet market or the chiller section of the supermarket.

For authenticity, try your hand at the vietnamese dried wrapper. With water and lemon in a bowl, slightly dampen the dried rice paper using a silicon or regular pastry brush. If it's too wet, the wrapper becomes limp, sticky and hard to work with.

Quickly place about 1 spoon of the meat mixture and wrap tightly into a sausage, roughly 2 inches long. Tuck the sides in, roll and seal the corner tip with water.

Prepare a deep wok or deep fryer and pre-heat the oil. Cook your springrolls till golden brown.

At the table, wrap your cooked springroll in lettuce and dip in the sauce!
Best to eat with your hands.

Dipping Sauce: Sweet-Sour Fish Sauce
  • 2 T fish sauce (good quality patis)
  • 4 T water
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp minced chili
  • 1 T lime, lemon or calamansi juice
  • 1/2 carrot, grated. Sprinkle with 1 t salt and after 10 minutes, squeeze to dry.

In a small sauce pot, heat fish sauce, water and sugar till dissolved. Let cool. Add the rest of ingredients.

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