Monday, July 26, 2010


We have found a wonderful friend in our neighbor across the street, Teri. What a jewel she is! She's kind, soft spoken and a natural with kids. My kids adore her and had a blast the other day when we visited her house and she made for us a traditional Vietnamese dish.

Now, let me preface this by saying, I don't know squat about Asian cuisine. I've tried to make stir fry and failed miserably. It never tastes the same as the restaurant and over all is bland and boring. When Teri invited us over for lunch, I immediately asked if she could show us some techniques. She agreed but all the while saying how she's not an expert and likes to cut corners. I knew that what she was going to make would be great, whatever the avenue and I was right.

We walked into her beautifully decorated house, full of pictures of family and friends and aromas calling me to the kitchen. I made a bee-line for the island where she was rolling spring rolls. I peppered her with questions, with baby on hip and camera hand. She gracefully picked up each ingredient with her chopsticks and placed them in the wrapper. I was envious of her chopstick abilities. She made it looks so easy.

1. Take one rice paper that has been soaked in water until soft and lay it out.
2. Lay a piece of fresh green leaf lettuce down. Top with cooked rice noodles.
3. Top with Vietnamese version of ham, two slices. (she mentioned that sometimes they used shredded pork)
4. Take edge closest to you and start to roll, tucking in as you go. Fold in just right side. Do just one turn then place 3 shrimp halves down. Fold in left side to hold down shrimp.
5. Lay down a long piece of chive, leaving a tail hanging out to the left. Her chives looked different than the chives I've seen. More like a blade of grass than the tubal shape of the ones I get. It tasted very good.
6. Gently roll up the spring roll to hold it all together. The wrapper is very sticky and holds very well.

She served it with a sweet sauce that reminded me of hoisin. I don't know exactly what it was but it was delish. She topped it with roasted peanuts and the traditional garlic pepper sauce. Dip and eat! So good.

Next she prepared the most refreshing dish. At the bottom was a mixture of bean sprouts, julienned cucumber, lettuce and mint. Top that with the rice noodles and top that with the most amazing BBQ pork. Now this is where she cheats. She buys it already grilled from the Asian market. I'm telling you, this stuff was so good that if you can buy it like this, then go for it. It was amazing.

The pork deserves it's own paragraph. It was sticky sweet with a salty taste, but not overly salty. Just the perfect balance of salty and sweet, chewy but tender. The meat was thin and heavily marinated like a jerky. It had a great texture, a bit toothsome but in a perfect kind of way. This stuff, oh man, I could have eaten it like candy.

All of that was topped with a green onion mixture (that I didn't get the 411 on), fresh mint, cilantro (if you like) and a fish sauce. Now, let me say, I was scared of the fish sauce. I've had some before and was so turned off. But Teri's was delightful, it was salty, sweet and brought the perfect amount of moisture to the dish.

Teri held Wil as I shovel this amazing meal into my mouth (and I would have used a shovel, had I had one) with a fork, not the time for that! Wil was teething something fierce, as he always seems to be, and I was continually whipping out an arsenal of snacks to keep him busy.

Isaiah and Lily were eating surprisingly well. I forgot their sippy cups and was nervous they would knock orange juice all over her table but they did a great job. It made me so happy to see them chowing down different foods. That's one thing we always try to do with them is make the variety of the foods we eat, different and unusual from time to time. We want to keep their little palates open to new flavors and textures.

It was a great time. She's going to come over soon to show us how to stir-fry! I'm so excited. I will give you the nitty gritty on that as well. I hope this inspires you. And if you happen to be an expert on Vietnamese food or any Asian food, please share tips or ideas in the comment box. I would love to hear them.
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