Now that I’m officially moved out, I’ve come to really appreciate all the wonderful comfort food I had access to while living at home. For me, comfort food is a hodge podge of traditional Vietnamese dishes I grew up with as well as the normal American fare. My mom did a really great job of introducing us to different tastes when we were young and her golden rule of “try everything at least once” has stuck with me. When I was a kid, a normal week’s dinner rotation could include anything from homemade pho to spaghetti to Kraft macaroni and cheese. It was not unusual to have a random mix of dinners Monday-Friday.
I (usually) love everything my mom makes and it always impresses me how she can whip up all of her dishes from memory. There are no recipes, no measurements or guides to tell her what to do…much to my chagrin. I mean, how does she expect me to learn how to make all of these foods and carry on her legacy if she doesn’t leave behind recipes?! Her response….”just watch what I do.” Oh, okay, I’ll just use my superhuman, photographic memory to sear (pun intended) all of your pinches of salt and eyeball measurements into my brain. Totally doable. NOT.
In an effort to beat the learning curve, I’ve been making her tell me exactly what she does while she’s making a certain dish and then I sneakily add it in my Notes app on my phone. A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. A few weeks ago we spent the day cooking away. We made traditional Goi Cuon, otherwise known as Fresh Spring Rolls. So begins the first installment of In the Kitchen with Mama Nguyen:
Just to preface….traditional Vietnamese dishes are suuuuper annoying to make if you’re only cooking for one or two people. We like to incorporate as many random herbs and spices as possible, however unecessary. Proceed with caution.
1lb shrimp, boiled/peeled/de-veined and halved
1lb pork belly, boiled and sliced (can also use pork loin)
1/2 pack of rice vermicelli, boiled, strain in a colander
6 green onions
1 bunch of cilantro
1 bunch of basil leaves
1 bunch of mint leaves
1 head of red leaf lettuce
1 cucumber, sliced thinly lengthwise
1 pack of rice paper wraps
For peanut dipping sauce:
7oz of hoison sauce
1 tbsp of peanut butter
Crushed peanuts (optional)
Mix hoison sauce and peanut butter on medium heat until peanut butter has melted into the sauce. Add water accordingly, if the sauce becomes too thick. Add crushed peanuts before serving.
To assemble the rolls, dip rice paper wrapper in hot water and carefully spread it onto a plate. Place lettuce, handful of noodles, two pieces of pork and two halves of shrimp on one end of the wrapper. Place whatever greens you like on top. Fold in each side of the wrapper and tightly roll all of the ingredients down. Sound tricky? It is. The wrapper can be your best friend or your worst enemy, just make sure you get it on the plate as soon as it comes out of the water and that you tightly roll the ingredients or else everything will fall out of your roll.