Let the good times roll

This past weekend J was generous enough to host a BBQ gathering for our high school gang, and my contribution were some Vietnamese-style spring rolls to provide verdancy to the culinary affair, however self-conscious and out of place they must have felt among the platters of burgers, hotdogs, and buffalo wings, and the Costco tub of radioactive-orange cheese balls that was polished off by the end of the evening (it had to be referenced).  I don’t eat spring rolls often, and am generally not the biggest enthusiast of Vietnamese cuisine, but do think they are a good number for the summer with such light, refreshing ingredients and a simple, almost heat-less preparation. For economic and practical reasons I opted to use Chinese barbeque roast pork instead of shrimp in the filling. I might actually prefer the roast pork to shrimp in these spring rolls, probably because the crustacean in the versions I’ve had in the past have almost always been bland and unappetizingly limp. The sauce was a tasty one, velvety and rich with mild heat (that’s easily adjustable). I even stole away the leftovers in anticipation of lavishing it on anything from a fried egg sandwich to sliced tomatoes to a big cold bowl of udon noodles and julienned cucumbers. That sauce should be made and used more often; I bet it would also make a killer base for a thick winter stew. I based it off this recipe from Rasa Malaysia, using about half a 20 oz bottle of hoisin sauce, 1/3 cup of peanut butter, an indulgent handful of minced garlic, and rice vinegar, sesame oil, and chili sauce to taste. And a bit of hot water to loosen up the peanut butter and achieve the desired saucerific consistency.  Good (food + friends) = good times.  It’s simple arithmetic.

The spread, pre-rolling: 1 pound of roast pork, mint and basil, chives, cukes, the green leafy parts of a lettuce head (I used romaine, but boston or iceberg would probably work better), and rice noodles.  The roast pork was my limiting ingredient — I was able to make about 45 or 50 small rolls from the pound I had.

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Roast pork was probably my favorite childhood meat.  The sight of that viscous honey barbeque sauce dripping slowly off the bottoms of the roasted pork chunks, the glistening meat striated with fat, hung like martyrs on those metal hooks awaiting their demise, still mesmerizes me every time.

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Innards shot:

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Vietnamese and a sesame ball date

On your average weekday night, we went out for Vietnamese in Tai Po Centre.  This was my first Vietnamese meal since coming to Hong Kong, so of course I had to order some pho.

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The simplicity of pho is largely what makes it such an appealing dish to me. In the States, I’ve had ‘pho’ that’s been unnecessarily complicated with tripe, tendon, and an assortment of other body parts. While some of these things can be quite delicious at other times, I prefer my pho to contain only those paper thin, fat-lined slices of beef steak. I don’t eat beef regularly, and pho is one of the few dishes in which I prefer having beef, so I want my pho experiences to be as unadulterated with non-muscle meat structures as possible.

I enjoyed my noodles — the meat, cooked to a nice medium in the steaming, fragrant beef broth, was tender and succulent. The combination of the noodles and soup, though nothing to write home about, induced a fuzzy warm feeling my stomach (but I did get a slight headache from the msg), and the textural contrast between the soft noodles and the crunch of onions and bean sprouts made the dish all the more enjoyable, as it usually does.

Owen got the pho with shredded chicken. Looked tasty.

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Alice posing dutifully with her Vietnamese spam(?) spring rolls. I think these got a thumbs down.

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Afterward, Owen, Shari, and I weaved our way to Tai Po Market, as I owed Shari (due to reasons too humiliating to disclose online) a joint sesame ball-eating session.

At Tai Po Square, after securing these oily, wonderballs. Sesame balls are deep-fried glutinous rice balls coated with sesame seeds and stuffed with a sweet paste (traditionally red bean, although were of the lotus seed variety).  Shar shar is having a toothpaste commercial moment:

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Cheers! Communal dining at its finest:

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