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.
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.