For the second time, my friend Don said he wished it was 2005 again.
I teased him yet again about how meeting me was the highlight of his life? :P
"I mean, sure you met me, but I'm still in your life?" I told him.
"Haha. Of course, chi (Vietnamese term of respect for older female)," he said.
Good answer! :P
Anyway, a few concerned IMs later and we briefly reminisced about our summer in Vietnam. Which led me to remember another memory from that summer and another tangential recipe I've had sitting in the queue.
This incident doesn't concern Don, but another friend.
We were circling Truc Bach Lake, trying to find a restaurant that served pho cuon (Vietnamese rice noodle rolls). We were on the right side of the lake -- the north, but the taxi driver kept driving around and around. We couldn't find the exact restaurant we were looking for so we finally just got out at a random pho cuon restaurant.
Now, you know I'm a South-Central Coastal girl at heart. But there are a few Hanoi dishes that I came to like, Bun Cha Hanoi Nem Ran (Vietnamese Hanoi-Style Rice Vermicelli Noodles with Grilled Pork Patties and Egg Rolls) and Cha Ca Thang Long (Vietnamese Hanoi-Style Turmeric Fish with Dill).
Pho cuon was basically a thicker rice noodle sheet, with sauteed beef and greens, wrapped into a roll. It's not as delicate as banh cuon (Vietnamese rice noodle rolls), but it certainly had its own charm.
So my friend and I ordered about 20 of them since there were three of us. I also ordered a plate of the noodles stir-fried, but requested that they use fresh noodles, not pre-sliced refrigerated ones.
And what did they do? I saw the waiter go to the fridge, grab a bag of cold noodles, stir-fry those, and served it to us.
Now, I don't generally fuss too much about food. But I had specifically said I wanted fresh noodles, not the ones I saw him take out of the fridge.
So I asked my friend what he wanted me to do? He just gave me a shrug, told me it was my call.
We weren't even hungry anymore really. But it was the principle of the matter! I hate getting cheated. I hated that after bargaining for an item and then paying for it, that vendors in Hanoi then came back with the retort that they miscalculated and wanted me to pay more. After bargaining! After settling on a price! After paying for the item! Once, I even grabbed my money out of the woman's hand and gave her cards back, only for her to then backpeddle and say what a bargain she just gave me. And it happened again and again to my friends too. I hated that I specifically said not to use the noodles I just saw them pull out of the fridge and they disregarded what I said and did it anyway.
My full wrath was not a pretty sight!
I think they literally trembled in fear. The waiter took the plate of cold stir-fried noodles away. And then sliced the fresh noodles and stir-fried those.
And you know what?
Freshly sliced and stir-fried noodles taste waaaay better than refrigerated stir-fried noodles.
And my friend? I thought he was pretty alright. Not because he put up with the whole scene, but because he accepted that sometimes, that's just how I am. Guess that's why we're still friends. :)
Anyway, pho cuon doesn't require much of a recipe. Saute some beef or any other meat of your choice, saute greens if you wish or use fresh ones. Add herbs if you like. Roll. Dip in fish sauce and that's it.
Pho Cuon Ha Noi (Vietnamese Rice Noodle Rolls Hanoi-Style)
For a whole bunch of rolls, you'll need:
1 lb package of banh cuon/ho fun (Vietnamese/Chinese rice noodle sheets)
1/2 lb beef, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese Fish Sauce)
1 cup sliced greens such as mustard, lettuce, cilantro, etc.
Nuoc Mam Cham (Vietnamese Fish Dipping Sauce)
Some day, I'll get around to making my own rice noodle sheets. But until then, you can buy them packaged at your local Asian grocery store for a few bucks. Remember, fresh rice noodles, not refrigerated.
I used mustard greens, but any kind will do. Thinly slice and set aside.
Slice the beef, add 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp sugar, 1/2 tsp ground black pepper, and 1 tsp Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese Fish Sauce). Stir-fry on medium-high heat until the meat is cooked through. Set aside. Saute the greens too at this point if you'd like.
Then it's a simple matter of laying out the beef and greens on a noodle sheet and rolling.
Go as tight as you can so the filling doesn't fall out.
You know how hard it is to photograph food that's mostly white?
Or to hold chopsticks with your left hand when you're right-handed, just for a photo?
Serve with Nuoc Mam Cham (Vietnamese Fish Dipping Sauce).
But you know, who am I kidding? After the photos were taken, I tossed everything back into the pan, especially with all those lovely beef juices, and stir-fried the noodles instead. :)
Now, you can enjoy!
Other Hanoi-style dishes you might like:
Banh Tom (Vietnamese Shrimp and Yam Fritters)
Bun Cha Hanoi Nem Ran (Vietnamese Hanoi-Style Rice Vermicelli Noodles with Grilled Pork Patties and Egg Rolls)
Cha Ca Thang Long (Vietnamese Hanoi-Style Turmeric Fish with Dill)
1 year ago today, Tiki-Ti - Los Angeles.
2 years ago today, Free Movies: Old Pasadena Film Festival - Pasadena (Old Town).
3 years ago today, the first of many squash blossom recipes - Bong Bi Nhoi Tom Chien (Vietnamese Shrimp-Stuffed Deep-fried Squash Blossoms).