The answer is perilla

Hi y’all. I’m writing this on a particularly good day. Joff and I made burgers for lunch, booked our tickets/lodging for our Bangkok trip in October, and I got some writing done! And all before 4 pm! That’s enough reason to celebrate, if you ask me. (Scoff at my measly productivity goals all you want. I’m an unemployed loaf, cut me some slack.) 

I want to tell you about the spring rolls I made last week. Now, I’ve made spring rolls a bunch of times in the past, but these were different, these spring rolls were special~ and that’s all thanks, in part, to the wonder herb that is Vietnamese perilla (aka shiso).

Typically, Vietnamese spring rolls contain pork, shrimp or crab, mushrooms, carrots, (arrowroot) vermicelli, onions, and garlic. It’s seasoned with some salt, sugar, and fish sauce before it’s rolled up in some rice paper and fried til crisp. Lately, though, I’d been daydreaming about a certain flavor combination that I thought would go really well together: pork and perilla.

Ever since we moved to Vietnam, I’ve been obsessed with the local herbs, Vietnamese perilla and lemon balm in particular. These two herbs are always on the table during bun cha and banh xeo, tucked into a bowl of bun bo nam bo, and of course, served with a plate of spring rolls or nem. I affectionately refer to them as the Splash Brothers of Vietnamese cuisine, cos as long as they’re around, you’re guaranteed a winning meal.

So this time, in addition to the traditional spring roll filling, I added some chopped perilla into the mixture, and let me tell ya, the moment I took a bite, this song for real started playing in my head.

 

Here’s the (rough) recipe:

  • 350g ground pork
  • 8 brown mushrooms, diced
  • half a large carrot, diced
  • 1/4 a large white onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp. chopped perilla
  • seasonings: 1/2 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. sugar, 1 tsp. fish sauce, 1/4 tsp. ground pepper
  • a pack of rice paper wrapper
  • vegetable oil for frying

1. Dice the mushrooms, carrot, onion, and perilla.

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4. Mix the veg and herb with the ground pork. Use your hands, get dirty.

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3. Pat the mixture down, spreading it out until you’ve got about an inch of filling from the top to the bottom and all around the bowl. This will make it easier to incorporate the seasoning and will give you a good idea if you’ve seasoned enough.

4. Sprinkle the seasoning on the mixture making sure to cover all areas uniformly, then mix with your hands to fully incorporate.

5. For the rice paper wrapper, grab a bowl and fill it with warm water. Working with one sheet at a time, dip the sheet into the water until the paper becomes pliable (til it’s the texture of fresh spring roll wrappers), then lay the sheet on your working area (I use a large chopping board).

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6. Take about a tbsp to tbsp and a half worth of the filling and place it near the top of the sheet. Working from the top, take the top and fold it over the filling, then take each side and fold it over that, then roll the wrapped filling all the way down.

7. Heat some oil in a pan and fry them babies up til they’re crisp and have lightly browned.

For the dipping sauce (nuoc cham):

  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 c water
  • splash of rice wine vinegar
  • chopped garlic and chili
  1. Mix the first four ingredients in a bowl til fully combined (make sure sugar is dissolved), and top with the garlic and chili.

* Note: I never measure anything when I cook; I just eyeball everything. The measurements you see here are just rough estimates/guides. Before filling the wrappers, take some of the mixture and fry it up so you can taste if it needs any additional seasoning, then adjust accordingly.

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they may not be the prettiest but they sure are tasty

So that’s my first recipe for this blog. That was pretty fun. I promise to take better pictures next time but when you’ve got raw pork in your hands, washing your hands and taking photos every few minutes is kind of a hassle. (Which is why I enlisted Joff to take some process photos while I did the spring roll wrapping.) Also, it’ll give me an excuse to make more gifs! Please notice the gif!

If you need me to clarify any of the steps, just holla.

The Sunday Currently Vol. 1

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Reading 

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen. I was a bit worried it might be a little too heavy for my current mood given the subject matter, but I’ve been loving what I’ve read so far. It’s the eighth book I’ve read–or rather am reading–this year, which means if I want to make my goal of reading at least 30 books this year I really need to step it up. But then again, compared to the two measly books I read last year, it’s a huge improvement, so I’m not gonna be too tough on myself this time.

The other books I’ve read this year, ranked by the order I read them:

  1. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
  2. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara*
  3. The Sell-Out by Paul Beatty
  4. Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein*
  5. Outline: A Novel by Rachel Cusk
  6. Double Cup Love by Eddie Huang
  7. The Girls by Emma Cline*

(* – the books I especially enjoyed/loved)

Writing

Inspired by a blog I stumbled on last week, I’ve started a daily writing project: flash fiction inspired by Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day. It’s been really helpful in keeping me writing, especially given my current situation of being in between jobs, it helps me feel like I’m at least getting ‘something’ done, however inconsequential that ‘something’ is.

Listening

SaigonRockandSoul

Since Joff’s usually got some music playing, it’s been a while since I’ve actively sought out new music online, but I’ve been hearing some good stuff at CAMA ATK, the venue he works at as events/operations manager. So far, I’m really liking Sunflower Bean, Alvvays, and this amazing compilation of songs by Vietnamese bands from the ’70s called Saigon Rock & Soul. Listen to the whole album here.

Thinking

I should really start looking for a new job. We have friends visiting from Manila this entire month so it’s been a little difficult focusing on what needs to be done. Luckily I still have money saved from a previous job so the situation isn’t that dire.. yet.

Smelling

Some lingering smells from the Thai food we had delivered for lunch today.

Wishing

I would learn to multitask better.

Hoping

For good weather tomorrow. It’s the last two days of Seka and Roman’s trip and it would suck if the rain ruined that.

Loving

David Cross’s new comedy special on Netflix, Making America Great Again.

Wanting

My purple Uniqlo raincoat and moss green rubber hi-cut Chucks I left in Manila.

Needing

More time to read, and more books! For anyone who’s reading this, I’d appreciate your recommendations. I have a few lined up but could use a nudge or two in the right direction.

Feeling 

Drunk on pizza. Had dinner with Seka, Roman, and Joff at Pizza 4 P’s, an awesome pizza joint here in Hanoi that’s got some pretty terrific and unconventional flavors. My favorite from tonight’s dinner was the duck, apple and gorgonzola pizza.

Pizza 4Ps Duck gorgonzola

Clicking

On the importance of ending the stigma of HIV – http://www.bustle.com/articles/176482-i-have-hiv-but-its-stigma-that-makes-me-sick
On creativity and what it means to be a ‘good reader’ – https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/08/10/auden-dyers-hand-reading-writing/
On child boxers in Cambodia – http://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2016/08/Cambodias-Child-Boxers/495083/

(Got the idea for this post from Carina, who got it from siddathornton.)