We like to eat. And even more than we like to eat, we like to cook. And even more than we like to cook, we like to cook together. That’s why we drop our TPS reports every Friday afternoon and gather in the kitchen for family meal. At restaurants, “family meal” is a venerated tradition where staffers gather together before service and eat a hearty meal, usually prepared by the kitchen staff and served buffet-style to the rest of the employees. At ChefSteps, we turn that tradition on its side: one or more of our chefs pairs up with a non-kitchen employee (a writer, perhaps, or a videographer, or a software developer) to make something amazing for the rest of us. Why do we do it? Because we believe that cooking and eating together makes us better at our jobs, and better at life. And we’re holding tight to that belief. (I mean really, can you blame us?)
Last week, development chef Nick Gavin paired up with software developer (and home cook extraordinaire) Huy Nguyen to serve choose-your-own-adventure Vietnamese spring rolls (aka “Vietnamese Subway”). Huy’s been making spring rolls since birth, so he knows a thing or two about how to do it right. Read on for his tips on how to roll your own.
Start with a rice-paper wrapper dipped quickly in warm water. It’s tempting to soak it for a few minutes, but trust us—just a quick dip will do. After you dip, lay it flat on your plate.
Add green lettuce first, for structure and color, then vermicelli noodles, green onions, basil, mint, cucumbers, and whatever other fresh ingredients you want.
Next, poach raw beef or bacon in one of two simmering mixtures: one made of beer, vinegar, and fish sauce; and one made of butter, lemongrass, and onions. (Dipping the beef in beer and vinegar is a Vietnamese tradition called bò nhúng dấm, by the way, and it literally means “beef dipped in vinegar” in Vietnamese.) If you’re feeling ambitious, as we were on this occasion, set up a binchotan (a Japanese charcoal-grill) and add charred shrimp and squid to your spring rolls. (We used octopus instead of squid because it looked nice and fresh.) If you’re not feeling ambitious, make sous vide chicken or pork belly and use that instead.
Once your wrappers are filled with delicious treasures, roll those babies up tight. They key is to work quickly and confidently: pull the edge closest to you over the top of your fillings, then fold in the sides, and roll tightly until you have a nice little burrito. And hey, if you end up with a spring-roll massacre, just grab a fork. It’ll still be yummy. Make a simple dipping sauce out of lemon juice, fish sauce, sugar, and water for dipping, and voilà! You, sir or madam, are the Vietnamese spring roll master.
What should we prepare next Friday? Add your suggestions in the comments below!