Dueling Dishes: Vietnamese Rolls
Well, talk is cheap, Brodard. Viễn Đông on Brookhurst makes a damn fine spring roll in the classical fashion. Is it nem nướng cuốn? No. But this week, Stick A Fork In It pits the finest pork loaf rolls against the archetypal spring rolls.
|hhoyer @ flickr.com CC BY-NC-SA 2.0|
So what goes in these famed Brodard Château nem nướng cuốn anyway? Principally nem, which is pork paste that's served either as meatballs or as slices of a bright pink pork meatloaf. At Brodard Château, the nem is paired with lettuce, herbs, cucumbers, scallions and crackling slivers of fried wonton skin, then wrapped up in soaked rice paper. It's like a cross between a spring roll (fried and crackly) and a salad roll (soft and chewy).
None of that showed up with our nem nướng cuốn. There was no table salad. There were just two dishes of a thick, sweet sauce, and the sauce was not particularly good. Someone in the kitchen must have realized that some diners like to dip in peanut sauce, some in duck sauce and some in fish sauce, because the sauce tasted like jam and peanut butter with some fish sauce and chiles mixed in. The cuon actually tasted better without the sauce, which is a real shame. A few herbs, a few lettuce leaves and some nước chấm and these would have been even better.
(Yes, we could have asked for it, but it seemed silly since an order is two rolls.)
Viễn Đông doesn't serve nem nướng cuốn. Viễn Đông's claim to roll fame are the ubiquitous chả giò, spring rolls stuffed with meat and noodles and vegetables, rolled up in rice paper, battered and deep-fried. An order costs $5.35 but gets you four large spring rolls, cut in half and served with a table salad so large that you could literally eat nothing but this dish and call it lunch.
The rolls themselves are a revelation: stuffed to the brim with seasoned filling that screams "pork". The shell is unbelievably crispy, even after sitting on the table for half an hour (not that the rolls will last that long without being eaten), with a crispy, air-pockety lightness that is impossible to eat quietly.
While Brodard Château's nem nướng cuốn are worthy (except for that bizarre marmalade they call dipping sauce), Viễn Đông's chả giò blow them out of the water. Viễn Đông has a great deal more to offer on their menu, as well, but that's a post for another time.
Brodard Château, 9100 Trask, Garden Grove; (714) 899-8273.
Viễn Đông, 14271 Brookhurst, Garden Grove; (714) 531-8253.