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On this particular evening we were sitting down to grill lemongrass beef for salad rolls (or Summer rolls, or Spring rolls or fresh rolls). Luckily, Mike came to the rescue and told his mom that’d we’d take the vermicelli home.On the table, there were the usual suspects, a giant bowl of fish sauce (ruby red from an absurd amount of chilis), a second bowl of fish sauce (specifically made for me with fewer chilis), vegetables, the raw meat, herbs and a HUGE bowl of vermicelli. I fried it up the next day with the leftover lemongrass beef and it was delicious. So, when the thought of a giant bowl of vermicelli is just too much, go with this quinoa bowl.This was my first time having salad rolls that didn’t come pre-wrapped in saran and I wasn’t too sure what went where, so I just followed along. It’s light and tasty and the texture kind of reminds me of another Vietnamese favourite, broken rice.Side note: don’t ever let a Vietnamese person fool you into thinking that your salad rolling skills don’t matter. They’re over there, expertly rolling vegetables, meat and whatever else into incredibly tissue thin rice paper rounds watching you to literally see HOW YOU ROLL. Quinoa is fantastic in salads, so it’s no surprise that it’s delicious as a substitute for the noodles in a bún bowl.Luckily, I have a lot of experience rolling spring rolls for my mom, so my rolling action is excellent. I didn’t see any vermicelli enter the equation, so I just went with it. Me (still whispering): What do you mean, it’s for me? Bún are super simple affairs: vermicelli, a bunch of herbs and vegetables, a protein and a whole lot of fish sauce to pour on top.Anyway, the Le family way of rolling goes like this: put a bunch of meat on the grill. After about six or seven rolls, my curiosity got the better of me so I asked Mike what it was for. Mike: My mom thinks all non-Vietnamese people like vermicelli in their rolls. Me: I wasn’t sure if Mike was joking or not, but I didn’t know his mom well enough to not eat the intended-for-me-vermicelli, so I had a go at it. I was hungry and the rolls with the vermicelli were delicious. My protein of choice are definitely these lemongrass pork meatballs.Well, one of the first times I went over to Mike’s family’s house, his mom prepared a massive Vietnamese feast.
Everyone’s smiling and making small talk about the weather and you’re basically worried about sounding coherent and likeable at the SAME TIME?Dip your round rice paper into a shallow bowl of hot water. Me: Hmm…that is true, all the other rolls I’ve eaten have had vermicelli in them. But twenty rolls later, everyone was slowing down and I had yet to make a noticeable dent in the noodles. They’re super quick: just mix all of the ingredients together gently, shape and bake!In Mike’s family’s case, they grill their protein at the table (using a handy indoor grill), dip their rice paper into steaming bowls of water and wrap up their rolls on plates.Basically, it’s a grill it, assemble it, roll it, eat it sort of thing, all at the kitchen table.Mike had told his mom beforehand that I love Vietnamese food. The thing about Vietnamese food, as I’ve learned over the years, is that it can be pretty family specific.
Some families will roll their salad rolls in their hands, some will use a plate and some will let their mom roll everything before they even make it to the table.