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My first Dinner with Foodie Friends here in the NYC area was so much fun! Read more about it here. For this next meal, we’ll be rolling with it. 😉 Take a look at the menu and let me know if you can join me for dinner!

NOVEMBER 11, 2012 MENU

ABOUT THE MEAL
Another type of dish that ranks high on my list of SouthEastern Asian favorites are rolls. As part of this upcoming meal, you get to taste all of my favorite rolls: Hmong egg rolls, Hmong cabbage rolls, steamed rice rolls and the unroll – Vietnamese bun salad. In addition to the main meal, there will be snacks to enjoy pre-dinner while we wait for everyone to arrive.

I tend to think of Vietnamese Bun Salad as the “unroll” because it has all the elements of a roll: noodles, protein, vegetables, herbs and a light sauce/dressing, but you don’t roll it. Hence, the unroll. 😉 In this light and refreshing noodle salad, room temperature rice noodles are layered with vegetables and herbs, then topped off with your choice of protein. For this dinner, you will have a choice of shrimp and/or egg rolls. The salad “dressing” is poured in to individual bowls of this delicious noodle salad at the table and sriracha sauce is added based on your spice tolerance level.

If you’ve dined at any Asian restaurant, you’ve probably had some version of an egg roll at some point in your life. But, after you have a taste of Hmong egg rolls, you will wonder how those other “egg rolls” can carry the same name, but taste so different! The one that violates this claim the most is the Chinese egg roll that is filled mostly with cabbage. Blech! And this is the reaction from someone who really likes cabbage! In the Hmong version, ground pork is mixed with cellophane noodles. Carrots and cabbage are only added to the mixture for coloring and texture. This mixture is rolled up in a rice wrapper and deep-fried until it turns a golden brown. What really makes this version of an egg roll stand out is the homemade peanut dipping sauce which I’ll talk about in a little bit.

Now, when you hear cabbage roll, you typically think of a European dish sometimes doused in a tomato-based sauce. That’s not what you’re getting here. Hmong cabbage rolls use a very similar mixture to their egg roll counterpart. It’s pretty much the same minus the carrots and cabbage. You could technically make the egg rolls with this identical mixture. But, I prefer my egg rolls with the carrots and cabbage. Once fully wrapped in the prepared cabbage leaves, the Hmong cabbage rolls are steamed until they’re fully cooked. These cabbage rolls are delicious both when they’re piping hot or served cold as leftovers. This roll is also served with the same homemade peanut dipping sauce.

So, let’s talk about this homemade peanut dipping sauce. If you like SouthEast Asian food, you will LOVE this sauce. It marries the nutty flavor of crushed peanuts to a lightly sweetened base. Then, to this combination, you add finely chopped fresh peppers and finely chopped fresh cilantro to add that fresh bite that you just can’t get from something you pour out of a bottle. Believe me, it’s AMAZING!

But, that’s not all! The last roll in this meal is a steamed rice roll. I personally love these rolls so much, if someone was willing to make them for me regularly, I could probably eat them regularly and not get sick of them. That’s how much I love them. So now you’re probably wondering what they are, right? Hehe. Well, when/if you go to have dimsum, there is this dish called a noodle roll. You can get it with shrimp, minced beef, or minced pork and it’s drizzled with a brown sauce when it’s served. It’s delicious! My daughter and I always get multiple plates of this dish because we love it! In the SouthEast Asian version of this dish, it’s filled with ground pork that’s been sauteed with herbs. Sometimes, we even put mushrooms in the filling. Hopefully, I’ll be able to find the mushrooms. We’ll see… Oh, and we serve it with a different sauce than the Chinese. I’m pretty sure you won’t be disappointed in this version of it.

I know that’s a lot of food already. But, make sure you save room for dessert! We’ll see what I find at the Asian grocery stores that will go with this meal. So dessert will be a surprise!

Hopefully, I’ll see you at my table. To check seat availability or if you have questions about the meal, send an email to chopsticksorafork@gmail.com.

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