Brodard’s Nem Nuong Cuon Remixed

By Tsz on June 29, 2010

Personality-wise, Kanye West isn’t someone you would want to meet your mother. Musically however, he’s up there amongst the musical greats (in my book, that is).

Take “I Wonder” for example. West has an uncanny knack for taking snippets of the classic, Labi Siffre’s “My Song,” then mixing in a sweet beat and lyrics to transform it into a musically delicious morsel.

In cooking, I strive to be like Kanye—to take classic dishes and remixing them into my own.

After a particularly (stomach) fulfilling day at Westminster where I was inducted to the wonderful nem nuong cuon (aka pork spring roll) world that is Brodard, I couldn’t wait to recreate it into something new.

First step was to relive the experience. Luckily, there was plenty of photographic evidence to review.

Brodard’s rolls are quite innocuous looking. Yet, underneath the translucent rice wrappers is a tempest of flavors and textures. First, there is the grilled snappy pork sausage with a garlicky punch. Then a shatteringly crispy chive egg roll comes into play. Best part though is that it finishes on a light note, with crisp romaine, spears of fresh cucumber and aromatic chives. You won’t find any filler rice noodles here.

If that wasn’t enough, the nem nuong cuon comes with the “house special sauce,” a secret concoction that makes the rolls taste even better. It’s simultaneously sweet, spicy, salty and comforting.

To recreate the rolls, I started out making the chive egg rolls, a easy task with prepared wrappers. Cutting each wrapper in half, I wrapped them around a few chinese chives loosely (goal is to get layers of crispy wafers) and glued the ends with a bit of egg wash. A minute in a hot oil bath afterwards was all it took to get them golden brown and ready.

Next came the protein portion of the program. Instead of the traditional pork patties, I made fish pinwheels instead for a lighter summer fare. Using fish paste from my favorite purveyor, Ocean Plus Fish Market in Rosemead, I mixed in chopped green onions, chinese chives and reconstituted shitake mushrooms. Then, I spread the mixture thinly on a sheets of nori and rolled them up as if making pin wheel cookies. A slightly longer hot oil bath is then in order to cook them through.

With the chive egg rolls and fish pinwheels ready, all that was left was to assemble the rolls. I dunked a piece of rice paper in a bowl of hot water and layer on shredded carrots, chinese chives, cucumber spears, romaine leaves, a chive egg roll and a fish pinwheel before rolling it into a neat little package.

Oh, and before I forget, the sauce! Made a close replica by boiling the water left over from reconstituting the shitake mushrooms and adding fish sauce, sugar, grated carrots, Sriracha garlic sauce and chopped garlic. When all the flavors have melded, I thickened it with a cornstarch slurry and finished it with egg to mimic the look of Brodard’s sauce. Theirs is spicier and more orange in color, to which I suspect is attributed to more chili sauce and grounded dried shrimp.

To complete the experience, I made my own version soda chanh (lime soda) with a sugar syrup made with a mixture of white and brown sugar cooked with pomelo zest, pomelo juice and sparkling water. The perfect accompaniment to the nem nuong cuon.

The verdict? The judge of the day, a genuine Vietnamese foodie (who was also the one who introduced me to Brodard) ate till he could eat no more. Success for team Kanye!