Summertime, and the Eatin’ is Easy
One of the best ways to embrace the spirit of the current season is to reflect it with the foods that we eat. This week, I literally am getting seasonal with my dining choices by seeking out lively summer rolls. Here to match the brightness of a sun-kissed July day, these healthy wraps are as refreshing as a guzzle of ice-cold water on a sweltering beach, and they’ll keep you in tip-top shape so you can run wild with your outdoor activities.
Personally, I couldn’t be more in the mood for this prized Vietnamese dish after all of the burger chowing and ice cream binging I just indulged in during Fourth of July. While I don’t regret a single bite, my body is telling me that some sustenance and rejuvenation in the form of nourishing food is in order.
As summer rolls are called in Vietnam, goi cuon are reminiscent of a giant salad rolled into one delightfully edible bundle of joy. While the dish is said to have originated in Vietnam, many neighboring Southeast Asian countries such as Laos and Thailand have adopted their own scrumptious versions of the roll. If you’re as ready to bite into summer as I am, venture to a couple of my favorite OYK eateries.
Pho My Lien
Regardless of where I am on the island at any moment, when a craving for mouth-watering Vietnamese food hits, I will drive over to Aiea just for a taste of the authentic fare that husband-and-wife duo Tommy Dang and Lien Bui serve up at their Westridge Shopping Center restaurant Pho My Lien.
Well suited to my current cravings, the menu features a variety of Summer Rolls ($5.75 two rolls, $3.25 one roll), all of which burst with kelly-green lettuce, mint and basil, as well as crisp bean sprouts and soft strands of vermicelli rice noodles.
Wrapped in banh trang, or rice paper, Summer Rolls with Barbecue Chicken are among Pho My Lien’s most popular choices, as charred meat inside them emits flavors of lemongrass, ginger, garlic and soy sauce. Dang explains that in the couple’s native Vietnam, it is traditional to eat these and other meaty summer rolls — including shredded or barbecue pork and barbecue beef — with tangy fish sauce on the side. On the other hand, Summer Rolls with Boiled Shrimp or Tofu call for rich house-made peanut sauce as their winning accompaniment.
On hot summer days, customers can cool down with these light pockets of energy, and like many dishes served at Pho My Lien, the summer rolls stem from a recipe handed down from Bui’s mother. Without a doubt, this gives them a deliciously comforting homemade touch.
Pho My Lien
Westridge Shopping Center
98-150 Kaonohi St. Suite B213-B
JJ Bistro & French Pastry
When JJ Luangkhot was a teenager growing up in Laos, his father would frequently take him to a Vietnamese restaurant that had amazing summer rolls. These pupus left such a lasting impression on the now-owner and head chef of JJ Bistro & French Pastry, that they inspired him to create Laotian Rock ‘n Roll summer rolls for his Kaimuki restaurant.
“Our summer rolls are very different from most of the summer rolls in Honolulu, maybe even the nation,” asserts Luangkhot, who has lived in the Islands for two decades.
Patrons like myself agree that they’re quite memorable, as the rockin’ rolls have been adored on the menu for 14 years now.
What makes them so special, you may ask? They present a Laotian twist on the Vietnamese classic, as the chilled wraps feature tender chicken breast sparkling with yellow curry seasonings. After the curried meat is sautéed with onions, it is combined with a colorful harvest salad of veggies, vermicelli noodles and rice paper. Unlike traditional summer rolls, dipping sauce is not necessary for these creations, as more than enough flavor already is jam-packed into each handcrafted pouch.
Eight pieces of Laotian Rock ‘n Roll summer rolls are available a la carte for $8.95, or they may be sampled as part of JJ Bistro’s popular four-course meal.
JJ Bistro & French Pastry
3447 Waialae Ave.