Friday, March 18, 2011

Dish 1: Vietnamese Eggrolls

When one thinks about eggrolls, the image of greasy yet tasty finger food often comes to mind. The evocative image of +$1 for a combo meal dances in the head, and well, that’s it. Eggrolls are a mainstay of Chinese Restaurants, but they are not important. A throwaway, like the first female child of a traditional Chinese couple. But whereas the Chinese equivalent has failed us, the Vietnamese has excelled. Crispy, fat and plump. The Vietnamese eggroll is reminiscent of a cigar, with the girth and length that would make any homosexual blush with anticipation. But the one major characteristic about the Vietnamese eggrolls that are universal, at least in Vietnamese restaurants in California, are the fact that they are all delicious (this is not the case in Chicago where they are reminiscent of the Chinese ones). I pondered this with my brother. Why, regardless of restaurant, locale or zip code in California, are they all delicious? His answer, “Because they are fresh.”

It is interesting to discuss the nuances of “farm to table cuisine” versus, produce purchased at a farmer’s market. But when it all comes down to it, the differences are in degrees and likely intangible. The difference is premised on sentiment and goodwill towards our animal kin and not so much on the quality of the loin. But Dear Reader, the leap between frozen and fresh are leaps and bounds. This is entirely the case with eggrolls. The ones you see riding on a dim sum cart or tacked on as a +1 are likely to be frozen. Manufactured at City of Industry, California and the epicenter of the mortgage meltdown, these infernal fingers are trekked over to your local Chinese restaurant ready for your consumption while accompanied with that sugary plum sauce. Vietnamese eggrolls are different, they are made at the restaurant. You see the Vietnamese ladies hunched over with the egg wrappers spooning the mixture of pork and reconstiuted woodear mushrooms before the flick of their wrists transforming meat paste into Asian burrito. The Vietnamese Eggroll will always taste like pork, and mushrooms, not fried skin -not something frozen 1,300 miles away.

This is ultimately a tale of globalization. The Chinese are victims to it. We have lost the eggroll to refrigeration and interstate commerce. The only thing satisfying about Chinese eggrolls are the qualities that make fried foods so appealing. But the Vietnamese eggroll, they were made at the very table you are sitting, and that’s why they taste so much better.

Compare the first picture (Vietnamese) to the sad Chinese one:

1 comment:

  1. If I had to choose, I would always pick the Vietnamese eggroll hands down.

    I like the filling much more, and the fish sauce that always accompanies it blows the Chinese one out of the water.

    I never understood what the lettuce was for though. To mop up the grease?