My hometown, Hanoi, is a city full of lakes. We have several beautiful lakes around the city, which have been turned into small pretty parks. The local residents love to hang around these places, and the price of housing there is super high. One of the most expensive areas is definitely the place surrounding the West Lake (Ho Tay). This area was developed back to the colony time (around 1920-1930) and it remains a lovely place. The West Lake is part of Hanoi history with so many rumours and stories that dated back from more than 100 years ago. But it is also famous for food. The Hanoians always praise the West Lake Prawn Fritters. And if you travel a bit further to the other side of the lake, there are plenty of cheap seafood restaurants to hang around, too.
The dish I feature today, rice noodle rolls, is also from the West Lake area. These rolls are super cheap, and with a casual flair around the place, people can all have a good time. The food itself is simple but oh so tasty. These rolls normally have stir-fry beef and herb filling, accompanied by the sweet-sour nuoc cham. If you want your sauce a bit spicy, fresh chilli slices are provided, too.
To make these at home, I have added more herbs to the original version, which features only coriander (cilantro). I have added to my pleasure some Thai basil & rice paddy herb (click here to see the photo). I love to arrange them in order, so after every bite, I can experience different herby aromas. It is truly amazing and so refreshing.
For this recipe, you need to get a package of rice noodle sheet from Asian market. If unavailable, substitute with rice paper. The texture will be different, but delicious still.
Rice Noodle Rolls with Beef & Herb Filling (Pho Cuon)
1 package of rice noodle sheet (or rice paper, as required)
300g beef fillet, thinly sliced across the grain
1 tsp finely minced lemongrass (white part only)
1 garlic clove, finely minced
2 tbsp good quality fish sauce
Oil, about 1-2 tbsp
Herbs, to serve: Choose from coriander (cilantro), Thai Basil, Rice Paddy Herb etc.
Vietnamese dipping sauce (recipe follows)
Marinade the beef with lemongrass, garlic and fish sauce for 20 mins.
To prepare the noodle, cut the noodle sheet to squares of 15cmx15cm. Briefly dip each sheet in hot water. Set aside. (If using rice paper, skip this step)
Prepare dipping sauce. Wash herbs and briefly dry them using paper towel.
Stir-fry the beef mixture in hot oil until just cooked.
To roll, arrange the beef and herbs inside each rice noodle sheet. Roll up and serve with dipping sauce. (or use rice paper as your wraps as package direction).
1 cup warm water, ¼ cup fish sauce, 3-4 tbsp castor sugar, ½ lime, 2 garlic cloves – finely minced, 1 chilli paddy – sliced.
Preparation: Put water, fish sauce, sugar and lime juice together. Stir to dissolve. Taste to see if you have the right balance, and adjust ingredients accordingly. Add garlic and chilli just before serving (so your chilli and garlic will `float´ to the surface).