Sweet and tangy pork, water spinach (kangkong) and pineapple spring rolls

Sweet and tangy pork, water spinach (kangkong) and pineapple spring rolls

Ten years ago, if you had asked me what my favorite sauce is in the whole world, I’d probably have said, “Sweet and sour sauce.” If you had asked me the same question five years ago, I would have said, “Pesto.” These days, it’s the sweet and tangy Vietnamese nuoc cham. It’s basically a sweet and sour sauce but it isn’t cooked to thicken. Garlic and chilis are pounded to a paste then mixed with fish sauce (patis to Filipinos), lime juice, vinegar and sugar. I used all those basic nuoc cham ingredients, threw in some finely chopped ginger for added heat and aroma, and used them to season the filling for these spring rolls.

I love spring rolls for many reasons. They remind me of my childhood, they are so darn cute, they are uncomplicated to eat and they’re like a present — beautifully wrapped and, inside, a kaleidoscope of colors and flavors and textures. Unlike a gift, however, the spring roll wrapper is just as important as the filling. For fresh (as opposed to fried) spring rolls, I can’t quite decide these days which  I like better — the crepe-like egg-y wrapper or the Vietnamese rice paper. Not that I have to choose one over the other, really, but since I’m so into everything Vietnamese these days, I chose rice paper for this recipe. »

How to cook: Vietnamese chicken and pineapple stir fry

chicken-pineapple-stir-fry

Four years ago, I found a chicken and pineapple recipe from an American-published Vietnamese cookbook. A couple of weeks ago, in an episode of Luke Nguyen's Vietnam, I watched chef Luke Nguyen cook a very similar dish using thinly sliced pork neck. … »

How to cook: Pork Hamonado

Pork Hamonado

Several days ago, I brined a piece of pork intending to make ham. Then, one night about four days since I started brining the meat, there was nothing else to cook for dinner so I took out the pork, removed it from the brine and decided I'd make … »

How to cook: Sweet & Sour Pork

Sweet and sour pork

When I first published a sweet and sour pork recipe in June 2003, I thought it was a pretty good one. Well, it was. In a manner of speaking. The pork was tender and moist with a crisp crust, the sauce was a wonderful balance between sweet and sour, … »

How to cook: Pineapple and chicken rice

pineapple and chicken rice

And so I bring home a taste of Phuket. Last Saturday, I cooked this chicken and pineapple rice and my daughters and I had it for lunch. I would have cooked it days earlier, heaven knows how excited I was to try it, but my older daughter (who took the … »

How to make: Fresh tropical fruits salad

fruit-salad3

Ditch the canned fruit cocktail with the rubbery content that is 90% chewy papaya. Fresh fruits tossed in a mixture of cream and sweetened condensed milk may entail more work but the result is a far, far cry from miniscule fruit pieces swimming in … »

How to make: Macaroni salad

macaroni salad

Macaroni salad was a very common family reunion party fare when I was a child. My father and my aunt, his sister, had their own versions and both were really great. My father’s version included hard-boiled quail eggs; my aunt’s had lots of pineapple … »