Vietnamese Shrimp Summer Rolls (Gỏi Cuốn Tôm)

My favorite Vietnamese appetizer is gỏi cuốn tôm, approximately pronounced “goy coon tome,” otherwise known as shrimp summer rolls. I order them every time I go to a Vietnamese restaurant, and my mother makes them for me whenever I visit her. I don’t know what it is about these rolls, but I just can’t seem to get enough of them! Unlike Vietnamese spring rolls (which are pretty amazing too), summer rolls are not fried, making them a lighter and healthier option. To make the summer rolls, shrimp, rice vermicelli, lettuce, fresh mint, Thai basil and cilantro are rolled together in rice paper sheets. Traditionally, thin slices of pork loin are also included, but I prefer to use only shrimp in my recipe. I also make vegetarian summer rolls sometimes by simply using fried tofu instead of shrimp. Just cut the fried tofu into little matchsticks and add shredded carrots for more flavor and color. The peanut sauce for dipping is incredibly delicious. It is truly the perfect accompaniment to the summer rolls.

Although these rolls require a little more time than dishes I typically make, I promise the amazing flavors that explode in your mouth will be well worth it! Be sure to give my recipe a try one night when you have a bit more time on your hands :). Continue reading

Fresh Seafood in Barcelona

It’s been six years since I last visited Barcelona with my friend, Ken. To be quite honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect given Spain’s recession. Has the city’s vibrant mood changed since then? Are the restaurants and shops I once visited still there? These questions ran through my mind as Michael and I sat on a red-eye flight to Barcelona.

We were extremely excited about our trip. Although we have both been to Barcelona, we have never gone together. Michael is very familiar with the city as he lived there for a period of time during his college years (we know that was back in 1965, just kidding lol). Since we’ve both visited all the “must-see”  historical sites, we were looking forward to just exploring the city with no itinerary. Michael was especially excited to visit his old neighborhood and favorite spots.

All of my concerns were put to rest as we strolled along the beach. Michael was in shock. The once known “city-beach” of Barcelona was now a major attraction. This beach was hardly visited by locals or tourists 20 years ago because it was somewhat dodgy and unattractive (similar to Coney Island). But there was literally no space left on the sand now to spread out your beach towel. It was clearly one of the main attractions of the city. The water was such a pretty clear blue and the waves were so calm. Waiters walked along the beach selling ice-cold mojitos and sangria. A new boardwalk was built and so many restaurants and shops were now open.  Continue reading

Bún Riêu

The first Vietnamese dish I ever made was bún riêu, pronounced “boon rew,” which is a tomato and crab noodle soup. Of all the Vietnamese noodle soup dishes, I think this is the easiest to make because it requires the least amount of time and ingredients. This doesn’t mean there aren’t many ingredients, it just means less. 😉 Vietnamese cooking is all about flavor and finding the perfect balance between sweet, savory, spicy, and sour. So that means a little bit of this, and a little bit of that. Continue reading