Call 'em what you want: summer rolls, fresh spring rolls, salad rolls (?), nem cuốn, bánh tráng cuốn, or gỏi cuốn they are all synonymous for fabulous, perfectly packaged, handheld rice paper rolls that are the ideal way to get your food into your mouth faster. And when rolled the right way, they allow you to not only get the food to your face faster (with your hands) but they also allow you to look like an ace while doing so. Think: no fork = less tools, which = less chance of food on your face. And I said less chance, not no chance. I make zero guarantees you will not end up with food on your face, like say, on the top of your lip, where you'd never feel it but everyone in the room sees it. What I will promise is that these rolls are both fun to make and fun to eat.
And then there's bánh mì. I'm talking bánh mì sandwiches, built with delicious proteins like pork belly, sausage, pork liver pâté, pork floss, grilled chicken, and tofu. They're topped with cucumbers, cilantro, pickled carrots and daikon and maybe even some jalapeños. Finally, all these goodies are sandwiched between a crunchy, single serving baguette and given a healthy dose of mayo and maybe a little sriracha. They're fabulous but they're also kinda challenging to eat. The roof of my mouth usually ends up scratched and I'm almost always covered in crumbs by the time I'm done. Pair that with the copious amounts of carbs, yes I went there, but I mean it's true and you're getting ready for an afternoon nap after eating one of these. But that combo of meat, pickles, cucumbers and spice. It's amazing. So why not lighten it up a bit and make it easier to eat at the same time?! (Duh.)
When I eat Vietnamese food, I almost always go pork. I don't know what it is but in my opinion, it's always the best. I love me some chicken, and tofu's great, but pork, it's everything. Maybe it's the spice or that it pairs so well with fish sauce. I don't know what it is, but pork it is. So I decided to make some garlic brined pork for these bánh mì summer rolls. Sliced thin and loaded with all the fixings it is the perfect protein for my new favorite summer rolls. I dipped mine in a fish-sauce vinaigrette (recipe can be found below). I dare you to try these and tell me you aren't reconsidering that giant baguette version. Side note, if you're thinking it's fall and these are totally out of season, you're wrong. In my family, summer rolls are staple a year round, just ask my dad.
Garlic Brined Pork Bánh Mì Summer Rolls
Slightly adapted from Food and Wine
Makes 12-15 summer rolls
GARLIC BRINED PORK
- 1 Tbsp. each of whole white & black peppercorns
- 3/4 c. + 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1/2 c. light brown sugar
- 2 serrano chiles, thinly sliced
- 2 Tbsp. minced garlic
- 1 Tbsp. crushed aleppo pepper
- 2 c. warm water
- 1 3-lb boneless pork shoulder
- 1/2 daikon root, peeled and cut into matchsticks
- 3-4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. Kosher salt
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. Baker's sugar
- 1-2 persian cucumbers, sliced
- 1 c. mixed greens
- 1/2 c. basil leaves
- 1/2 c. cilantro leaves
- 1-2 jalapeños, seeded and thinly sliced (optional)
- Sriracha (optional)
- 16 (8-1/2-inch) round rice paper wrappers
- Warm water
FISH SAUCE VINAIGRETTE
- 2 garlic clove, finely minced
- 2 tsp. light brown sugar
- 2 tsp. baker's sugar
- Juice of 2 limes
- 6 Tbsp. fish sauce (nuoc nam)
- 1 c. minced mixed herbs (like cilantro, basil, etc.)
- Small skillet
- Mortar and pestle
- Mixing bowls, various sizes
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Glass measuring cup
- Plastic wrap
- Large, oval dutch oven
- Silicone spatula
- Sharp chef's knife
- Cutting board
- Instant read thermometer
- Rimmed baking sheet
- Wire rack
GARLIC BRINED PORK
- In small skillet, toast white and black peppercorns over moderately high heat until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Transfer to mortar and pestle and coarsely crack the peppercorns.
- Transfer to a large, deep bowl. Add the kosher salt and the brown sugar, then add the serrano chiles, garlic, and crushed aleppo pepper.
- Stir in the warm water until the sugar and salt are dissolved.
- Add the pork and enough cold water to submerge the roast. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Drain the pork and pat dry, then transfer to large, oval dutch oven. Let the pork return to room temperature.
- Roast the pork for about 1 hour and 30 minutes in covered dutch oven, turning once. The pork is done when an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part registers 165°F.
- Let rest for 1 hour before slicing thinly.
Place daikon and carrots in a medium mixing bowl and add sugar and salt.
Stir with silicone spatula or toss with hands to combine.
Cover bowl and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes.
Rinse with cold water and drain.
Completely submerge one wrapper in warm water until it is soft and pliable, about 15 seconds.
Remove the wrapper from the water and place it on wire rack.
Working quickly, lay 5-10 mixed greens, just above the bottom center edge of wrapper, leaving about 1/2 inch of space on top and at least 1-2 inches on sides. Layer 4-6 slices of pork, followed by a handful of pickled veggies, 2 basil leaves, 3-4 cilantro leaves, and 2 jalapeño slices, if using. Place 4 of the cucumber sticks on side of the pile.
Fold the bottom half of the rice paper wrapper over. Holding firmly in place, fold the sides of the wrapper in.
Press down firmly and roll the entire wrapper horizontally up from bottom to top.
Place it on rimmed baking sheet and cover loosely with plastic wrap.
Repeat with the remaining wrappers and fillings.
Leave space between each summer roll on the sheet so they don’t stick together.
FISH SAUCE VINAIGRETTE
- Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.
- Serve with summer rolls and enjoy!