Monday, April 4, 2011

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

I'll be honest, these spring rolls are kind of a pain to make. The thin rice paper wrappers are a nightmare if you've never worked with them before. The results, however, are quite rewarding--especially on a warm summer day. Light and refreshing, I like to think these spring rolls are relatively healthy. I realize it's not exactly summer yet, but these things ARE called spring rolls for a reason, so this was how I spent my Monday afternoon.

I love all the colors in this spring roll. I especially love cutting them in half after carefully rolling them up. That cross section is what I live for.

I don't have a specific recipe for them, but that's the beauty of it. You don't like mint? Screw mint. You want to be a rebel and add some apple matchsticks? Go for it. I think it may be a good idea actually...


Here's a short list of my ingredients. Go crazy.

marinate briefly in fish sauce, grated ginger, garlic, honey, water
cook well in sauté pan

simply blanch, shock in ice water, and peel

make thin strands with vegetable peeler

iceberg lettuce:

cut into thin matchsticks (I prefer Persian cucumbers over English)

mint and cilantro:
pick leaves off the stems

rice noodles:
cook according to directions on package, shock in ice water, dry well

peanut sauce:
chunky peanut butter, fish sauce, lime juice, honey, grated garlic, serrano pepper, rice wine vinegar, water

working with the rice paper:
DO NOT OVER WET IT! It may look like it's still hard, but trust me, a quick dip in warm water is all it needs. I just put a little bit of water at the bottom of a flat plate, and lay the wrapper on the water briefly on both sides. It will soften up some more while you put all the ingredients in their place. By the time you're ready to roll it up, it'll be ready to go.


After a harrowing, amusement-park-like ride to LAX on a ridiculously rainy Sunday afternoon (which my nerves barely survived) and an hour-long delay at the airport, I finally arrived in Las Vegas for spring break. I was meeting my mom there, and the objective for the trip was to eat and shop irresponsibly.


We began this task with dinner at Jaleo. I had hesitated in making reservations at é, and in the end, I'm glad I did. We were both so tired from the trip, I don't know if we would've made it through 19 courses that night. The casual atmosphere of Jaleo was a nice fit. We had early reservations so the restaurant was still nice and quiet when we sat down. We ordered some cava and toasted to a fabulous stay in Vegas.


Jaleo by José Andrés

@ The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas

3708 Las Vegas Boulevard South

Las Vegas, NV 89109

tel: 877-551-7776


colorful and playful menus...


Ostra 'Gin & Tonic'

six oysters with lemon, gin and tonic

At $2 a piece, these oysters were relatively well-priced. If only there was no gin and tonic action going on. They had this weird sweetness to them that I really did not enjoy. I'd take unadulterated oysters over these any day.


Croquetas de pollo

traditional chicken fritters

I'm sorry, but I have a problem with shoes on the table. This was not a small shoe. This was the shoe of a grown man. It doesn't matter if the shoe is filled with delicious croquetas that have a creamy, steaming filling of shredded chicken and a crunchy, golden exterior--it's just still not okay with me. Maybe it's okay with you...


The paella pit...


Lobster paella with garlic aioli

This was the paella of the day, but judging by every other blog post of Jaleo I've seen, when is lobster paella not their paella of the day? The rice was a little al dente for me but thankfully, the lobster was actually not overcooked. It was tasty, but I wouldn't have wanted an entire plate to myself. My jaw would've gotten tired.


Calamares al estilo Pelayo

seared fresh squid stew with onion confit

Probably the best dish we had that night. The calamari was so tender, and the onion confit added a nice bit of sweetness. The only problem was, the portion was a little large for only two people. Instead of fighting over the last piece, we kept pushing it at each other. Pity, since it was really quite tasty.


Papadas de Kurobata y vieiras 'Mar y Montanya'

Kurobuta pork jowls and scallops with olive oil potato purée

Salty, salty, salty. I thought the combination of pork and scallops was interesting (and I LOVE pork jowls), but this was way too salty. Otherwise, it would have been perfection. The pork jowl not only had that nice chewiness, but it's meatiness also enhanced the sweetness of the scallops.


Pastel de chocolat y avellanas

Chocolate hazelnut cake with praline ice cream and salted caramel sauce

Dessert was better than I expected it to be. With my mom, if a chocolate dessert is on the menu (and when is chocolate not on the dessert menu?), she has to order it. The chocolate cake was soft and moist, almost like it was soaked in some kind of liquid before being encased in a ring of chocolate mousse. The praline ice cream was delightful and the bits of hazelnut added a nice crunch.

All in all, it wasn't a bad start for our time in Vegas, but nothing was mind-blowingly good, and I have a feeling there was a salt fairy in the kitchen adding just a touch too much salt to every dish. However, all the flavors were so in-your-face, you couldn't help but enjoy it at least a little.

Next time, we're doing é. ;)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Red Medicine

Something special happened last summer between a couple of friends over jamon iberico and pitchers of sangria, and although it's been months since we've left the crowded streets of Las Ramblas and the dry heat of Madrid, that magic is still there. I like to think our friendship really developed over food, perhaps with my unyielding stance against touristy spots as the catalyst. Instead of quick meals of reheated paella at some convenient restaurant, we shared many long dinners that were rewarding not only in taste, but also in conversation. One night we wandered the cobblestone alleyways of the Barri Gotic to find ourselves at a hidden gem of a restaurant, where we played a wine-ridden game of truth or dare. In Madrid, we kept returning to a Galician tavern that served the tenderest octopus on wooden platters. We loved it so much, it was there that we celebrated our last night in Spain with a flaming bowl of boozy queimada.

It took a birthday to get us all back together for a meal, but the interesting dynamic between us was still the same. The request was "artistic" food. My answer was Red Medicine. Coincidentally and fittingly, we were still sharing "tapas" of sorts, though Vietnamese and not Spanish in nature. Yes, the food was beautiful (I'm a sucker for the careful sprinkling of little flowers), but it was the company that really made my night.

Red Medicine
8400 Wilshire Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
tel: 323-651-5500

dried chili, turmeric, beer, baby shrimp, lettuce

water lettuce, water chestnut, spicy herbs, nuoc leo, chlorophyll

foie gras, pate de campagne

green papaya, pickled roots, crispy taro, tree nuts, nuoc cham

early season legumes and roots (raw & roasted), virgin walnut, bayonne ham

oyster mushrooms, oyster sauce, haricot vert, brioche, espelette

hoisin, hibiscus-onion, sunflower seeds, salsify, lady apple

"cromesquis", cashew, asian pear, raisin, romanesco

coffee, condensed milk, thai basil, peanut croquant, chicory

cucumber ice cream, cashew macaroons, white chocolate, jasmine