|Stocking stuffer:Chicken spring rolls wrapped in the shape of Christmas presents. — Photos courtesy of Nem Gion
The newest franchise of a popular restaurant serves innovative takes on the traditional spring roll, proving that fast food and traditional Vietnamese cuisine aren't mutually exclusive. An Vu reports.
"Bite the crispy golden spring roll, and you'll see what's inside," Vu Thai Ha told me.
Ha has a reason to be enthusiastic about spring rolls. She's one of the owners of Nem Gion, a spring roll restaurant chain that recently opened its third branch on calm Trung Yen Street. Her love for the dish is evident in the restaurant's adornment and energy, the walls filled with hilarious images of spring rolls painted to look like humans.
Although it was quite crowded at noon, my friend and I were lucky to find an empty, cozy seat for two. At the corner, some kids with parents were watching the chefs cleverly wrap rolls into different shapes like Christmas presents, long candies, triangles and flowers. To be honest, the spring rolls didn't only attract children - I was intrigued as well.
"When I saw Western food getting more and more popular with Vietnamese, I came up with the idea of selling traditional food under the model of a fast food chain. I hoped the new business would attract youngsters, especially children," Ha said.
|Crispy croquettes:The chicken "korokke", a new dish offered at the Snack Buffet.
Nem Gion Restaurant
Address: 51 Trung Yen Street 9, Cau Giay District
Tel: 04 37836146
Hours: 8am - 9pm
Price range: VND30,000-100,000
Dishes to try: all kinds of fried spring roll, pork rib soup
The first branch on Nha Chung Street opened last year; it was so successful that she opened another on Thai Thinh Street, followed by the new branch on Trung Yen.
"Take a look at this! All are spring rolls. I bet they're oily and we will soon get full," my friend said as he gazed at the menu.
Sticking to its name, the restaurant offers a plentiful choice of spring rolls. We took turns to order nem bo cuon la lot (spring rolls wrapped with beef), nem ga (chicken spring rolls) and nem nam (mushroom spring rolls). Turns out, they weren't as oily as we'd expected!
We noticed the spring roll's outside layer had a golden colour that kept it crispy for a long time. Certainly, this was the secret that Ha kept hidden!
Amid the matrix of spring rolls, the first-time customer is likely to get lost, but the two of us somehow found our favourites. The nem oc (snail spring roll), wrapped around hot, sweet, nutritious snails, truly made my heart speed up.
Nem chuoi (fried banana spring roll), another speciality of Nem Gion, is reminiscent of traditional banana cake. Wrapped around a banana and fried, the dish is a tasty dessert after a "main course" of spring rolls. The price is VND5,000 for each spring roll, reasonable enough for customers to come back.
We didn't forget to reward ourselves with the menu's latest update, chao suon sun (pork rib porridge with corn kernels), priced at VND30,000. It's a traditional rice porridge with chopped meat, but instead of quay (Chinese dough sticks), the dish is served with spring roll sticks. During the winter, nothing is a better belly warmer.
If you get your fill of spring rolls, a plate of housemade kimchi offers another delectable option. The owner has skillfully reduced the spicy taste of kimchi to suit local palates. To drink, I chose sweet maize milk, another creation of the owner and her staff.
The "Snack Buffet" is the newest addition to Nem Gion's menu. "We want to turn nem gion into a new kind of snack which everyone can enjoy as much as they want," Ha explained. Along with spring rolls, the VND88,000 buffet offers shrimp, beef, chicken korokke (potato croquettes), Vietnamese tofu and fruit salad. — VNS
|Belly warmer:The porb rib and corn chao is ideal for the upcoming winter.