Monday, November 5, 2012

Hope "Springs" Eternal: Brodard's Signature Appetizer is on a Roll

There seems to be a misconception that spring rolls are a better appetizer than egg rolls because they are not deep-fried. I have an addendum to this: spring rolls just plain taste better than egg rolls, period.

Friends don't let friends eat spring rolls without Brodard's
warm and piquant sauce! Anna and I enjoying the
famed grilled pork sausage spring rolls. Photo by Matt Palmer
While the classic shrimp filling is always a treat, tofu is actually a great guilt-free option for spring rolls. The other side of the coin is the pork sausage spring roll at Brodard's Restaurant in Garden Grove.

Nem nướng cuốn is the Vietnamese name for the grilled slices of pork sausage that vaguely resemble slices of Spam. The term, "Nem Nướng" is also emblazoned like a credo on the uniforms of the food servers at Brodard's.

"E pluribus unum." "In vino veritas." These are memorable slogans. What translates to "grilled pork paste" may not be on everyone's lips, but Anna, Karen, Matt, and I were happy to have it on our plates at Brodard's.

The je ne sais quoi of the spring roll is its economy of presence that belies its flavorful impact. A tightly wrapped bundle of a tasty protein, artistically placed shreds of carrot, daikon, and cucumber, and mint leaves doesn't sound like a lot. When combined with Brodard's unusual house sauce - a cross between a remoulade and the ubiquitous Sriracha - the result is like comfort food with a kick. And a crunch. And some zip.

Bánh xèo is a tasty Southeast Asian twist on the French crepe,
with fresh textures and plenty of crunch factor.
Also notable was the bánh xèo, my favorite Vietnamese dish, next to pho, of course. The cheery yellow crepe gets its color and coconut-like scent from the addition of tumeric. It is filled with shrimp, chicken, bean sprouts, and other vegetables, and is eaten by wrapping pieces of the pancake in lettuce leaves and garnishing it with more greenery such as mint, or in Brodard's case, the refreshing Japanese herb, shiso.

Anna, who grew up in Vietnam, says that "xèo" refers to the sound that the crepe batter makes when hitting a sizzling hot griddle.

The unanimously favored dish on the table was the roasted duck salad, garnished with huge shrimp chips. These are a throwback for almost anyone who grew up in an Asian household. The ones we ate as kids were terribly greasy, but came in appetizing candy colors. The shrimp chips at Brodard's were a natural ivory color and were non-greasy and light - today's additive-conscious parents would approve.

We did get some vivid color with our dessert. The ever-popular French macaron beckoned from the display case by the front door, in vibrant and tempting rows of sweetness. I snapped up a few for a sweet treat later, as we were all pretty full. We enjoyed them with a beer (?) at Karen's. Not my first choice of an accompanying beverage for macarons, but on a warm autumnal afternoon with friends, it worked pretty well.

Before the miracle of the Internet, we in the United States previously learned about unusual foods from previously unknown and mysterious cultures only because we ended up going to war with or against them. However, as human nature eventually realizes, we are stronger when we combine forces rather than when we pull them apart. The proof is in the pudding. Or in Brodard's case, in the matcha, salted caramel, durian, and coconut macarons.Tiếng Gọi Công Dân; Vive le France.

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