101 - Rolling Back the Seasons in TO

By Mary Luz Mejia

With the hot, balmy weather behind us, I often turn to Vietnamese fresh spring rolls for a bite of summer in the middle of winter. Goi Cuon in Vietnamese translates to "salad rolls" in English, which is appropriate given their fresh burst of crisp vegetables and herbs.

At the Rua Vang Golden Turtle Restaurant in Toronto's Chinatown East, proprietor/cook Hoang Nguyen crafts some of the best in town, making the precise skill of folding the stuffed, delicate rice paper rounds look incredibly easy. With quick, adept movements of her hands, Chef Hoang uses soft rice paper shells (or bahn trang in Vietnamese) to encase juicy whole steamed shrimp, shredded Thai basil and lettuce as well as strands of cooked rice vermicelli noodles.

I've had salad rolls filled with minced pork, tofu, carrot and cucumber as well, and while they're tasty in their own right, the simplicity of the Golden Turtle's recipe and the balance of flavours it provides, keeps me going back for more. Tightly packed, and just a bit chewy (as they should be), these healthy salad packets-to-go offer up a variety of textures in every bite.

You can also individualize each roll to suit your own taste buds -- some like the hoisin-like dipping sauce these cold rolls are served with, but I prefer to dip mine in the aromatic, chili-spiced fish sauce for an instant hit of heat on a blustery cold Canadian day.

Now if I only didn't need a coat ...

Rua Vang Golden Turtle Restaurant
125 Ossington Avenue
Toronto, Ontario

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