Nem nuong cuon is a dish your Stick a Fork In It bloggers love so much that we indulged ourselves with two different versions in 2010's 100 Favorite Dishes. The benchmark version at the original Brodard Restaurant, while still worthy of adulation, is no longer the best in Little Saigon, as Dave revealed last year. Allow me to walk you a few blocks west to a place so confident in its specialty, grilled pork sausage, the place is named Nem Nướng Khánh Hòa.
What distinguishes this dish from other subspecies of Vietnamese summer rolls is the grilled pork meatballs, shaped here into slabs. The nem (the ground pork) is abundantly flavored with fresh garlic and grilled to order. The piping-hot patties, lightly charred and smoky, make all the difference to the dish compared to Brodard's much-busier kitchen, which tends to prepare them in batches long before you arrived.
Following the style of southern Central Vietnam, the rolls also come with the added crunch of a deep-fried, rolled-up eggroll skin the size and shape of a cigarette, also fried to order before being assembled into rolls with a garden's bounty of fresh herbs and a cucumber spear. This dish is all about the contrast of crunchy-crisp-chewy-meaty textures and fatty-herbal-garlic-vegetable flavors. Having these components cooked and assembled à la minute makes all the difference to devotees of this homestyle dish.
Speaking of homestyle, Khanh Hoa is the only restaurant to my knowledge where you can order a family-sized platter of nem nuong cuon to be assembled by yourself at the table.
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Nem Nướng Khánh Hòa, 9738 Westminster Blvd., Garden Grove, (714) 539-3710.
Click here for our 100 faves from 2010! The list so far this time around:
No. 84: Wild Boar Balinese Sausage at Valhalla Table
No.85: Comida Corrida at Taquería La Raza
No. 86: Breakfast Burrito at Troy's Drive-In
No. 87: Mandoo at L&M Liquor and Deli
No. 88: Chicago Dog at Chicago Harv's
No. 89: Sweet Potato Tater Tots at Pee Wee's Famous
No. 90: Kaya-Stuffed French Toast at Chomp Chomp
No. 91: Egg Breakfast at Rick's Atomic Kitchen
No. 92: Sticky Rice With Chicken at Quan Hy
No. 93: Beef Koobideh at Hen House Grill
No. 94: $5 Fish Bento at Bentoss
No. 95: Milanesa Sandwich at Piaggio's Gourmet on Wheels
No. 96: Samurai Burrito at Wafu of Japan
No. 97: Carnitas Gordita at Bodega R Ranch Market
No. 98: Spam Musubi at k'ya Street Fare
No. 99: Tortilla Andorra at Anepalco's
No. 100: Lemongrass Chicken, Extra Spicy at Vietnam's Pearl