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Roll your own Vietnamese Spring Rolls in PHX?

In Denver, me and the wife loved a dish we found at most Vietnamese restaurants we visited (my fave, Thai Hiep in the Federal Center).

It was simply, a huge plate of fixins (including rice noodles, grilled pork/chicken/beef, sprouts, and various greens). They then brought out a boiling pot of water, some uncooked rice wrappers, and you wrapped up your own roll.

I haven't done an exhaustive search in Phx yet (only been to Avina's, in Glendale - good, athentic Vietnamese food, in a friendly mom-and-pop restaurant), and the dish wasn't like we like. They brought out the wrappers already cooked, and it just wasn't right.

Has anyone found good roll-your-own spring rolls in Phx (preferably North Phx)? I want the preperation where you cook your own wrappers in boiling water when you are ready for your next roll. This was a staple dish for us in Denver (at least once a week), so I need to locate this soon (to get my fix!).

I plan to try Da Ving this weekend. Hopefully they serve this dish. I have heard good things about this restaurant otherwise.

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  1. I've never seen this dish served this way in Phoenix - usually just the pre-prepared Spring Rolls. I know I had it in Philly this way - and enjoyed it.

    1. I haven't seen a roll-your-own spring roll since I was in Dallas, and even that place closed in '98. I've been to a number places around the Valley and haven't seen any.

      1. Too bad nobody knows of a place serving this dish. In Denver, every Vietnamese restaurant I went to, without exception, had this dish on the menu.

        I guess I will chalk this up to regional differences. I will have to make this my special treat when I go to Denver.


          1. This is new to me as well (and I used to live in Denver's Vietnam community and also near Little Saigon in SoCal).

            Most places will bring just-cooked spring rolls, for example, and a plate of greens/veggies to build your own wrapped feast. But cooking the rice wrapper is a new spin.

            It's almost like a Mexican place offering a chance to make a tortilla from scratch, or a taco shell. A few hound types will like it, but most folks want the end result.

            I'm guessing if you ask the cooks/owners, they'll be happy to mix things up.

            1. This dish really isn't that unusual. In fact, I have found it at Avina's and Da Ving. It is on the menu (we usually ask the server for roll your own spring rolls - then they point where it is on the menu).

              But, the rub is that it just isn't prepared the way I like (with the bowl of boiling hot water, and the massive amount of fixins). So far, in Phx we get already cooked roll wrappers (which is a significant difference, trust me), and small plates of fixins (which I suppose could be overcome by getting 2 orders).

              BTW, we liked Da Ving pretty well. It had a great atmosphere. By great, I mean it was very divey, with tons of asians eating there (which always bodes well for an ethnic eatery if the locals are there). I had a bowl of Pho (was feeling a little under the weather, and it usually makes me feel better quick like). The broth was tasty. My wife's noodle dish was just OK. It didn't have much flavor (even with the addition of a bunch of fish sauce).

              So, just to be clear, we have found the dish, which seems to be listed on every menu if you look hard enough, but it just isn't quite what we are looking for. We will just chalk it up to regional differences.

              I am headed to Denver in 2 weeks, so I will have to talk my sister into taking me to my favorite spot, and I can get the dish how I like.

              The hunt for my favorite Vietnamese place continues.

              1. Booger, Have you made it to the place on Roosevelt and Hayden yet? I think its called Dong Phuong (in the same plaza as Chasers Nightclub)? I moved down here to Chandler and all I can find are little pewny rolls that are missing all the good ingredients that the one up there includes. :-(

                2 Replies
                1. re: TIPETOE

                  Haven't made it there yet (I live up north, so that is quite a trek).

                  If I decided to head down south, I would probably head to Cyclone, as everyone seems to love the food there.

                  I am glad that I am not the only one who laments the availability of good roll-your-own rolls. I guess misery does love company.

                  1. re: Booger

                    The only place I've come across this on menu is Pho Saigon in Chandler. Their version is different than your standard rolls. I believe on the menu it's #24. They bring out a large plate of lettuce, mint, basil, pickled veg and beansprout. Second plate is vermicelli and on top is nem noung(bbq sausage?) and grounded shrimp ball. Third a platter of rice paper and a bowl of hot water to soften the paper. I definitely enjoy this more than the pre-made pork and shrimp rolls. I'm sure if you ask they'll subsitute the meat options for you.

                2. Most Vietnamese places do not offer this type of dish, usually it's already prepared. However, it's a fun dinner party idea. Our family, during the summer, prep all the items, boil water (warm water, and buy the rice wraps (at Asian stores). The best thing is you can use any kind of meat to wrap. You can just order a side of the cook meat with some noodles and use that to wrap.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: foodie_girl

                    Just to be clear, every Vietnamese restaurant I have ever been to (including the 3 I have tried in Phx) offer this dish. You just have to ask (and it has always been on the menu - the waiter will point it out). The preparations just aren't to my liking.

                    They have the pre-rolled rolls also.

                    This would be a wonderful party idea. It is easy to get the ingredients (at an Asian market), the ingredients are fresh and healthy, and it is an interactive eating experience. I guess I will have to reproduce the experience at home (thanks for the inspiration).

                    1. re: Booger

                      I must have misunderstood the dish for plain spring rolls, as some of them call it here. I do notice that a lot of Vietnamese (even on some of those travel shows on Vietnam) use the rice paper to with a lot of dishes. Just shows that the combinations are endless.

                      From my experience, it's a fun way to eat. Even the younger kids like it and it teaches something new. The only common downside is the prep work.

                      Have fun!

                  2. Thank you Da Beebz! I'm curious... is Pho Saigon the place in Lee Lee Market on Warner? ; the smell is so bad you cant even eat there= please tell me it's a different place. (also we tried the new buffet next door - i dont even think it was real food, it might have been card board cut out replicas of what food might look like. The pigletts in the window drew us in - but the taste threw us out! The memory of eating there is branded forever.

                    1. Booger:

                      I've been to Avina's a time or two. I've like Da Vang for years. There's a couple of choices further in the north, however. Damned if I can recall the NAME of either, but perhaps the location will ring a bell for the other hounds.

                      Avina's former spouse, Pat, runs a nice place located DIRECTLY across the street from the north entrance of ASU's Glendale campus. That's 'roughly the 4600-4900-blk of west Thunderbird Road. It's in a nice clean little strip plaza on the north side of T-bird.

                      The other is JUST south of Northern on 19th Ave. It's in a dumpy little strip on the west side of 19th which borders the McDonald's parking lot at the s.w. corner of the intersection. There's also a Russian market which seems to be the centerpiece there.

                      1. these are great, but I'm surprised nobody has come up with the vietnamese name for these "roll your own" rolls from a menu! I have had these in Orlando at Anh Hong a few times, but keep forgetting to write down the name...

                        Bahn Mi sandwichese are another great vietnamese contribution!

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: beardedpapa

                          Ok, here's some more info - the spring roll wrapper (rice paper) is called "Banh Trang" in Vietnamese, and most of the items on the menu would have the name of the meat (or whatever) ahead of that. So for example: Bo Nuong Cuon Banh Trang - would be a type of beef with roll your own, NU'ONG CUON BANH TRANG, would be a roll your own with grilled whole fish. Another common one would be nem nuong banh trang, with a type of meatballs.

                          1. re: beardedpapa

                            I could be wrong, but I think nobody's coming up with a name because the practice is ubiquitous. That's like saying you went to an Italian restaurant, but you can't remember the name of the dish with the noodles. It's not a specific dish, but rather a very common way of serving all kinds of things... chao tom, banh xeo, ca chien, tau hu ky, nem nuong... all kinds of meats and seafood prepared all kinds of ways, and served with a big plate of herbs and vegetables and rice wrappers with hot water is just a common way of serving them.

                            I guess what I'm saying is that many of the posters here are looking at this backwards. They aren't all "spring rolls" with different fillings. They're all completely unique dishes, and the wrapping method is simply a common way of serving them. So there is no name for it. The name is the filling, because the filling is the dish, not the roll.

                            1. re: beardedpapa

                              Incidentally, other than very upscale, refined places, I don't think I've ever found a Vietnamese restaurant that *doesn't* do this. And I can't imagine I'd want to go to one that didn't. It's like a Mexican restaurant without masa in the kitchen. Not every dish has it, of course, but how could you completely avoid such a cornerstone of the cuisine?

                              Okay, enough with the dumb analogies.

                              1. re: Dmnkly

                                Dmnkly explained it perfectly - rice paper to roll is an accompaniment to many Vietnamese dishes. For example, one of my favorites, Bánh hỏi thịt nướng, is always served with rice paper to roll (or sometimes lettuce), but it won't have bánh tráng in the name of the dish itself.

                                Vietnamese food is all about layering flavors and components so combining a cooked dish, salad, or grilled meat, fish, poultry, etc with rice noodles, fresh herbs, and then rolling and dipping in sauce is very common. That's a quick weeknight meal when mom cooks - a bowl of banana blossom salad or Vietnamese chicken salad, grilled meat, shrimp, or sometimes a whole fish served on a platter with a stack of lettuce and fresh herbs (cilantro, rau ram, chives, basil, mint, etc) and sliced chiles, a pile of rice vermicelli, bowls of scallion oil and nuớc chấm, and a stack of rice paper wrappers with a bowl of warm water. Now I'm hungry and craving Vietnamese (and mom's home cooking!).