Stuffed Grape Leaves at Nam Phuong
Let me preface this by saying that we've had stuffed grape leaves at many other Vietnamese restaurants. Tonight, we ordered them for the first time at Nam Phuong. Before the platter came out, they brought us a large bowl of warm water and a plate of spring roll wrappers.
When the grape leaves came out, we asked what the wrappers were for. Our server told us to dip the wrapper in the warm water and roll the grape leaves up with some vermicelli and mint leaves and then dip it in the nuoc mam (kind of like a summer roll). We tried it and it was really good.
This was the first time we had grape leaves served this way. Is this the "traditional" way to eat them? If so, why aren't the other places doing it? Have we been missing out all of these years?
Traditional? Well, traditionally, grape leaves aren't used - the grape leaves are standing in place for a leaf I don't know the English name of (courtesy of Google, they're betel leaves). This dish is also usually served as part of a "dish" called beef seven ways. In any case, I've seen the rice paper, vermicelli, and herb plate accoutrement but whether it's "traditional" or not, I don't know. It's usually split half and half whether I see the rice paper or not, but I almost always see it if we're talking beef seven ways.
I've never had stuffed grape leaves at a Vietnamese restaurant. Whenever we go to Pittsburgh we head to Aliquippa for grape leaves at the Lebanese Club (six dozen frozen in the freezer right now... yum!). I've had them at Greek restaurants but had never heard of this variation. I'll certainly give it a try. How are they usually served in a Vietnamese restaurant?