“Yan Can’t Cook” – 33 of 365

My "Interpretation" of Street Food

You know that “Yan Can Cook” dude on TV who tells us we can prepare a banquet of elaborate Asian dishes in our very own kitchens?   Yeah, that’s the one and only.   Well right there on a stack of Vietnamese newspapers in the airplane galley I saw his face and wondered what in the heck is he doing on the cover.   Of course I asked our purser this same question.  Her succinct answer…”Smiling for camera.”  Maybe I just didn’t phrase the question right.

While we may never know why Martin Yan made front page on a Pleiku bound plane, I got to thinking about his cooking.   Damn right I can cook, Mr. Yan Can Cook.   I’ll show him.  I am going to cook something Vietnamese.   How hard can it be?  Because of Tet, or Lunar New Year, most of this country has ground to a halt for a week.  Having to largely fend for myself now foodwise as someone else is no longer doing the cooking gives me the perfect excuse to experiment in my very own home kitchen laboratory.

As luck would have it, my friend Melissa had given me some rice paper used to roll fresh spring rolls.  With these opaque rounds in hand, I felt like a master chef entering the Iron Chef kitchen.  How hard can rolling some street food gỏi cuốn be?  They require no heat other than to warm a plate of water to soften the hard rice wafers prior to filling and rolling.   With visions of a snack similar to what I recently ate near the Bitexco Tower filling my head, I searched my kitchen for something to stuff my own version.   How excited I was that in minutes I’d be enjoying the same food from the comfort of my air conditioned 14th floor home.  No taxi trip downtown, no sweating, no praying this isn’t the meal to do my insides in.

Gỏi Cuốn a/k/a Gỏi Crap in My Kitchen

Now no one could ever accuse my kitchen of being Vietnamese so this project cratered before even leaving the station.  Rather than plump pieces of orange and white shrimp I had spicy tuna in a can.   A lack of the proper rice vermicelli led me to use some sort of bad Thai ramen noodle substitute.   Forget about the proper herbs such as mint.  Some wilting lettuce nearing its expiry stared sadly at me from its bag.   Hoisin sauce? Not a chance…only some ranch salad dressing of questionable freshness.

I softened the rice paper and right out of the gate accidentally tore the first one.   The second piece fell victim to dissolving in its water bath when I took a ten minute phone call.  This little exercise was accelerating fast from crash to burn.  My ass Yan Can Cook.   I thought back to his picture in the paper and wanted to just shove this cooking disaster right up his smiling piehole.   The third roll attempt came together but in a loose, square pocket rather than the tight cylindrical gỏi cuốn so beautiful presented out on the street.  Yes, Yan Can Cook gỏi crap.  How do those ladies on the sidewalk make it look so easy anyhow?  And why can’t I cook like Martin Yan can?  He makes it look so easy.  Martin, if you are out there, Help!!

How They Should Look

With a steady stream of choice curse words fueling my progress, I finally had a quintuplet set laid out on my plate.   Though they looked like rolled dog squeeze, they actually tasted somewhat decent.  Well, of course I am not going to admit otherwise.  I’d say a tuna wrap back home but minus the wrap and substitute in stretchy rice paper gets us in the ballpark of what these things were like.   Let’s just call it Pan Asian fusion cuisine.  Who would ever know back home gỏi cuốn aren’t supposed to be baggy squares filled with canned tuna?  People will think I cook with utmost sophistication honed over my years here.   Then again, a plate of foul looking gỏi crap transcends all boundaries of good taste.   Maybe I better stick to the delicious and easy on the eye street bought variety.   I think a trip downtown for repentance at 48 Ngo Duc Ke’s gỏi cuốn altar near the Bitexco Tower is in order.

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Categories: Vietnamese Food

2 Comments on ““Yan Can’t Cook” – 33 of 365”

  1. Alan
    January 26, 2012 at 2:55 pm #

    Canned tuna? Seriously?

    • January 26, 2012 at 2:58 pm #

      yes, seriously. unfortunately you have to use what you have when the stores are closed for over a week.

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