Wednesday, May 9, 2012 | 5:11 p.m.
Asian food culture can’t deny its love affair with egg rolls, let alone the desperate cravings of the rest of the world. Across regions and borders there are many delicious variations, but Vietnamese cha gio elevates the fried, savory pocket beyond a mere appetizer or takeout afterthought.
- Pho Saigon 8
At Pho Saigon 8, the dish is No. 1 on the menu for a reason. Served sizzling, four golden rolls are garnished with green lettuce and piles of herbaceous roughage (cilantro and mint) and pickled vegetables (carrot and daikon radish). This is not for show. It’s true that the rolls—intensely crisp layers of rice paper encasing minced shrimp and pork, vermicelli noodles and morsels of wood ear mushroom and carrot—are tasty without embellishment, but they are meant to be swaddled in lettuce with the herbs and veggies and flecked with hot sriracha pepper sauce (thanks, Thailand!) and the sticky sweetness of hoisin (thanks, China!).
Once you’ve turned the plate’s contents into a burrito of sorts, you dip it in nuoc cham, the vinegar, sugar and garlic seeping into all the right places. It may also seep down your wrists and arms, but the mess is worth bites that roll (appropriately) from fresh to fried and back, with every kind of satisfying crunch. At $6.54, this is cheap-eats royalty.