Mel and Minh could well be the cutest couple I know. I could refer to them as M&M, which they themselves do with the decorative blocks they have adorned their kitchen bench with, but as I’m not one to abbreviate and actually like to make things wordier for myself, I have renamed these two, Melania and Minhovski. Don’t ask me why there’s a Russian twist to two perfectly good names – it’s just something I strangely like to do.
I adore Melania and Minhovski, particular when it’s dress-up time. At a party I once had, Minhovski took out first prize for his take on MacGyver. Minhovski’s MacGyver had slightly bigger hair – more Farrah Fawcett than MacGyver perhaps – and the best, daggiest leather jacket I had ever seen, complete with enormous shoulders in a ‘Bad’ era Michael Jackson kind of way. For those of you who have seen Beverley Hills Cop, you’ll know what I mean!
Mr R. and I were recently invited to Melania and Minhovski’s for dinner. I say invited, but I more or less invited myself and was met with Melania’s protests of ‘our apartment is too small’, ‘it won’t be anything fancy’ and ‘I don’t know what to cook for you’. Although Mr R. is so tall he looks as though he could eat Minhovski for breakfast, I was not concerned about the size of my dear friend’s apartment. I wanted some of Minh’s Vietnamese cooking that I had heard so much about and I was prepared to just show up if that’s what it took. Shy, retiring little me picked a date and a time, and we promptly showed up on that date at that very time, ready for feasting.
Their ‘tiny’ apartment was as gorgeous as its owners, although Mr R. with his giantness and I with my heels, towered over our hosts. The ‘not very fancy’ dinner lay resplendently on the table in front of the ‘M&M’ blocks – a beautifully fresh array of greens, noodles, dipping sauces, carefully prepared eggs and tofu, prawns and stir-fried beef. It was a deliciously interactive dinner, once I got the hang of how to roll up my rice paper rolls, Minhovski-style. His deft, rice-paper rolling was something to behold!
Thank you Melania and Minhovski, for allowing us to barge into your home and eat all of your food. You are not only gorgeous, but wonderful hosts, cooks and friends.
This is a tricky one to outline a method for and the ingredients could include a range of proteins, however there are some key ingredients for successful rice paper rolls a la Minhovski. His spread consisted of the following:
cooked and peeled prawns
eggs, beaten and cooked omelette-style, then cut into strips
cucumber, cut into thick strips
hard tofu, pan fried then cut into strips
cooked rice noodles
sambal oelek (an Asian, chilli-based sauce)
beef fillet, cut into thin strips cooked with soy, oyster sauce, fresh garlic and ginger
satay dipping sauce made of combined peanut butter, hoisin sauce and crushed peanuts (Minh was a little hesitant in revealing the dipping sauce ingredients, and whilst not mucho authentico, I can absolutely vouch for the yumminess of this sauce!)
Lay out these delicious ingredients in the most decorative and appealing way you can. Ensure there is also a large bowl of hot water. To make an individual rice paper roll, take a sheet of rice paper, immerse it in the water then lay it flat on your place. Place a generous amount of lettuce and herbs down the centre of the rice paper, leaving a gap about an inch from the end. Add some noodles, egg, tofu, bean shoots and the protein of your choice, then fold each side of the paper as well as the bottom edge over the filling like an envelope. Roll it up tightly. Serve with the sambal oelek and satay sauce.
Minhovski also provided us with individual satay sauces so that double dipping was an option – a lovely touch for someone who could barely keep her rice paper roll from collapsing into the sauce. I can only hope after this post that I can invite myself over for dinner again sometime soon, although I may be pushing my luck with the inclusion of the below photo!
Photo by Jodie Fitzsimmons