Welcome back to The Bite, Sheepshead Bites’ weekly column where we explore the foodstuffs of Sheepshead Bay. Each week we’ll check out a different offering from one of the many restaurants, delis, food carts, bakeries, butchers, fish mongers, or grocers in our neighborhood. If it’s edible, we’ll take a bite.
Bun Cha Gio Bo Lui, or Grilled Beef and Spring Rolls with Sesame Seasoning and Lettuce on Rice Vermicelli, is the dish that introduced me to Vietnamese cuisine. For the uninitiated, Vietnamese food can be a bit mysterious, but it is a vibrant mix of Chinese, Thai and French foods which are all blended into its own unique genre. With this dish’s collection of spring rolls, grilled beef and rice vermicelli there’s nothing unfamiliar about Cha Gio Bo Lui other than its name. As my friend told me when she introduced it to me, “It’s safe for a non-Asian.”
While familiar, the flavors of the components of Bun Cha Gio Bo Lui ($6.25) are not at all what I expected. When I ordered “Spring Rolls” I was expecting something similar to a Chinese take-out egg roll, but instead of the familiar greasy cabbage filled roll, I was given three small, perfectly fried, densely pork-packed crispy cigars. Each roll was grease-free and crispy, while the pork stuffing remained moist and flavorful. I’m not sure of the ingredients, but I tasted garlic, fish sauce and possibly a little onion in the meat. Each roll is best when eaten in the traditional style, wrapped in lettuce and mint leaves, which unfortunately the restaurant does not provide to its take-out guests. Be sure to ask for it.
The grilled beef was also a surprise. I expected slices of grilled meat but Pho Hoai served three rolls of thinly shaved marinated beef wrapped around a nugget of an unknown crunchy vegetable. Don’t let that scare you off. The vegetable is pretty tasteless, but adds a nice texture to the packet of meat.
The sesame seasoning is just a bunch of chopped peanuts scattered with fresh cut scallions over the dish, which when mixed with the cold bland rice vermicelli underneath makes an interesting salad. The Bun Cha Gio Bo Lui comes with a sweet dipping sauce that is light, sweet and refreshing. The dish is complemented with some pickled carrots, onions, cabbage and other assorted vegetables that add a brightness to the meal.
Pho Hoai Vietnamese Restaurant, 1906 Avenue U, (718) 616-1233.