I'm not one for mash-ups of cuisines or dishes that have no natural affinity. While Korean and Mexican food may share certain characteristics that make the Korean taco seem a natural permutation, some fusion dishes seem forced, the culinary equivalent to bestiality. Foie gras con molé rojo y carnitas de conejillo de Indias might be interesting and fun. Bestiality, after all, has its adherents. Still, there are times when it's best just to walk away.
Not wanting to sin against nature, I'm always hesitant to mess with a good thing. Goi cuon, Vietnamese salad rolls, are a very good thing. Most often filled with shrimp, bean sprouts, rice vermicelli, lettuce, and herbs, they almost make one feel virtuous simply for eating them.
One of the meals Tjing used to fix us when we lived in Vietnam was roast pork with banh hoi and fresh vegetables. Living on the 3rd floor in a Saigon townhouse without air-conditioning, we frequently had this during the hot, dry months before the rainy season. Composed of sheets of banh hoi brushed with scallion oil, thit heo quay (roast pork purchased from a nearby shop), beansprouts, pineapple and young banana wrapped in lettuce, the rolls required no cooking. Dipped in nuoc cham, they were lighter than a sandwich and we could easily doctor them to our individual tastes.
Spring in Northern California brings us asparagus and dill. Grilled asparagus with a squeeze of lemon is one of those heavenly combinations. Cha ca, the classic Vietnamese dish from Hanoi, pairs dill and fish. Gravlax, salmon cured with dill, is a classic combination from Europe. Add in asparagus with mustard dill sauce and we have a party. Making a non-traditional salad roll using cold-smoked salmon and grilled asparagus with a mustard dill sauce, therefore, didn't seem as though I was bedding the beast. A peck on the cheek, perhaps, maybe a whispering of "who do ewe love?", but certainly no walk of shame.
The rolls turned out as good as, or better, than I had hoped. Had we had these in Saigon, they would have been perfect on those stifling nights before the rains. Here, I would recommend one or two pieces as a starter, but we enjoyed a plate of them for a delightful supper.
Grilled Asparagus and Smoked Salmon Salad Rolls
16--24 asparagus spears, brushed with oil, lightly salted and grilled, cooled and cut into 2-inch lengths
1 six-ounce piece of cold-smoked salmon (in Sacramento, Oto's Japanese Market on Freeport sells this) sliced about an 1/8th inch thick (this is thicker than gravlax is usually sliced)
4 sheets of cooked banh hoi--halved lengthwise
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1/3 cup fresh dill, chopped
honey mustard dill sauce
Heat the oil in a small saucepan to almost smoking. Turn off the heat and add the green onions and dill. Brush this mixture over the sheets of banh hoi.
Dip a round of rice paper briefly in a bowl of water. Place on a towel. Place a slice of the salmon about a quarter way from the top of the round. Place a half-sheet of banh hoi below the salmon. Place four pieces of asparagus on top of the banh hoi. Place two tips of asparagus at opposite ends of the banh hoi, so that when you make the rolls the tips are sticking out of opposite ends. Spoon some honey mustard dill sauce over the asparagus. Roll up the rice paper into a firm roll. Cut in half.
For the honey mustard sauce, I mixed together several tablespoons each of Dijon mustard, chopped dill and honey. I added fresh lemon juice and stirred it all together.