After being separated from her parents and 15 siblings during the earliest stages of the Vietnam War, Van Nguyen was reunited with her family in Cleveland in 1985 — with the addition of Bac, who was born in Vietnam in 1982. "They almost like re-met each other for the first time," Bac says of his mom and grandma, Minh. Mother and daughter reconnected over food, opening Minh Van in Lakewood, where Vietnamese spring rolls were on the menu. Bac grew up in restaurants, especially after Van bought Chinese Village. She added Vietnamese food and adapted the spring rolls, using a special seasoning to bring out more flavor in the cabbage, celery and carrots. Bac still uses that seasoning, as well as pork from Pinzone's Market Fresh Meats at the West Side Market, just like his grandma and mom did. But Bac added his own twist with sauteed scallion stems to give more freshness to the fried rolls. "They are a very laborious item," he says. "Rolling these is a humbling thing." The fact that his modern Asian bistro is in Tremont, the city's culinary neighborhood, isn't lost on him."I look at how I've done restaurants and where Vietnamese and Asian food has come, but at the end of the day this is still the most humble peasantlike item."
Van Nguyen was an opera singer in Vietnam and didn't have much other work experience when she came to the U.S. "I didn't know anything about the cooking in Vietnam," says Nguyen. "I learned from my mom when we came here. My mom didn't have a restaurant in Vietnam, but she had 16 kids. That's why she was a good cook."
Yield: about 20 rolls
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1 pound cabbage, shredded
- 1 pound carrot, shredded
- 1 medium onion, shredded
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- 1 egg
- 1 package spring roll wrap
Combine all filling ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly.
Crack egg into small bowl and whisk.
Place a small amount of mixture into a spring roll wrap and roll, tucking in sides halfway through.
Seal the edge with egg.
Deep fry at 325 degrees for 10 minutes.