The Dish: Vietnamese Summer Rolls from Bánh Mí and Bottles in South Philly

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Thursday, May 2, 2024
The Dish: Chef Tuan Phung's Vietnamese Summer Rolls from Bánh Mí and Bottles in South Philadelphia
In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Month, we're making Vietnamese summer rolls from Bánh Mí and Bottles in South Philadelphia.

SOUTH PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- In today's "The Dish," in honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Month, we're making Vietnamese summer rolls.

They've been on the menu at Bánh Mí and Bottles at 7th and South Streets since they opened eight years ago.

Chef and owner Tuan Phung hopes this will inspire you to throw a summer roll party.

"I call it a summer roll party," Phung says. "We would have friends and guests over for Sundays or birthday parties and then we would set up like a station to make summer rolls."

The rolls are popular at warm weather parties in Phung's native Vietnam.

The Dish: Vietnamese Summer Rolls from Bánh Mí and Bottles in South Philly

"You can sit in the backyard, chatting and you making rolls and you just keep eating," he says.

There are different fillings and sauces so you choose your adventure with each roll.

"Something very traditional is the shrimp and pork," he says.

It's one of a few protein choices he offers for the spread. He also threw a steak on the grill, which you slice up into easy-to-eat strips.

Also, think of your non-meat eaters.

"I have Portobello mushrooms and okra, tofu and eggplant," he says. "Pick any vegetables you like."

Phung also prepared a seafood option.

"I take a fish fillet and we cut it in a smaller size," he says.

The ideas is for everything to be bite-sized.

Now, you start to build.

The base is rice paper. You dip it into water and shake it off so it's not too wet.

The first thing that goes into the rice paper is lettuce - that's the real vessel.

Now, you add some crunch.

"We have a lot of herbs here," Phung says. "We do basil and mint, cucumber and peppers."

Next, vermicelli noodles. You just have to soak them in hot water and they're ready to go.

Now, choose your protein.

Phung wears gloves for this because it's easier to assemble them quickly, especially if you're the designated party roller.

Once you're ready to roll, fold the sides in, pack tightly, wrap and roll.

The sauces, he says, are the real stars here. His are homemade, like the fish sauce he learned from his grandmother and the hoisin and peanut sauces.

Try your own or get store bought. Buy, or make, at least one to match each protein.

Bringing Vietnamese culture to Philly's food scene

When Phung opened Bánh Mí and Bottles in 2017, he wanted to use food to educate people about his culture. An immigrant, born and raised in Vietnam, he found his true calling in Philly's food scene.

"I started to dig deeper," he says. "I wanted to bring back cuisine from my city."

Now that the space is turning eight, he wanted to reinvent it to be more authentic.

Phung was inspired by his father, who cooked for families in a Vietnamese refugee camp. He spent time there as a child, and his menu is packed with memories.

Each dish tells a story about their journey.

"These are things that I grew up eating in my city," Phung says. "We're from Haiphong in Northern Vietnam. We were an hour away from Hanoi, and 15 minutes away from the beach. Our food is coastal."

Phung now serves up traditional Vietnamese fare, with a modern twist.

When he first opened, he designed it as a bottle shop, with easy street food dishes.

"Pre-pandemic, we were a very casual spot," he says. "We had beer that was grab and go. Now, we're more like a sitting down place. The vibe has changed a lot."

Phung has lived in Philadelphia for 21 years. Now, his family is growing along with his business. He and his wife have three kids.

"My wife was six months pregnant when we opened," he says.

For Asian American an Pacific Islander Month, Phung is teaming up with other chefs across the city to celebrate their culture.

"Our Asian community is growing and we are finding bonds to each other," he says.