My first experience to taste this specialty from North Vitenam was long time ago but only when I had a dinner at Tuan Tu restaurant in Tran Cao Van street, I tried it again and realized it's very good!
Spring roll is our traditional dish, super popular! Esp. for many celebrations as New Year party, birthday party, weeding, death anniversary to weekend family, friends gathering!
In South we have different recipes. With shrimp, pork, mixed with taro, green bean, glass noodle, wood-ear mushroom, vegetarian...Deep fried. Fresh rolls!
But spring roll from North is unique.
That's why no wonder "nem cua bể", in North we call "nem", i.e spring roll, is considered as one of best street foods in Asia!
Nem cua bể originally from sea port city - Hải Phòng!
In Hải Phòng or Hà Nội to make the best "nem", only super fresh crab meat is used and it's only fried upon the customer's order.
Instead of mixing all ingredients together, making a paste for filling (nhân), for nem cua bể - we lay one by one: first seasoned ground pork meat well mixed with glass noodle, wood ear mushroom, onion...then crab meat, then few of reddish cooked shrimps and fresh bean sprout (!).
This's very different from what we do in South!
The shape of nem cua bể usually in square shape! Not traditional cylinder!
The rice paper is important! How much and how long crispy the nem is, it depends on the rice paper quality or maybe some other secrets?
I do like crispy on the outside of this nem, then strong crab taste with black pepper flavor on the inside!
I usually prefer not to dip it in fish sauce, I want to have it in its original taste!
For certain reason, at the stall where they serve nem cua bề, we always find another glamorous rice noodles dish - bún chả Hà Nội! Literally grilled pork & grilled pork meat ball with rice noodles.
It's similar to bún thịt nướng (rice noodles with grilled pork in Southern style) but the eating way is very different!
I was surprised when seeing grilled pork and grilled ground pork meat in dish shape, soaking in very light sweet fish sauce with some pieces of green papaya (đu đủ xanh) or kohlrabi (su hào)!
This afternoon I tried bún chả Hà Nội on Lê Thánh Tôn street, in small alley, easy to find as the alley next to the shop "Beef noodles 2000" (Phở 2000). From the main street we can see the shop board!
I was a bit disappointed because nem cua bể here is just average and the grilled pork is OK!
I would recommend another stall named "Bún chả Hồ Gươm" on Trần Phú street, very near to Equatorial hotel! Nem cua bể there in square shape, and to me - better, but i was told the best - in the area near to Tan Son Nhat airport!
I'm a guy from South, so the way I eat is to put everything together, then pour a fish sauce into my bowl! For the fish sauce I would prefer a bit tastier, stronger !
Updated info: as I just tried bún chả & nem cua bể at Vân Anh, 36 Hồng Hà, near to Tân Sơn Nhất airport so I'd love to share and to post some photos here!
But as said I still don't like the sauce in a northern style - quite bland!
Anyway I do hope to explore more this famous dish at another place! As said I heard somewhere else near to Tan Son Nhat Airport! So hope to share with you soon!
Where to try nem cua bể in Sài gòn ?
Bún chả Hồ Gươm - 8B Trần Phú street, dist. 5, near to Equatorial hotel.
Bún chả & nem cua bể Vân Anh - 36 Hồng Hà, Phú Nhuận, near to TSN Airport.