The handheld food item is greater than the sum of its parts. Crispy, fried, baked, cold or hot, handheld food is always welcome. Something to be savored and devoured, it makes you think and makes you feel. It can be a simple pleasure, or a fabulous indulgent delight.
It is; handheld.
See this leafy gem? Vietnamese spring rolls.
A fantastic contrasting flavor and texture distinguishes these finger-thick snacks from the fat, dumpy egg rolls and spring rolls of less desirable Chinese restaurants.
Fresh and hot from the fryer, they are served with big leaves of romaine lettuce, mint, cucumbers and dipping sauce. Wrap them up, nestled next to mint and cucumber, dip them in fish sauce and chilies, and enjoy one of the more wonder-filled handheld foods available. Don't skimp on the mint.
I'll tell you where I like to go for my favorites after the next handheld.
This next delight is a play on an old favorite. The pork bun.
This porky, flaky triangle is unlike the steamed or baked buns that I've spoken of before.
With a sweet, flaky exterior, and a savory pork filled center, these are excellent for breakfast with hot milk tea or for lunch with a cold bubble tea.
Also great after a night of drinking!
These are available at most dim sum restaurants and most Chinese bakeries.
Where to get them
For Vietnamese spring rolls, go to Nha Trang Palace in Brooklyn. I love this spot, and they have a number of dishes that are certainly worth ordering. Get spring rolls, of course, crispy fried squid, and any grilled pork. This place rocks.
For Vietnamese spring rolls in Manhattan, I go to Nha Trang One, on Baxter st. near Whiskey Tavern. The dish to order here is the sauteed shrimp with okra, perfect after several crispy appetizers.
For flaky sweet pork buns, I go to Fay Da Bakery in Manahattan Chinatown, which also has my favorite milk tea of almost any place around. Also worth trying is the chocolate walnut bun.