One of Dearborn’s true gems when it comes to eateries is the Thai restaurant Bangkok 96. This family-owned business, established in 1996 by Genevieve Vang and her husband Guy, is a favorite of many in Dearborn and surrounding communities.
Again this year, voters chose Bangkok 96 as the WDIV “Best of” Thai restaurant in metro Detroit, an honor they have captured several times.
It is equally revered in the veggie community, noted by Urban Spoon as one of metro Detroit’s top 10 vegan restaurants. When we think of dining out, Bangkok 96 is always among our leading choices. The food is always fresh, readily made vegetarian or vegan, beautifully presented and never ceases to tease our palates.
A fan favorite for us is the magnificent Hot and Sour soup, that we request prepared vegetarian. Like many dishes on the menu, if it is not already veggie to start, you can request it prepared that way. This soup is absolutely delicious and full of so many flavor notes that it is hard to keep track if you are enjoying heat, sweet, sour or hot.
For dinner, it would be challenging to single out one go-to entrée because so many could easily fit that bill.
A few of our picks include a staple noodle dish, Vegetable Pad Thai (of course). What self-respecting veggie wouldn’t enjoy this one? Another noodle dish to try is Lard Na. We have it with fried tofu and it is presented in a hearty brown sauce. One more for the record book is Gang Keaw Warn, a green curry concoction that makes us want to look from side-to-side and quickly lick the plate clean when no one is looking.
For real adventure, we recommend you try an item that is not listed on the menu–but is known to many of the restaurant regulars–called Fresh Rolls.
We’ve learned that Fresh Rolls are actually Vietnamese cuisine and were introduced to Genevieve in her youth. She enjoyed them so much that now she prepares them for customers by request. They are served at room temperature and are not cooked.
Fresh Rolls were originally Vietnamese street food: rice paper wrapped around any host of fresh veggies and/or fruit. Bangkok 96 serves them with a sweet dipping sauce or a peanut sauce on request. A dash of soy doesn’t hurt either. Intended as a shared appetizer, you can also add fresh tofu (or chicken for our meaty friends) to make them more filling, or for a meal for one.
We adore these rolls so much that one day in conversation we asked Genevieve if she would consider showing us how to make them so we could share this experience with readers. Always a generous and giving soul, she readily agreed to do so.
A few weeks later, we gathered during a mid-afternoon break between her lunch and dinner rushes. She graciously showed us the masterful skill of making Fresh Rolls. A talented chef and instructor, she was able to show us how to create these morsels in a two-hour lesson.
She implored us to make more of them when we got home to practice, so we would not forget the technique. We dutifully obliged and made a half-dozen more and enjoyed them for dinner.
Here are the ingredients and instructions that recently appeared on ExploitsofaVeganWannabe.com
Thank you, Genevieve.
One package 31-centimeter rice papers (they feel heavy and firm in the bag)
Assorted julienned or already slender veggies like green beans and asparagus (we used carrots, baby bok choy, spinach, bean sprouts, red and yellow peppers, cilantro, green beans and asparagus)
Large pieces of lettuce
Firm tofu cut into 1-inch strips
You will also need:
A large pan of cold water to dip your rice sheets in
A large wooden cutting board to wrap rolls on
Make It Happen
Have all your filling ingredients ready to go. Once you moisten your rice paper, your time is limited.
Run your rice paper through the water back and forth to moisten entire circle.
Set on cutting board and place lettuce closest to you on rice paper (the lettuce is put down first so the rest of the ingredients don’t poke through the rice paper).
Lay your ingredients on top of the lettuce. Think of them as rainbow rolls and use all different colors of ingredients.
Fold the lip closest to you over the lettuce and ingredients while you are pushing the ingredients down with your fingers and guiding them under the rice wrap.
The object is to get the tightest wrap you can from the start. Roll 1.5 times making sure you have covered and tucked in both ends
Fold both sides of the rice paper over making sure that the end farthest from you is folded in toward the middle. This will ensure that the ends of the wrap stay closed. Think of it like a really tight burrito wrap.
Roll completely then cut decoratively or leave them whole for an easily transportable lunch or snack.
Serve with your favorite dipping sauces.