cha gio morethanafoodie

Will Work for Food!

When friends visit we usually like to go out and show them what Des Moines has to offer. However, sometimes I like to stay in and cook.

Recently our good friends Rachel and Melissa made it here for a weekend of good food and fun. I am not sure if they were aware, but on this trip I decided to make them work for their food. Well… some of their food. They were great sports and it was fun cooking with them in my kitchen.

cha gio

I wine them and dine them, then I take them home to make them perform manual labor for their next meal.

When they first arrived after their long drive from ND, we took them out for some wine and cheese at one of our favorite local spots. The Cheese Shop of Des Moines!


Rachel and Melissa on their first trip to The Cheese Shop.


The next morning. They were just out of bed and quickly put to work. I might have let them have a cappuccino first. On the menu was bánh bao and chả giò. I did not get pre-approval to use this particular picture.

Bánh bao is one of my favorite Vietnamese foods. Basically it is a big steamed dumpling. The dough is sweet and similar to and influenced by Chinese dumplings. Filled with ground pork, onion, mushrooms, vegetables, a bit of egg, and some lap cheong (Chinese sausage).

Chả giò, or Vietnamese fried spring rolls, were next on the menu. Filled with ground pork, jicama, carrots, and other secrets. They’re fried to perfection. I like to use the thinnest possible wrapper or Vietnamese rice paper. Forget those wrappers you can buy in your local grocery store produce section. Get the real stuff. Make a trip to the Asian market and find some good ones. As my friends have found over the years, it is an art learning to pull a wrapper from the pile to make a spring roll.


As you can see, Rachel is a master “spring roller.”


Lunch was almost ready and I finally let them freshen up. They couldn’t wait to taste the fruits of their labor.


Chad, Melissa, and Rachel ready to feast on our morning of cooking.


rice paper cha gio

We fried some in Vietnamese rice paper and others in the lumpia style wrapper. Each has its own texture and character. Both delicious.

lettuce daikon carrots

We ate them with fresh basil, mint, and lettuce. I also made some Đồ Chua (pickled carrot and daikon). You can add some fresh cucumber, bean sprouts, or whatever else you like with your spring rolls.

nuoc mam cha gio

A traditional dipping sauce is Nước chấm, a mixture of fish sauce (I like Three Crabs), sugar, garlic, lime, chilies, and some water. It seems every Viet family does it differently. Of course, my dad makes it the best, but this did just fine for our meal.


Wrap up a spring roll in some lettuce, herbs, and dip in the sauce.


Nom nom nom…


We had enough bánh bao and chả giò for several people. Thank goodness they are great as leftovers. 

fongolians des moines iowa

On another one of our outings, the girls shared a pupper fish tiki drink at Fong’s Pizza. It was called the Happy Fong – Vodka, Gin, Triple Sec, Midori, Sour, Lemon Juice, Simple Syrup & Sprite. They are so cute!

green hornet shot fongs pizza

The Green Hornet is a must try shot at Fong’s, very tasty!

The rest of the weekend involved cocktails and bingo at The Blazing Saddle. Rachel won blackout! Newbies always have the best luck at bingo.

Miss you guys! Come visit again soon!

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