TGI Fry-Day: Shrimp Egg Roll from Ba Le
Ba Le is best known for serving bánh mì, and you could point blindfolded at the menu of 20+ sandwich variations and be thrilled with whichever one you ended up with. But Ba Le is no one trick pony. Reach-ins line the wall of the minimally decorated space in Uptown, each packed full of noodle and papaya salads, rice dishes, various buns, and an assortment of Vietnamese beverages. But if you're looking for something hot to pair with your toasty sandwich, Ba Le has you covered, too. Encased in glass and heat lamp lit from above are a selection of egg rolls and other fried appetizers. Generally, the first rule of TGI Fry-Day is "heat lamp = bad," but given the quality of Ba Le's sandwiches, I figured I'd trust their judgment and give something a try.
I couldn't resist the distinctive presentation of the Shrimp Egg Roll ($2.50). Peppery ground pork, glass noodles, jicama (according to the cashier), and shrimp are neatly rolled in egg roll wrappers, with the shell on shrimp tails left sticking out of each end. Deep frying the tails doesn't necessarily render them edible, I learned. But beyond that user error, the rolls worked quite well: the filling had a faint sweetness about it, and while the heat lamp had certainly softened the exterior, there was plenty of that crackly, phyllo dough-like texture you see in the best egg rolls. A light dab of sriracha added spice and pleasantly upped the sweetness level as well. All in all, it was a great accompaniment to one of the better bánh mì in the city.