How Tu David Phu Put An American Spin On Vietnamese Summer Rolls

To understand the American spin that Tu David Phu puts on Vietnamese Summer Rolls, you must first understand his cultural background and upbringing. According to his website,, Phu was born in Oakland, California. He's a first-generation Vietnamese-American chef whose family originates from Phu Quoc, Thailand.

Chef Phu is no stranger to the culinary arts, as his family has been producing artisanal Phu Quoc fish sauce since 1895. The famous chef studied cuisine across many cultures but eventually found his passion in the taste of his Vietnamese heritage. In a personal quest, he set out to discover everything about the techniques and flavors of Vietnamese culture. It wasn't until 2016 that he was first recognized in the press for his unique fusion of Vietnamese-California cuisine.

According to Rachael Ray, chef Phu grew up eating Vietnamese summer rolls filled with fresh, raw fish. This isn't a common ingredient in these rolls, but his father was a fishmonger, so fish was readily available. Along with the constant access to fresh fish and the influence of his Japanese-American friends' craving for sushi and tuna, Phu began experimenting with raw tuna recipes at home. He discovered that his creativity led to inspiration, and his inspiration developed into his creation of the tuna summer roll.

Fresh fish twist

Chef Tu David Phu's American spin on Vietnamese summer rolls is his addition of fresh fish. This ingredient isn't usually incorporated into summer rolls, so this technique is quite unique. Not to be confused with spring rolls, summer rolls consist of vegetables and other ingredients that are rolled inside translucent rice paper, says All Recipes. These Vietnamese-style rolls are served cold and with a savory dipping sauce.

According to Rachael Ray, chef Phu's ahi tuna summer rolls include rice noodles, butter lettuce, pickled daikon and carrots, cilantro, and raw, sushi-grade ahi tuna. These fresh components are rolled tightly into rice paper wrappers and garnished with salmon roe and chia seeds.

Phu's summer rolls wouldn't be complete without a fish sauce, and this isn't just any fish sauce, either. After all, the famous chef's family is known for producing the Champagne of fish sauces. His special fish sauce recipe includes lemon juice, coconut water, fish sauce, organic sugar, minced shallots, garlic, ginger, and chrouk matae. These ingredients are whisked together to form the flavorful summer roll dipping sauce.

Where does his cooking inspiration come from?

Chef Tu David Phu's Vietnamese-American cooking inspiration comes from a long line of rich family heritage. In an interview with Creative Mornings, Phu was asked where he continues to obtain inspiration and skills for his cooking since learning techniques from his mother. He responded by saying, " ... the thing that my mother does and the techniques that she cooked with, both the innovation and the tradition of cooking that she acquired, pre-dates any modern kitchen by a few hundred years, if not a few thousand years. So, if anything, I'm the informal cook. You know what I mean?"

He continued by saying we have to change our approach and dialogue about how we see the world of cooking. Television and "glam" affect the way we see and perceive things in the culinary world, and "we forget that their inspiration for those techniques and cooking abilities come from a matriarch, always."