One of my favorite things to eat when dining in a Vietnamese restaurant are the crispy spring rolls or Chả Giò that generally appear on the appetizer side of the menu in this part of the world. These tasty and versatile rolls are also cut up and added to vermicelli noodle dishes as a main course. Often served by themselves, they are sometimes offered with lettuce and fresh herbs to wrap them in before dipping into tasty nước chấm sauce. This dip which is often referred to as “fish sauce” is in fact not pure fish sauce (nước mắm) but a mixture with the potent liquid as one ingredient. Pure fish sauce should never be served as a dip!
Chả Giò, commonly referred to in Vietnam as paper rolls in the north part of the country and spring rolls in the south differ from many other common Vietnamese foods in that while most popular dishes have a very similar recipe used to make them it seems that every region, every family and even individual family member has their own recipe for Chả Giò. Since there is no truly common recipe I’m going to offer a more complex version that shows how great these crunchy little treats can be.
You may notice from my picture that the rolls are “bubbly” and not smooth as you most likely have seen in your local Vietnamese restaurant. The reason is that most if the spring rolls you have tried were either chinese spring rolls or were made using the much easier to use and locate chinese spring roll wrappers. Authentic Vietnamese rolls are made using rice paper as seen in this image and this is what the following recipe calls for.
- 1 lb ground pork
- ½ lb peeled shrimp, pounded
- 1 can of crab meat, drained & shell fragments removed
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 1 medium carrot, shredded
- 1 cup cabbage, shredded
- 1 medium jicama, shredded
- 2 ounce dried vermicelli noodles
- 1 ounce dried wood ear mushrooms
- 3 large eggs
- 3 tbsp of fish sauce (nước mắm)
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- 12 oz package dry rice paper wrappers (30-50 ten inch sheets, round or square)
Oil for frying
For Nước Chấm Dipping Sauce:
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 1 Thai Chili, seeded and sliced or minced
- ½ cup fish sauce (nước mắm)
- ¼ cup lime juice
- ¼ cup sugar
- 3 tbsp water
- 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 2-4 tbsp shredded carrot
- Soak vermicelli noodles and mushrooms in a bowl of warm water for 20 minutes.
- In a food processor pulse grind shrimp, crab meat, garlic and shallots until roughly chopped.
- Add drained vermicelli noodles and mushrooms, pulse grind briefly until all ingredients are loosely combined.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine mixture from food processor, ground pork and shredded vegetables.
- Add black pepper, fish sauce, and 2 of the eggs. Use hands to mix ingredients together. If the mixture seems dry, add the 3rd egg.
Wrapping the rolls:
- Fill a shallow dish with 1 inch of warm water. Quickly dip rice paper in the water bath, making sure all parts of each sheet is damp. Place moistened rice paper on a clean dish towel and let it soften.
- Once soft and pliable, peel the wrapper off the towel and place on to a plate.
- Lay 1 ½ tbsp of filling on the lower edge of the rice paper, leaving a 1 inch gap. Begin to fold like an envelop: first, fold the lower 1 inch edge over the filing, then the left edge, then the right edge. Now roll up to the top edge. Place the finished roll on a platter and repeat.
Cooking the rolls:
- In a large, deep frying pan place about 1 ½ inches of oil over medium high heat. Test the temperature by inserting one end of a wooden chop stick ( if it bubbles around the tip then the oil is ready).
- Place rolls one at a time into hot oil, with the seam down (this will keep them from unraveling) then quickly turn them to make sure the skins crisp up and do not stick to each other. (Adjust heat so that the oil is bubbling gently and not too vigorously around the rolls).
- Fry for about 5 minutes until golden brown and crisp, turning as needed. Remove and place on paper towel to drain before serving.
Freeze extra uncooked rolls and fry from frozen until uniformly golden brown.
For the Nước Chấm Dipping Sauce:
Makes about 2 cups
- Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
- Let stand for 30 min before serving.