All my life I have never came across a person who didn’t enjoy munching on a few spring rolls from time to time. These little morsels of goodness are probably the most popular dish to come out of Vietnam. Each one is filled with pork, prawns and a variety vegetables which are seasoned with traditional Vietnamese flavours. Bean thread noodles and wood ear mushrooms are added to provide extra texture as you bite through the crispy golden pastry. If that doesn’t get your taste buds going then dip these spring rolls in nuoc mam cham (traditional Vietnamese dipping sauce) to get a real burst of flavour.
Recently, I had to admit to my mum that her spring roll recipe was better than mine. Of course, being true to form I held out as long as possible. But when it came down to it, her spring rolls simply tasted better than mine. My pride and sense of self worth took a massive nose dive and for days afterwards, I had this recurring nightmare of her laughing at me. But only through failure can we improve and much like a phoenix rising from the ashes, I manage to get my sh!t together and redo this post with you guessed it…. my mum’s recipe!
Traditionally spring rolls are made with rice paper (banh trang) which is the same sort you use for fresh rice paper rolls. I personally don’t like it as much as the Chinese style wheat based wrappers because it doesn’t have the same crunch or golden finish once fried. Plus growing up, the only person who would ever eat mum’s traditional spring rolls was dad. This was because mum wore the pants in the family and dad was a love struck NERD!
The authentic way to serve spring rolls is with some lettuce, herbs, do chua (pickled carrot and daikon) and nuoc mam cham which is a traditional Vietnamese dipping sauce. However, my personal favourite is to have it in a noodle bowl called bun cha gio. This particular dish makes a great emergency meal for the family if you have frozen spring rolls in the fridge.
And why would you have frozen spring rolls in your fridge? Because spring rolls are easy to make, easy to freeze and keeps for a long time! Every time I make a batch, I always make more than enough and keep the leftovers in a zip lock bag in the freezer. Now I am always prepared for a sudden potluck dinner, an unexpected guest or a late night fat attack!
My Tips for Success
- Don’t soak the noodles! There was a time not so long ago where I would squeeze the carrots to remove the juice. What this did was lower the overall moisture content of the filling which slowed down the rate at which the pastry would soften. The only problem was that the juice carried all the flavour! So, mum’s trick to fix this issue was to not soak the noodles so it would absorb the moisture in the filling instead. Now the flavour stays in the spring roll and the moisture is locked inside the noodles! Winning.
- There should be at least 2 layers of pastry wrapped around each spring roll. The inner most layers will absorb a lot of moisture in the form of steam. This protects the outer most layers from the moisture which keeps it crispier for longer. So, use smaller amounts of filling to allow more layers to form around each roll.
- Roll the spring rolls tight to avoid air pockets. If your spring rolls are flimsy then as soon as they hit the oil, they will likely start falling apart. So keep it tight!
- Don’t let the noodles hang out of the spring roll. This is because the noodles become really hard when deep fried and tend to get stuck in the gaps of your teeth. This can be very annoying, so avoid at all costs!
- Double fry your spring rolls for maximum crunch and colour. This method involves frying the spring rolls until slightly golden and then taking out to drain. Just before serving, put the spring rolls back into the oil and fry again until golden brown. Personally I don’t bother doing this because I find it a bit too tedious, but it definitely makes a difference. If you try this method be careful, since they burn easier!
- If you are planning on freezing the spring rolls, then place them side by side in a zip lock bag and put them into them freezer. Do not stack the bags of spring rolls on top of each other until they are frozen. Also, avoid letting them sit at room temperature for too long, since they will begin to sweat inside the bag and stick together.
- If you want true authentic Southern Vietnamese spring rolls, swap out white potato for jicama. Jicama is a type of yam that is much harder in texture than a potato. I honestly don’t bother because it is hard to find and usually a little expensive. But for those wanting the real deal, Asian groceries are your best bet.
- If your spring rolls look pale but are definitely cooked then it is usually one of two things. The most likely reason is that the oil temperature is too low and the other is you have bought spring roll wrappers that does not contain egg.
- If the spring rolls have a bubbly finish to them, then the oil temperature is too high.
- If the oil is going black, then oil is burnt because you have used a type of oil with a low burning point. I generally use vegetable oil for deep frying.
Well that’s it folks! All you need to know to make amazing spring rolls for your family and friends. We hope you found our post entertaining and informative. Happy cooking!
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PS This post have been revamped from an older version with a new story, recipe and photos.
Vietnamese Spring Rolls - Cha Gio
These little morsels are probably the most popular dish to come out of Vietnam. Each one is filled with pork, prawns and a variety vegetables which are seasoned with traditional Vietnamese flavours. Bean thread noodles and wood ear mushrooms are added to provide extra texture as you bite through the crispy golden pastry.
- 2 cups boiling water
- 50 - 60 medium (12.5 cm x 12.5 cm) spring roll (egg roll) wrappers (available at Asian groceries) (Note 1)
- Vegetable oil for deep frying
- 20 gm shredded dried black fungus / wood ear mushroom, roughly chopped (available at Asian groceries)
- 1/2 brown onion, finely chopped
- 150 gm carrot, grated
- 150 gm green cabbage, roughly chopped
- 100 gm white potato, chopped into small cubes
- 30 gm dried bean vermicelli
- 300 gm pork mince
- 200 gm raw prawn meat (approx 400 gm of prawns with shell), chopped into small chunks (Note 2)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp fish sauce
- 1/2 tsp freshly cracked pepper
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- 2 tbsp water
Preparing the Filling
In a bowl, soak the black fungus in boiling water and leave aside.
Prep all your vegetables and proteins.
Add the cubed white potato in a bowl with 1 tbsp of water. Cover with cling wrap and microwave on high for 4 minutes.
Strain the black fungus and pat dry with some kitchen towels. Roughly chop.
Rinse the bean vermicelli noodles under a tap for a few seconds and cut into 2 - 3 cm pieces with a pair of scissors.
Take out a mixing bowl and thoroughly combine all the filling ingredients with your hands.
Making the Cornstarch Mixture
In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and water.
Heat in the microwave for 30 seconds. If the mixture hasn't thickened, then microwave for a further 10 seconds.
Assembly (refer to the pictures in the post)
Separate a few spring roll wrappers at a time and put rest back into the packaging. Do not separate them all at once because they will dry out.
Place the wrapper in front of you with a corner pointing towards you, like a diamond.
Place a heaped teaspoon in the middle of the wrapper and spread the filling out in a small log shape going across the wrapper. Do not spread all the way to the side corners, and make sure the mixture is evenly spread.
Fold the side corners towards the middle and press down around the filling to make sure it is compacted.
Lift the bottom corner over the filling and roll tightly without squeezing the filling out.
Finish the roll with a bit of cornstarch mixture on the top corner to keep it together.
Cooking (refer to the pictures above)
Add enough vegetable oil to a pot so that the depth is at least 3 cm. Heat the oil on medium heat.
Slide the fresh / frozen spring rolls into the oil one at a time and be careful of splash back. Try not to overcrowd the pot with spring rolls.
Cook the spring rolls until they are floating on top of the oil and are a golden colour. It usually takes roughly 3 mins for fresh spring rolls and 3 - 4 for frozen. (Note 3)
Take them out with a slotted spoon or a pair of tongs and let them drain on a rack. Do not let them cool on top of each other.
Repeat until all done and serve ASAP!
- Spring roll wrappers usually come with egg or no egg. The one with egg gives a better golden finish.
- Prawn meat is expensive and can be substituted for more pork mince.
- If your spring rolls are pale but cooked, then the oil is not hot enough. If your spring rolls are forming bubbles on the skin then the oil is too hot.