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Vietnamese Spring Rolls (Cha Gio)

October 25, 2010

Vietnamese Spring Rolls and Fried wontons

So, this is a long awaited recipe – that I’ve been meaning to post for some time now. The summer just flew by, and fall – well fall is almost over too. Where does the time go??

If you’ve never had Vietnamese spring rolls, you are definitely in for a treat. No, they are not egg rolls – and I take offense to anyone calling them that. They are so much better, and so worth the effort to make. In general, I don’t like to make deep fried food, but these just don’t taste the same if you don’t. Trust me, I have tried baking them – and they end up tasting too dry. But,..hey…once in awhile we can splurge a little for something we love.  I try not to make them that often (even though my kids and hubby love them), otherwise, they wouldn’t be a treat anymore.  I do try to make them a little healthier by adding some spinach and carrots. My recipe is a meat version though – I always feel cheated when I bite into a vegetarian one that is mainly cabbage and needs to be doused in plum sauce to make them have any taste at all (hence – my thought on Chinese egg rolls).

Before I met my husband, I had these spring rolls for the first time in a little Vietnamese restaurant here in Ottawa. It was in love at first bite. And that orange sauce – nuoc mam – was just a perfect pairing – I was in heaven.

Then, when I met JJ, his parents made them for dinner one night. I didn’t think anything could top the spring rolls I had in that little restaurant until I tasted JJ’s parents. They were even better – lots of filling, not too much vegetable and I wasn’t biting into a roll of oil.  I HAD to know how to make these. That was 15 years ago. Now, I am known for MY spring rolls and have many people who pay me to make them for their events.
Secretly…I think my version is even better than my in-laws….but…shhh…don’t tell them that.

Now, making spring rolls require a little time and time management.  I usually make the meat mixture and do the rolling the night before the event. Once you get the hang of rolling them, doing 40-50 will take about 1/2  hour. Refrigerate no more than 2 days. There is  raw meat in the rolls and you don’t want all you hard work go to waste. If you like to really plan ahead, you can freeze them at this state, then thaw overnight in the refrigerator.  I’m usually not that organized. About 2 hours before the event, I will deep fry them. 1 minute per roll. So, if I’m frying 8 at a time, that would require 8 minutes. So, if I need 48 of them, that would mean 6 batches of 8  -and it would take be about 50 minutes to fry them all. So, I need to get things going at least 2 hours before the event – get the oil heated, fry them, get myself ready and also count-in  driving time.

So, your probably saying, enough of the talking, just give me that recipe. So, here it is. Step by step instructions.

The ingredients.

The ingredients:

ground pork (you could also use ground chicken or turkey)
1 bunch green onions
2-3 carrots
2 cans shitake mushrooms (or rehydrate the dry version)
vermicelli noodles
oyster sauce
(you can find these ingredients at an Asian store or the even the bigger grocery chains like Loblaws)
garlic powder
1-2 pkg of spring roll pastry (you will have to find this at an asian grocery store).
2 tbsp flour (don’t add to meat – this is the glue to hold the rolls together)

Optional Ingredients:

shrimp, spinach, hoisin sauce


Step 1: Cover the noodles with hot (but not boiling) water. Allow to soak for about 5 minutes to soften, then drain.

Chop up roughly with some scissors.

Glass noodles

Cutting up the noodles

Step 2: Grate the carrots, slice up the green onions and shitake mushrooms. Add the meat and chopped up noodles. Then add the seasonings: oyster sauce, garlic powder, salt. This is all to taste – and depends on the amount of meat you are using. I use about 1/2 cup of the oyster sauce and about 2 Tbsp of garlic powder. Mix it all up together by hand.

In a separate small bowl, add the flour and about 3 tbsp of water. Mix it up until you get a glue like texture. Just add more water/flour to change the consistency. Set aside.

Meat Mixture ingredients

Adding the seasonings

The meat mixture ready to be rolled.

The glue!

Step 3: Prepare the spring roll pastry, by carefully peeling the layers apart. Try not to rip them if possible.

Spring roll pastry

Ready to Roll!

Step 4: Now, you’re ready to roll. I like to use a 1 tbsp scooper to spoon the mix out on the rolls. That way, I don’t have to get my hands dirty, and I get an even amount of meat in each roll. Put the mix onto one corner of the wrap. Fold that corner over the meat mix and gently pull back and squeeze to spread the mixture out a bit. Then fold the two outer corners inward, and roll up towards the the top corner. Add a small dollop of the flour glue to the top corner to seal the wrap. Work as quickly as possible to make sure the other wraps don’t dry out, which makes them harder to roll. Follow the picture steps below to see how I roll them up.

Step 5: Once you’ve rolled them all – you are ready to fry them. Make sure the oil is nice and hot.  A good test I do, is to insert a wooden chopstick into the oil. If the oil bubbles around the chopstick, it is hot enough. My rule is that for each spring roll you add to the oil – add a minute to your timer. I usually cook 8 at a time, so I set my timer for 8 minutes. Drain on  paper towels. Change paper towels if getting too oily.

Ready for frying.

Ready for sampling!!

So, there you have it. They are tasty enough on their own, but I will usually serve this with a mix of nuoc mam and sweet chili sauce. People always like to dip, and this just gives the spring rolls a little kick of heat!!I hope your enjoy making them as much as you like eating them. Let me know how yours turn out!

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