My favorite dish has to be Vietnamese egg rolls. It’s one of the first dishes I learned to cook and enjoyed doing because I new the reward I would reap at the end! From start to finish, it’s about a two hour endeavor but well worth the time and effort. It takes even less time if you enlist the help of your friends and family. No one actually minds because they want the egg rolls to be done ASAP. (Of course, those involved in the cooking process have the right to taste test.) Another time saver is to buy pre-cut cole slaw package instead of shredding cabbage and carrots.
In our family, there can never be too many egg rolls. We always make a huge batch and it magically disappears. In the rare event that there are left overs, you can place it in a zip-lock baggie lined with paper towels and refrigerate. Just plop them in the oven on 350˚ for 7-10 minutes and they are nice and crispy again.
Vietnamese egg rolls are traditionally made with rice paper giving the egg rolls a nice crispy exterior. They can also be made with phyllo egg roll wrappers found in the frozen section of the Asian market. You can make do with Chinese egg roll wrappers avialbe at most grocery stores but the egg rolls will have a thicker skin and not as light as the other wrappers.
What ingredients go into an egg roll? It varies widely depending on your taste and what is in your cupboard or available at the grocery store. You can make it with just meat or vegetables. I like the combination of meat, seafood and vegetables. The recipe below is made with my favorite ingredients. Pork is probably the most common ingredient to any egg rolls but for the health conscious, other meats can be substituted. Below is a list of substitutable ingredients – you can choose one or a combination of ingredients:
Ground meat: pork, turkey, chicken
Seafood: shrimp, lump crab meat
Vegetables: shredded cabbage, carrots, bean sprouts, shredded jicama
How to enjoy Vietnamese egg rolls? Of course, simply devouring the egg rolls without anything else. The sweet fish sauce makes a nice dipping sauce for the egg rolls. Often egg rolls are served at restaurants with the lettuce wrap fixings – I’ve included this option below. If you want to make egg rolls more of a meal, you can cut the egg rolls into bite size and serve with rice noodles. The rice noodles (thin, round variety – Bun) are cooked and cooled to room temperature. In individual serving bowls, top rice noodles with shredded lettuce, julienned cucumber, sprigs of cilantro and plenty of bite size egg rolls. Final touch to the cold egg roll noodle bowl is to dress it with the sweet fish sauce.
My recipe below will make between 40-50 eggrolls. The amount will be dependent on how generous the fillings are for each of the eggrolls. As long as you are taking the time to make egg rolls, I think you should have plenty for left overs! It may sound like a lot but it should easily serve a crowd. You can half the recipe if you plan to only serve this as an appetizer for 4-6 people.
Vietnamese Egg Rolls (Cha Gio)
- 1 lb ground meat – pork
- ½ pound peeled shrimp
- 1 cup of lump crab meat
- 3 chopped garlic cloves
- 1 carrot, peeled and shredded
- ¼ cabbage, shredded
- 1 medium size jicama shredded
- 2 ounce dried vermicelli noodles
- 1 ounce dried black fungus/cloud ear mushrooms
- 2-3 large eggs
- Ground black pepper
- 2-3 tbsp of fish sauce (depending on taste)
- 2 tbsp oyster sauce (optional)
- Egg roll wrappers – 12 oz package (30-50 rice paper sheets, 10 inch diameter)
- Frying oil – vegetable, corn, canola, peanut
Sweet Fish Sauce:
- 2 garlic cloves chopped or smashed
- 1 fresh Thai Chili (or ¼ tsp of hot chili peppers flakes)
- ¼ cup fish sauce
- 2/3 cup water
- 2 tbsp fresh lime/lemon juice
- ¼ cup sugar
- 2-4 tbsp shredded carrots (or Vietnamese Relish)
Lettuce wrap fixings (optional):
- 1 washed head of lettuce (crisphead, butterhead or red leaf)
- 1 cucumber julienned
- 1 bunch of cilantro
1. Soak vermicelli noodles and mushrooms in a bowl of warm water for 20 minutes.
2. In a food processor pulse grind shrimp, crab meat, garlic until roughly chopped. Add to mixture, drained vermicelli noodles and mushrooms, pulse grind briefly until all ingredients are integrated.
3. In a large mixing bowl, transfer ingredients from food processor and combine with ground meat, shredded vegetables. Add black pepper, fish sauce, oyster sauce, and 2 eggs. Use hands to mix ingredients together. If the mixture seems dry, add the other egg.
4. Wrapping the egg rolls with rice paper. Fill a shallow dish with 1 inch of warm water. Quickly dip rice paper in the water bath, making sure all parts of the paper is wet. Place wet rice paper on a clean dish towel/plate and let it soften. Once it is soft and pliable, peel it off the towel and place on to a plate. Lay 1 ½ tbsp of filling on the lower edge of the rice paper, near you, leaving 1 inch edge. Begin to fold egg roll like an envelop: first, fold over the lower 1 inch edge over the filing, then the left edge, then the right edge. Now roll the roll up to the top edge. Place the wrapped egg roll on a platter and keep on rolling!
5. Heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan over medium high heat. Tess the oil by dipping the tip of a wooden spoon or wooden chop stick – if it bubbles around the tip then the oil is ready. Place egg roll one at a time into hot oil, with the seam down (this will keep it from unraveling) and then quickly turn the egg roll to ensure the skin crisp up and does not stick to other egg rolls in the pan. Adjust heat so that the oil is bubbling gently and not too vigorously around the egg rolls. Each egg roll will take about 5 minutes to cook – golden brown spots and skin is super crispy. Shake the egg roll over the pan to help remove the excess oil. Place egg roll on layers of paper towels to drain.
6. Next, make the sweet fish sauce for dipping. Either finely chop garlic and pepper OR use a mortar and pestle to smash garlic and hot pepper. If you are using pepper flakes, no need to smash. Place the chopped or smashed garlic and pepper into a small bowl then add the rest of the ingredients for the dressing. Stir well until sugar dissolves. If the sauce is not quite sweet enough add a bit more sugar. If the sauce is too sweet and not tangy enough for your taste, squeeze in some lime/lemon juice to cut the sweetness.
7. Prepare the lettuce wrap fixings. Gently unwrap and separate the lettuce, one leaf at a time and arrange leaves on serving platter. On another small plate, arrange the julienned cucumber and the cilantro.
8. Serve egg rolls with the dipping sauce and the lettuce wrap fixings. How to eat – use lettuce as a wrap and place the egg roll in the middle with the cucumber, coriander, roll the lettuce up (like a burrito). Dip into sauce and enjoy.