Vietnamese egg rolls
Vietnamese egg rolls are typically wrapped with a rice paper and contain a variety of chopped vegetables, pork, shrimp, or poultry.
What recipe would you like to learn if you get one afternoon to learn from a Vietnamese grandmother? For us, and some friends, it was crispy banh xeo and Vietnamese egg rolls, called chả giò in the south and nem rán in the north. Since we blogged about banh xeo already, we’ll concentrate on the venerable egg roll.Skip to next paragraph
A couple that cooks together stays together, says Hong and Kim Pham. They love to cook and believe good food not only brings people together, but also strengthens bonds and forges wonderful memories. Hong and Kim specialize in Asian, specifically Vietnamese cuisine, and love to share not only our food but also their culture.
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How are Vietnamese egg rolls different, than say, Chinese egg rolls? Vietnamese egg rolls are typically wrapped with a rice paper whereas Chinese egg rolls are wrapped a wheat base wrapper. They both contain a variety of chopped vegetables and can be made with pork, shrimp, or leaner meats such as chicken or turkey. The textural differences between rice paper and wheat paper is stunning. The rice paper roll is both crispy, bubbly and pleasantly chewy, a great alternative to the wheat based wrapper. Hong’s parents have been making Vietnamese egg rolls for over 20 years in addition to banh cam at their church, raising money for parish activities.
So for one afternoon we were all eager sponges, soaking up tips learned from over 40 years of cooking from Hong’s mom, a mother of four and grandmother of two and soon to be three, making banh xeo and chả giò. We’ve previously posted the banh xeo recipe so we won’t comment too much on that here, except to use a good nonstick pan and go low and slow on the heat for crispy banh xeo. But in case you’re wondering, the banh xeo made by all the learners came out delicious!
So now that we’ve tantalized you with banh xeo, let’s get serious about making chả giò. Its harder to find Vietnamese egg rolls made from rice paper these days. The convenience of the wheat wrapper along with even golden brown color makes it an easy alternative. The main reason is that rice paper is a little tricky to fry and doesn’t get beautifully golden brown like the wheat based egg roll wrappers. When the rice paper hits the hot oil, it immediately bubbles up and blisters. If two egg rolls touch, they will stick to one another. The blistering does calm down after a few seconds, however allowing you to fry as normal.
The filling can be any variety or combination of meats described above. Personally we love pork and shrimp together, but any will do. We always use wood ear mushrooms and bean thread noodles but vary other vegetables depending on what we have on hand or convenient at the market. For vegetables we prefer any combination of shredded jicama, taro, or carrots. Bean sprouts are another alternative. Vietnamese egg rolls typically do not contain cabbage.
Wrapping an egg roll isn’t terribly complex. However, we didn’t realize some of the reasons why we roll the way we do. Hong’s mom said it’s not just to keep the filling inside, but to also have even layers of wrapper around the filling so it will cook evenly and brown evenly. This is most evident at the ends of the egg rolls, when not wrapped carefully, tends to have only 1 or 2 layers of wrapper so it will cook faster and turns dark or burns while the rest of the egg roll is nice and golden.