The truth is, if you don’t like egg rolls (or fried spring rolls), I will judge you. I mean, C’MON! What is there not to love??? Crispy, crunchy exterior wrapper that envelopes an incredibly savory filling? It’s perfection!
When done right, that is.
And what makes a bad egg roll in my opinion?
Soggy wrapper. Ugh.
Unbalanced filling. Depressing.
And yes–I’m talking about those that have like 90% cabbage in them. That’s just not right!
So many Asian cultures have their own spin on them…chun juan, lumpia, popiah tod and of course, my personal favorite, the Vietnamese version — Chả Giò!
Chả Giò –or Nem Rán as it’s called in Northern Việt Nam–doesn’t have cabbage in the filling (thank Buddha!) and often uses a combination of pork and seafood. You’ll also often find taro and jicama included with the usual combination of wood ear mushrooms, cellophane noodles, carrots and other aromatics.
Traditional Chả Giò (also called Imperial Rolls) are rolled up in rice paper versus the Chinese style wrappers made of flour and eggs. The rice paper gives a wonderful balance of textures between crispiness and chewiness. When fried, the paper becomes quite bubbly as shown here with the pics of the Chả Giò served with vermicelli.
Texture is hella important to me peeps.
Growing up, Mom primarily made Chả Giò with the Chinese style wrappers like the ones shown above so it’s normally how I make them too. They come frozen in all sizes but I prefer using the ones that are about 7 x 7 inches. I find that it makes for a nice size roll–not too big, not too small. Chả Giò rolled in these wrappers also tend to freeze better than the ones rolled in rice paper.
But even though I tend to lean towards the other wrappers, I will roll a few in rice paper to be enjoyed that day. It really adds a different touch and I totally recommend it. One tip though when using rice paper, avoid over wetting it! Either barely dunk it in warm water or take a very damp kitchen towel and press it on the sheet until it becomes just pliable. Too much moisture makes them susceptible to tearing.
Another thing Mom always taught us to do is try out the filling before you start rolling the Chả Giò. It would be a total bummer if you didn’t and found that after an hour of rolling and frying the Chả Giò, you discover that the filling is bland or some seasoning is off.
Save yourself the heartache and before you roll, take about spoonful of the filling and pan fry it up. It shouldn’t take more than a minute or so. Taste and adjust for seasonings as needed.
Trust me, you’ll thank me. Or actually, Mom.
Here are a few other tips…..
Don’t get greedy. And by this, I mean do not over stuff the rolls. About 2 tablespoons for an 7 x 7 inch wrapper is sufficient–anything more and you risk the rolls exploding.
And that’s just no bueno.
Roll the Chả Giò tightly, avoiding any air bubbles and seal the edges well with an egg wash. It will help the rolls keep its shape during the frying process and avoid them bursting.
Again, because that would be super no bueno.
Keep your oil at a moderate and even heat. Too hot and your wrappers will burn and the filling won’t cook. Too cool and too much oil will seep into the roll and it won’t get super crunchy.
And finally, ALWAYS make a double batch.
If you’re going to go and put in the effort to make these labor of love (and they do take some time but are SOOO worth it), you might as well stock up your freezer!
Again, you’ll thank me for it when you get a hankering one day for some bomb Chả Giò and remember that you’ve got a stash waiting for you in the freezer.
As for how to serve them–so many options!
On Its Own: Take a Chả Giò and wrap it in a large lettuce leaf filled with fresh herbs and dunk it into some spicy and stanky nước chấm. It’s damn good.
Bún Chả Giò: Chả Giò with cold vermicelli noodles and veggies are the perfect interplay of different textures (told ya it’s important), varying temperatures and freshness from all the veggies. A generous pour of nước chấm all over the bowl is mandatory. Check out my post on Bún Tôm Nướng Sả (Vietnamese Grilled Lemongrass Shrimp over Vermicelli Noodles) for instructions on how to construct the fixins’ for a big ol’ bowl of bún.
Cơm “Whatever Protein You ” Chả Giò: If you’ve eaten at a phở restaurant, then you’d likely have tried or at least seen the numerous rice plates we love to enjoy. Usually grilled chicken, shrimp, beef or pork chops are served up with a mound of rice (sometimes cơm tấm–or broken rice), a crispy fried egg, veggies—and if you order like I do– some Chả Giò.
However you serve it up, I hope you love these Chả Giò as much as I do. ❤
Chả Giò – Vietnamese Imperial Rolls (Egg Rolls)
Makes approximately 50-60 rolls
2 pounds lean ground pork
10 ounces crab meat
½ pound shrimp, chopped
1 cup rehydrated cellophane (bean thread) noodles, minced
1 cup rehydrated wood ear mushrooms, minced
1 cup shredded carrots, minced
½ cup finely diced white onion
¼ cup finely diced scallions
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 large eggs, separated
3 tablespoons fish sauce, more if needed
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 tablespoon water
50-60 wrappers (either the Chinese style wrappers or rice paper sheets)
Place the first 9 ingredients in a large bowl. Beat 2 eggs and pour it into the large bowl. Add the fish sauce, pepper and mix all the items until everything has been well incorporated. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for one hour. To test for seasoning, take a small spoonful of the mixture and pan fry in a nonstick skillet for about 1 minute on each side. Taste and adjust for seasoning as needed.
In a small bowl, whisk the remaining egg with the water.
Begin assembly. If using the Chinese egg roll wrappers, place one sheet on a flat surface with one corner facing towards you. Moisten the edge of the top left and right side of the wrapper with the egg wash. Place about 2 tablespoons of the filling in a line approximately 1/3 up from the bottom corner. Tightly roll the bottom of the wrapper over the filling. Fold the right side of the roll in and fold the left side in. Continue to tightly roll up until you’ve created a secured roll. Place the roll on a tray and cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. If using rice paper, use a very damp and clean kitchen towel to just barely moisten the sheet so that it becomes pliable—you will not need the egg wash. Follow the same steps above to fill and wrap the roll.
Heat a large pan or high walled skillet with about 2 inches of oil until it reaches 350 degrees F. In batches, carefully place the chả giò into the hot oil. Fry, turning occasionally, for about 5 minutes until the filling has cooked through and they turn golden brown. If using rice paper, cut down the frying time by about 1 minute–and the color will be golden but not browned. Remove the rolls from the fryer and drain on a rack that sits on a baking tray.
Serve hot with lots of nước chấm