My mom is an incredible chef and a very generous person. Her keen sense of taste and relentless persistence allows her to fine-tune recipes into some of the best foods I’ve ever had. It was my mom and grandma’s cooking that made their home the gathering point for lunch and dinner multiple times a week.
Additionally, she readily (and happily) contributes large quantities of home-cooked food for family gatherings. One of the common requests are for chả giò (egg rolls)–the same recipe I’m going to share with you below.
A Little Background
Whether you call them spring rolls or egg rolls, chả giò or nem rán, these are delicious. These deep-fried goodies are traditionally made with rice paper sheets (bánh tráng), but are very commonly made with wheat-based wrappers too. It’s likely because the wheat varieties are easier to work with all around. The rice paper version doesn’t brown as well, and takes an extra step of soaking before use. Even more importantly, they also do not stay crunchy as long as the wheat version. So, tossing tradition out the window, we’re going with wheat wrappers.
Menlo brand wrappers to be exact. I tried Spring House wrappers and got so-so results. They were fairly crispy, but not really brown when fried. These Menlo wrappers, on the other hand, are MAGICAL. My mom suggested these after my first, soggier, attempt. I had some flashbacks when spotting these in the store. These were the same ones used in my parents’ old restaurant from about 20 years ago! Let the package defrost a bit before separating the wrappers so you don’t tear them up.Start by soaking your mung bean threads in warm tap water and your dried mushrooms in hot water. You can pop the tap water into the microwave to get it hotter. This will speed the absorption for the mushrooms. Soak for about 20-30 minutes or until soft and ready to cut.Meanwhile, prep jícama and onion. We want both fairly small–you can use a shredder if you want. My mom was very proud to share a pro tip for crispy egg rolls that even her cook buddies didn’t know: we want to remove excess moisture from these water-heavy ingredients so the wrapper has a chance to get crunchy. Just squeeze the onion in your hands after its finely chopped. A LOT of water will come out. Add salt to the jícama and microwave it until it gets slightly soft (maybe 15-25 seconds), then squeeze to remove moisture too. You don’t need to rinse the salt out.When our ingredients are done soaking, finely chop the mushrooms and cut bean threads into about 1-1.5″ pieces. Grab a large mixing bowl and add all the ingredients except the pork and jícama then mix well. This helps us get a more even distribution of the ingredients into the meat.Then add the meat and mix until evenly distributed. Jícama is added last because it’s the most fragile and doesn’t need to be broken down any further.
Divide Filling For Uniform Rolls
This recipe makes 25 rolls of the size pictured above. Take your pork mixture and split it into 5 even sections (use a scale if you have to). Then split each of those into 5 more even sections. This will help make the egg rolls more uniform and ensure you don’t run out of wrappers or filling. Once you get the hang of the recipe you can just use a certain size spoon and eyeball the portion for each wrap.
1. Take a wrapper and place it so one corner points to you (so you’re looking at a diamond shape). Fold the bottom corner up 2/3 of the way towards the top 2. place the egg roll mixture across the bottom leaving a 1/4″ gap between the meat and the bottom edge of the wrapper. The filling should not go over the edges where we have folded up the triangle shape. This ensures a double wall of wrapper so the filling does not leak out into the fry oil and burn.3. Fold the left corner over about 2/3 of the way, repeat on the right.4. Roll up and keep it tight as you roll your first layer, closing off the filling. This first revolution determines how tight the roll will be.5. As you reach the top, put a dab of your flour & water mixture at the top corner of the wrapper and finish rolling. This will seal the roll.
Use a neutral oil like vegetable or canola. Drop them into the hot oil at 325°F until golden brown and delicious. It will usually take around 12-16 minutes per batch.
Par-frying for freezer storage
To do this, fry at 325°F for about 7 minutes or until just slightly browned. Then, store in the freezer in airtight containers or bags. To finish them, defrost in the fridge overnight and fry at 325°F until golden brown. The color on the wrapper may not get as golden brown with this method.Serve with a side of nuoc cham with some do chua. These can be eaten by themselves, or wrapped in lettuce and some herbs.