The name “Fried Spring Rolls” may be a misnomer, because they can be made and eaten during any season. They are on nearly every Vietnamese restaurant menu.
Although we have slipped into fall, my husband had a desire to make this favorite Hanoian dish for dinner last week.
Fried spring rolls originated in the southern part of Vietnam. When introduced to Hanoi, the rolls were given the name “Nem Sai Gon,” to show affection and remember the place of origin.
Vietnamese fried spring rolls are different from those of other Asian cultures. Depending on the locality, the ingredients in fried spring rolls vary. Usually they contain minced pork, crab, shrimp, mushrooms, onion, egg and different kinds of herbs or seasonings. Thinner rice paper is used in place of an egg roll wrapper. Instead of deep-frying, a lighter frying method is used.
The ingredients are thoroughly combined before they are wrapped in rice paper to form small rolls. The rolls are then fried in oil. They are eaten with a handful of lettuce and fresh herbs wrapped around them, and they are served with a dipping sauce.
Here, we can usually order fried spring rolls to accompany our Vietnamese restaurant meals. In Vietnam, the rolls are not a food that is commonly eaten on a daily basis. They are generally reserved for special occasions and festivities.
Vietnamese Fried Spring Rolls
1 cup cooked cellophane noodles
¾ pound ground pork
1 onion, finely diced
3 tablespoons finely chopped tree ear mushrooms
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, finely chopped
½ cup fresh crabmeat
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons fish sauce
12 sheets rice paper
2 cups peanut oil*
Combine first 9 ingredients in a large bowl. Blend thoroughly.
Fill a large bowl with lukewarm water. Soak each piece of rice paper for about 10 seconds to make them soft and pliable. If too dry, the paper will crack. If too wet, it will be delicate and tear. Do each sheet individually before making each roll.
Place the rice paper on a flat surface. Fold the paper in half so the diameter of the semicircle is horizontally toward you. Put approximately 2 tablespoons of filling on the bottom third of the semicircle. Mold the filling into a cylindrical shape. Fold the sides up to the edge of the filling. Securing tightly, begin to roll from the bottom to the top. Avoid trapping air in the rolls. Firmly press the rapper to seal the filling inside.
Continue with all of the wrappers until all of the filling has been used. Set aside rolls until ready to fry.
Pour the oil into a wok or deep skillet. Heat oil to 370 degrees.
Place the rolls in the oil, a few at a time. Do not overcrowd. Fry on each side about 3 to 4 minutes until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.
Serve the rolls with lettuce, herbs and nuoc cham dipping sauce.