Monday, December 15, 2008

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Growing up, I had tremendous access to delicious food. One of my favorite things in the world was the spring rolls my neighbor made. Thin, crispy and so delicious – they were definitely not the burrito sized egg rolls from the supermarket. After those, my second favorite ones are from a little place in the “mall” back home. Every time I go home, I go there. The airport is right by there, so sometimes I’m eating there immediately after landing. So delicious!

Because I love those so much, I wanted to try to do it at home. I used to watch my neighbor make hers (and sometimes helped in picking the stems off peppers) and hoped that might help. It did… a little. These were very time consuming, but so delicious. I modified a recipe from in a number of ways. First of all, I didn’t need 50 spring rolls, so it’s half size. Also, my husband isn’t a fan of mushrooms, so those were out. Also, I don’t eat pork (outside of bacon) and didn’t have shrimp. I used buffalo meat for half and made the other half veggie. Finally, and most importantly, I used the regular wrappers you can get at most grocery stores these days or at Asian specialty markets. The note on the original recipe says that when the woman created it, these wrappers were not easily available. The original recipe is here.

Vietnamese Fried Spring Rolls modified from original from Gourmet via

Makes at least 15 rolls

4 oz. very thin bean thread noodles (in small skeins, also known as cellophane or mung bean noodles)
1 medium shallot
2 garlic cloves (I kept these two the same because I love shallots and garlic, of course)
1 c. grated carrot (about 3 carrots)
¼ lb. ground buffalo (or turkey or chicken or pork, if you like)
1/8 c. Asian fish sauce
1/8 c. plus ½ tsp. sugar
1 ¼ tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. salt
About 15-20 spring roll wrappers
About 3 c. oil

Put noodles in a large bowl and cover with hot water by several inches. Soak, pulling noodles apart and stirring occasionally, 10 minutes. Drain noodles and cut into 2- to 3-inch pieces, then transfer to another large bowl.

Pulse shallot and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped, then add to noodles along with carrots, fish sauce, sugar, pepper, and salt. I then separated this into two bowls and mixed in the buffalo into half. Mix with your hands until well combined. Chill filling, covered with plastic wrap, until cold.

Meanwhile, partially fill a large pan with water. Soak the wrappers in the pan, making sure each wrapper is covered before adding the next one. Cool water is fine for this. They should be pliable in about 2-3 minutes. Remove all of the wrappers onto a wet towel and cover with another cloth towel. I put mine on a plate as well, to make it easier to transport the lot of them to the table for assembly.

Line a tray with wax (or parchment) paper. This helps keep the tray clean. Peel one wrapper off the pile and place on the tray. Place a heaped tablespoon on the edge of the wrapper. Roll once, tightly, fold in the edges and roll completely. Repeat until done. Make sure you use only one wrapper at a time. They do tend to stick to each other, so be careful. If two are used, the outside will be crispy, but the inside a little gummy. Ick.

Heat oil in a large pot (I used my wok) over medium-high heat. Fry rolls in batches of 5 or 6 (I had room for 3), keeping rolls apart during first minute of frying to prevent sticking, until golden brown and cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes. Make sure oil get hot again before adding the next batch. Transfer to a plate with paper towels to drain.

These were very, very tasty. A few did end up being double wrapped and were gummy on the inside, but the filling was cooked, so I just scooped that out and ate it. Although time consuming, I will try this again.

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