Whereas the bulk of Vietnamese dishes are more or less standardized, it seems that every Vietnamese family has their own unique recipe for chả giò (Vietnamese egg rolls). What’s interesting to note is that even within the same family, siblings can develop vastly different recipes. While living in Vietnam, I learned that my grandmother’s sister prepares her chả giò completely differently than our family in America. While my grandma employs a pork, shrimp, and mushroom filling, her sister uses grated taro root in hers. Some Vietnamese put carrots or even corn in their chả giò.Crab is also a popular but expensive filling.
All chả giò found in Vietnam are made using rice paper wrappers, which results in a beautifully blistered exterior. Unable to locate suitable rice paper in America when this recipe was first developed, my family used generic Asian wrappers. Even with the availability of better rice paper these days, my family continues to use the generic wrappers for their superior crispness and browning properties.
These chả giò taste wonderful eaten by themselves, sliced atop cool vermicelli noodles, or wrapped in herbs and greenery and dipped in fish sauce. This recipe yields sixty chả giò, which may seem excessive, but trust me, they’ll disappear very quickly.
- 1 pound medium size shrimp, shells removed
- 1/2 pound ground pork
- 1 1/2 cups cellophane noodles (Lungkow brand)
- 3/4 cup dried wood ear mushrooms
- 2 medium white onions, chopped
- 3 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
- 3 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 teaspoon Monosodium Glutamate (optional)
- 1 package of generic Asian wrappers (Menlo brand)
- Vegetable oil for frying
In two separate bowls, soak mushrooms and cellophane noodles in warm water for 30 minutes. Drain mushrooms and noodles thoroughly. Chop mushrooms finely and cut noodles into three-inch segments. In a large bowl, combine pork, onion, noodles, mushrooms, MSG, salt, and pepper.
One at a time, place shrimp on cutting board atop a sturdy surface (photo 1). Using the side of a cleaver (photo 2), whack the shrimp two or three times until flattened (photo 3). The veins will naturally pop out. Once all of the shrimp have been flattened, run a knife through them to mince. Be careful not to over-chop the shrimp. Add the shrimp to the pork mixture.
- Using your hands (gloves optional), mix all of the ingredients together very well, blending the shrimp with the pork and spices. “Massage the meat,” my mother says.
Once the filling has been properly massaged, set it aside to rest for at least fifteen minutes. The filling can be refrigerated overnight as well.
Wrap Chả Giò
Using a pair of kitchen scissors, cut the chả giò wrappers in half diagonally (photo 1). Next, separate each individual wrapper since they adhere to one another in the package. Set the wrappers aside.
To assemble the chả giò, lay a wrapper on top of a plate or a flat surface. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling onto the wrapper (photo 2). Fold in the right side of the wrapper (photo 3) and then fold in the left side. Gently roll the chả giò, tucking in the jagged ends as necessary. Repeat until all of the wrappers and filling have been used.
Heat two cups of vegetable oil on medium heat in a wok or deep sauce pan. The oil should be at a depth of about 2 1/2 inches. Gently lower each roll into the hot oil and fry until golden brown. Add additional oil as necessary.
NOTE: Do not overheat the oil or else the wrapper will turn golden before the filling is cooked through. It is also important that the folded side of the chả giò be placed into the oil first to avoid unraveling.
Once golden brown, remove the chả giò from the oil and drain in a colander or on absorbent paper towels. Let cool before serving.