Cha Gio (Vietnamese Spring Rolls)
Updated: May 13, 2018
These delicious spring rolls are best eaten doused in Vietnamese fish sauce!
Unlike the other type of spring rolls that we get here in Singapore filled with turnip and carrots, Vietnamese spring rolls aka Cha Gio are a different variety altogether. Consisting of mainly pork, vermicelli and carrots, these rolls also contain black wood-ear fungus, chopped into tiny bits and giving the cha gio an added dimension of crunch and bite.
There are several varieties when it comes to Vietnamese spring roll wrappers. The most commonly available in supermarkets here are Banh Trang, a type of stiff dried rice paper that needs to be slightly dipped in water to hydrate and is also used for wrapping Goi Cuon, the other type of fresh spring rolls containing bun noodles, mint, vegetables, prawn and pork. When deep fried, the skin however seems to soak up a lot of oil and attracts air bubbles.
There's also the netted rice paper wrapper Banh Trang Re, which in fact is my favourite, and is used to make what are commonly called Imperial Rolls. These are shatteringly crispy when deep fried! Prawn and mango also work well as alternative fillings for these wrappers. (See next recipe for Bun Thit Nuong Cha Gio for reference)
Last but not least, and I only discovered this variety quite recently, is a type of square rice paper wrapper also called Banh Trang and is immediately usable for rolling Cha Gio filling and requires no prior hydration. These however seem to be saltier so you might want to cut back on the fish sauce for the meat filling, and are best eaten wrapped with lettuce and mint.
This is a recipe that I've adapted from a Ho Chi Minh cooking class that I attended recently and I have to say it's pretty good!
(makes about 20 rolls)
300g minced pork
50g bean vermicelli (soaked in hot water and snipped into 2 cm pieces)
1/2 carrot, julienned
40g wood ear fungus, chopped finely
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 shallots, minced
3 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp sesame oil
Rice paper wrappers
Nuoc Cham Sauce
2 tbsp Vietnamese fish sauce
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp lime juice (get the Vietnamese variety)
3 tbsp water or coconut water (alternatively, you can use soda water, but cut back on the sugar)
3 cloves garlic + 1 chilli padi (chopped and minced together)
In a large bowl, prepare the meat filling by adding the wood-ear, carrots and vermicelli into the pork.
Pour in the rest of the seasonings into the meat filling.
Using your palm (or if you prefer to be more hygienic, a plastic glove), massage the seasoning into the meat filling, giving it a good mix for at least 3-4 minutes. Massaging the meat actually improves its texture.
Cover the marinated meat in cling wrap, and allow it to sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, or longer for a tastier filling.
Whilst you're letting the filling sit in the fridge, make the Nuoc Cham sauce. In a small bowl, stir the sugar vigorously into the fish sauce, making sure all of the sugar crystals dissolve. Add the lime juice and water or coconut water.
Taste to check if the Nuoc Cham is to your liking and add more water or lime juice if necessary. Lastly, add in the minced garlic and chilli and stir well.
Remove the meat filling from the fridge. On a flat surface, place one sheet of the rice paper (you might need to hydrate it depending on which type you're using).
Place about 1.5 tbsp of meat filling, arranging it according to the length of your entire thumb. This step is important as it ensures consistency when making the rest of the spring rolls cos you don't want them to look too uneven.
If you're using the square wrapper, fold the skin below over the meat filling and push it downwards to remove air pockets. Then fold in the sides and roll upwards to close it up.
Continue the same steps for the other rolls till you're done with the filling.
Heat up a wok with 2 cups of peanut or sunflower oil for deep frying.
Using a pair of wooden chopsticks, hold the spring roll carefully with the sealed side facing downwards. When the oil is ready, dip it into the oil, hold for about 5 seconds before releasing. This step is important because if you release the spring roll too quickly, the skin tends to open up, resulting in a mangled cha gio.
Take note not to get too over-excited and put in all the spring rolls into the fryer at one go. Depending on how big is your fryer, an ideal number is about 5 to 6 at any one time. This is because overcrowding lowers the heat of the wok, and your spring rolls may not fry properly.
Flip the rolls over to fry them on the other side and continue to turn them in the oil with your chopsticks so that they're evenly cooked through and also to avoid burnt ends.
After about 4-5 minutes and when the rolls look about golden in colour, remove from the wok and place them on napkins to soak up the excess oil.
Wrap these rolls up in lettuce and mint and serve with Nuoc Cham sauce. Don't say I didn't warn you, but they are seriously addictive and you just can't stop at one!