Crisphy cha gio on top of a bed of vermicelli
Cha gio, or Vietnamese eggrolls: one of my favorite things to eat. I can make 100 of them and nibble on them every day for weeks. I never get tired of this homemade version which is a recipe I modeled after my own mother’s. And you know mama’s home cookin’ is the best kind of cookin’ they is.
My mom used to make these as a treat every once in awhile, and they’re so good that I don’t even eat them with nuoc cham, or the fish dipping sauce that is a staple condiment for many Vietnamese. I prefer the eggrolls virgin, untouched and unmarred by any any additional sauce or lettuce or vermicelli. Of course, eating them this way makes them disappear much quicker, so I like to feed them to others with a bowl of vermicelli (bun cha gio).
This recipe is not exactly my mothers–she passed away when I was 14, an age before I became interested in cooking. But of the dozens of Saturday mornings I spent in the kitchen peeling eggroll skin after eggroll skin for her, I got to “know” the ingredients by sight and smell. It sounds a little sick, but I loved inhaling the aromatic raw meat and vegetable mixture that is to become the eggroll filling. As a matter of fact, I still do that today when I make eggrolls–that’s the only way I know if the mixture needs more fish sauce or garlic or whatever.
So eggrolls being one of the things I missed most from my mama’s kitchen after she died, I came up with my own concoction that, if my memory doesn’t fail me, tastes incredibly similar to hers. Now if only I was talented enough to figure out her homemade pho from scratch.
Eggrolls contain pork, but one time in elementary school for an international culture week, my mom substituted the ground pork with turkey because I had a Muslim classmate. Now that I have a husband who avoids beef and pork, I too make my eggrolls with ground turkey. They’re not as juicy but they’re healthier. (Well, as healthy as they can be after being submerged in the canola oil.).
I must say cha gio are my masterpiece, but they’re only made like once a year because the whole process–from chopping the veggies to wrapping the eggrolls to frying them–used to take six hours or something insane. Thank God for the food processor, which now has cut my prep and cook time down to a mere four hours. (Har, har.) Don’t let that scare you away from attempting them though; keep in mind that I’m a slow worker, not to mention blind. So remember that if I can do it, so can you. And I encourage you to try this.
Recipe: Vietnamese Eggrolls
Summary: Based on my mom’s cha gio recipe
- 1 lb. ground pork or turkey
- 1/2 lb. shrimp, peeled & minced
- 1 med. yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 lg. carrot, finely chopped
- 2 oz. dried cat ear mushroom (black fungus)
- 6 (1.75 oz.) pkgs. dried bean thread noodles
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 shallots, finely chopped
- 2/3 c. fish sauce or to taste
- 2 eggs
- ground black pepper
- 2 pkgs. egg roll wrappers or rice paper
- canola oil for frying
- Soak mushrooms and noodles in hot water until tender, about 5 to 10 min. Then finely chop either with knife or food processor.
- Mix all ingredients in a lg. bowl and season with pepper to taste.
- If using eggroll wrappers, use beaten egg to seal. If using rice paper, simply wet paper and roll, using about 2 rounded spoonfuls of filling in each eggroll.
- Heat oil and test for readiness by dropping the tip of an eggroll into the oil. It is hot enough if it immediately begins to sizzle. Fry eggrolls until golden brown, about 4 to 7 min. each.
Refrigerating the filling mixture overnight allows the flavors to meld together better.
Don’t overstuff your eggrolls or else they will either burst or not cook through.
The folding technique is as follows: if using the square eggroll wrappers, set the skin so that it is a diamond in front of you. Set the filling in the lower center of the skin. Fold the corner pointing at you up over the mixture. Then fold in the two sides. Then roll eggroll away from you, sealing the far corner with a little bit of beaten egg. If using round rice paper for skin, simply wet the banh trang in a lg. bowl of very hot water. It just needs to be immersed for a few seconds; don’t oversoak–the paper will get more and more pliable as it soaks up the water. Oversoaking the rice paper results in mushy skin that will tear easily. Place the circular skin in front of you, place the filling in the lower center of the skin. Fold in the same pattern as with the square skins, but omitting the beaten egg for sealing.
Line the cooked eggrolls on paper towels or paper bags to drain excess oil. Paper bags, I heard, do a better job of soaking up the oil without making the eggrolls soggy.
The authentic Vietnamese eggroll uses rice paper for the skin, but many use the Filipino lumpia eggroll skin nowadays. Just be sure not to use the Chinese eggroll skin; I made that mistake the first time I ever made eggrolls (yes, back in college), and the skin puffed up like a wonton crisp, which is NOT what you want.
Meal type: hors d’oerves
Culinary tradition: Vietnamese
Microformatting by hRecipe.