VIDEO: Home Cooking with Susan Jung - Vietnamese spring rolls
Minced pork and shrimp replaces the fresh crabmeat in this original Saigon recipe
I learned how to make Vietnamese spring rolls from a friend who grew up in Saigon. Paul's recipe used the meat from fresh crabs - he wouldn't even consider using the canned stuff. Picking the meat out of fresh crabs is a lot of work, so over time, the original recipe changed, and I use minced pork and fresh shrimp in place of the crabmeat.
Paul also advised using a canned soft drink as part of the dipping liquid; he says the sugar in the drink caramelises as the spring rolls are fried, giving them an attractive brown colour. Don't use drinks with artificial sweeteners. If you like, just dissolve some sugar in water - it has the same effect. Adding the soft drink (or sugar) to the dipping liquid makes the spring rolls stick together as they're frying, which is a bit of a nuisance, so if you prefer, just use plain water.
The rice papers sold in Vietnam are different from the more brittle Thai ones that are easily available in most supermarkets. Vietnamese rice papers are thin and pliable - you can fold them and they won't break, and when fried, become very crisp and delicate. I recommend buying a few packs the next time you're in Vietnam.
I double fry the spring rolls. The first frying is to cook the filling; the second is heat them, and to crisp up the exterior. You can fry them the first time in advance and leave them at room temperature for a couple of hours (less if it's very hot in the kitchen). Fry them a second time just before serving them.
Vietnamese spring rolls
130 grams onion, thinly sliced
3 large garlic cloves, minced
300 grams minced pork
300 grams raw fresh shrimp meat, minced
50 grams mung bean vermicelli, soaked in warm water until soft, squeezed dry then snipped with scissors into shorter lengths
90 grams carrot, roughly grated
25 grams dried cloud-ear mushrooms, soaked in hot water until soft, squeezed to remove excess liquid, then chopped
6 fresh water chestnuts, peeled, rinsed then chopped
2 large eggs
30ml Vietnamese fish sauce
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Fine sea salt
About 50 small, round rice paper wrappers
1 can of soft drink or 30 grams granulated sugar (optional)
Cooking oil, for frying
For the sauce and to serve:
120ml Vietnamese fish sauce
30-45ml fresh lime juice
15-30ml rice vinegar
About 15 grams granulated sugar
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
Red bird's eye chillies, chopped, to taste
About 50 grams carrot, finely grated
Cold bottled water, to dilute the sauce
Romaine or red-leaf lettuce
Fresh herbs such as mint and Thai basil
In a large bowl, mix the onion with the garlic, pork, shrimp, mung bean vermicelli, carrot, cloud-ear mushrooms and water chestnuts. Mix in the eggs, then season with the fish sauce, black pepper and about 1/2 tsp of salt.
If using the soft drink, pour it into a wide bowl and add 300ml cool water. If using the sugar, pour it into a wide bowl, add 600ml of cool water and stir until the sugar dissolves.
Lay a clean, dry dishcloth on a work surface. Dip a rice paper in the liquid and lay it on the cloth; in about 30 seconds, it will be limp and pliable. Spoon some of the filling on the lower third of the rice paper and fold in the sides and bottom to cover the filling; press gently to squeeze out as much air as possible, then roll to the opposite side so it forms a tight cylinder. Continue with the remaining rice papers and filling.
Heat cooking oil in a wok or skillet. When the oil is hot (about 170 degrees Celsius), add several of the spring rolls to the pan and fry them for several minutes, turning them as needed so they cook evenly. If they stick together, gently pry them apart. Drain them on paper towels and fry the remaining rolls.
For the second frying, heat the oil to 180 degrees Celsius. Fry the spring rolls briefly, just long enough to crisp and brown the exterior. Drain them on paper towels.
To make the sauce, mix the fish sauce with lime juice, rice vinegar and granulated sugar, then adjust the seasonings to taste. Dilute the sauce with a little bottled water, then mix in the garlic, chilli and carrot.
To eat, wrap the spring rolls in lettuce leaves and add the herbs. Dip the parcel into the sauce (or drizzle it on top) before eating.