My mom is an incredible chef and a very generous person. Her keen sense of taste and relentless persistence allows her to fine-tune recipes into some of the best foods I’ve ever had. It was my mom and grandma’s cooking that made their home the gathering point for lunch and dinner multiple times a week. Additionally, she readily (and happily) contributes large quantities of home-cooked food for family gatherings. One of the common requests are for chả giò (egg rolls).
I remember, as a kid, sitting at the counter reluctantly separating frozen sheets of egg roll wrapper. I don’t think she let me get as far actually wrapping the chả giò though. It would’ve been on her reputation if the party food was ruined.
Any time I have tried to make a certain dish or find a recipe for one, I can ask my mom and be sure that she’s going to tell me I’m doing it wrong. It’s not because she’s full of herself, but she’s probably just wondering why I should settle for less when her hard work already perfected the recipe. This is exactly what happened when I asked how to make her egg rolls.
A Little Background
Whether you call them spring rolls or egg rolls, chả giò or nem rán, these are a crunchy treat. These deep-fried goodies are traditionally made with rice paper sheets (bánh tráng), but are very commonly made with wheat-based wrappers too. It’s likely because the wheat varieties are easier to work with all around.
The bánh tráng version doesn’t brown as much after being deep fried. Also, an extra step of soaking each sheet separately is required. Even more importantly, they also do not stay crunchy nearly as long as the wheat version. So, tossing tradition out the window, we’re going with wheat wrappers.
Menlo brand wrappers to be exact. I tried Spring House wrappers and got so-so results. They were fairly crispy, but not really brown when fried. These Menlo wrappers, on the other hand, are MAGICAL. My mom suggested these after my first attempt. I had some flashbacks when spotting these in the store. These were the same ones used in my parents’ old restaurant!
Let the package defrost a bit before separating the wrappers so you don’t tear them up.
Start by soaking your mung bean threads in warm tap water and your dried mushrooms in hot water. You can pop the tap water into the microwave to get it hotter. This will speed the absorption for the mushrooms. Soak for about 20-30 minutes or until soft and ready to cut.
Meanwhile, prep jícama and onion. We want both fairly small–you can use a shredder if you want.
My mom was very proud to share a pro tip for crispy egg rolls that even her cook buddies didn’t know: we want to remove excess moisture from these water-heavy ingredients so the wrapper has a chance to get crunchy.
Just squeeze the onion in your hands after its finely chopped. A LOT of water will come out. Add salt to the jícama and microwave it until it gets slightly soft (maybe 15-25 seconds), then squeeze to remove moisture too. You don’t need to rinse the salt out.
When our ingredients are done soaking, finely chop the mushrooms and cut bean threads into about 1-1.5″ pieces.
Grab a large mixing bowl and add all the ingredients except the pork and jícama then mix well. This helps us get a more even distribution of the ingredients into the meat.
Then add the meat and mix until evenly distributed. Jícama is added last because it’s the most fragile and doesn’t need to be broken down any further.
Dividing Pork Mixture For Uniform Rolls
This recipe makes 25 rolls of the size pictured above. Take your pork mixture and split it into 5 even sections (use a scale if you have to). Then split each of those into 5 more even sections. This will help make the egg rolls more uniform and ensure you don’t run out of wrappers or filling.
Once you get the hang of the recipe you can just use a certain size spoon and eyeball the portion for each wrap.
Wrapping (pictures will be added shortly)
1. Take a wrapper and place it so one corner points to you (so you’re looking at a diamond shape). Fold the bottom corner up 2/3 of the way towards the top
2. place the egg roll mixture across the bottom leaving a 1/4″ gap between the meat and the bottom edge of the wrapper. The filling should not go over the edges where we have folded up the triangle shape. This ensures a double wall of wrapper so the filling does not leak out into the fry oil and burn.
3. Fold the left corner over about 2/3 of the way, repeat on the right.
4. Roll up and keep it tight as you roll your first layer, closing off the filling. This first revolution determines how tight the roll will be.
5. As you reach the top, put a dab of your flour & water mixture at the top corner of the wrapper and finish rolling. This will seal the roll.
As usual, we want to fry in a neutral oil like vegetable or canola. Maintain your temperature with a thermometer. These Menlo brand wrappers brown really well so if you’re blasting these egg rolls higher than 325°F you may brown the outside and have uncooked meat.
a. You can make a lot of these egg rolls in advance to use on a later date. To do this, fry at 325°F for about 7 minutes or until just slightly browned. Then, store in the freezer in airtight containers or bags. To finish them, defrost in the fridge overnight and fry at 325°F until golden brown. Note that the color on the wrapper may not get as golden after freezing them.
b. If you want to eat them now just drop them in the fryer at 325°F until golden brown and delicious. It will usually take around 12-16 minutes per batch.
Serve with a side of nuoc cham with some do chua inside. These can be eaten by themselves, or wrapped in lettuce and some herbs.
- 1 package Menlo brand egg roll wrappers
- 1 lb ground pork (makes 25 egg rolls)
- 1 medium jícama (1/2 cup)
- ⅔ cup chopped onion
- ⅛ cup wood ear mushrooms, chopped
- ½ cup bean thread noodle, cut into 1″-1.5″ threads
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp sugar
- ¼ cup water and 1 tbsp flour, microwaved until barely boiling
- Soak bean threads in hot tap water and mushrooms in 40-second microwaved hot tap water until soft. About 30 minutes.
- Shred or finely chop onion and squeeze excess moisture out by hand. Add ½ tsp salt to jícama, microwave until slightly soft and squeeze excess moisture out by hand.
- When soft, chop bean thread noodles and mushrooms.
- Add bean thread, mushrooms, onion, salt, pepper, and sugar into a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. Add pork and mix well. Add jícama last and mix well.
- Wrap the egg rolls and fry at 325°F until golden brown and fully cooked inside. About 12-16 minutes per batch.