Chả giò, which can be roughly translated as “minced pork roll,” is a popular dish in Vietnamese cuisine and usually served as an appetizer in America and European countries, where there are large Vietnamese communities. In northern Vietnam, it is referred to as nem rán (“fried minced pork”).
The main structure of a roll of chả giò is commonly seasoned ground meat, mushrooms, and diced vegetables such as carrots and jicama, rolled up in a sheet of moist rice paper. The roll is then deep fried until the rice paper coat turns crispy and golden brown.[…]
Chả giò can be eaten by itself, wrapped in lettuce, dipped into nước mắm pha (fish sauce mixed with lemon juice or vinegar, water, sugar, garlic and chili pepper), or served with rice vermicelli (in bún chả giò).
Mom came over to prepare it, so it’s her hands you’ll see in the pics below. She wasn’t quite satisfied with how the rolls came out because she bought a different brand of spring roll skins and they didn’t fry and brown up as nicely. I say, “whatever.” They tasted fine to me! 😀
I have no recipe (my mom just wings it) but I’ll try to describe the process through photos:
Here we have the package of spring roll skins for chả giò. As you can see these skins differ from the Chinese spring roll skins because they are made primarily of rice flour. Another difference is that these spring roll skins come dry, hard, and semi-opaque; if you were to hold up a sheet to the light, you should kind of be able to see through it.
In order to use the skins, you need to soak them in warm water to soften. They become very pliable and more transparent.
In the next two photos, mom is filling the spring roll skins with a mixture that contains ground pork, shredded carrots, minced onions, mung bean noodles (a.k.a. “glass” or “cellophane” noodles), wood ear fungus, corn starch to bind, and salt and black pepper to taste.
Finally, they’re rolled up just like Chinese spring rolls. You can see how transparent the skins are.
Normally my mom likes to double fry the spring rolls, just like how you’d twice fry French Fries in order to ensure crispiness. However, lately she’s tried to be more healthy so she deep fries the chả giò once, and then puts them into a 350 degree oven to brown up. The spring rolls will release some oil (from when they were deep fried) while they bake in the oven so they won’t be greasy.
After coming out of the oven, we like to cut up the rolls into bite-size pieces because it’s just easier to eat that way. I like the end pieces the most so she saves them for me 😀
To accompany the spring rolls, mom serves them with fresh Romaine lettuce leaves, nước mắm pha/nước chấm, and rice vermicelli. There’s also Rooster brand sriracha sauce for those who need a bit of spiciness (me!).
You can eat the chả giò wrapped in a lettuce leaf but we find it easier to put the Chả giò pieces together with the condiments, add some torn lettuce leaves, and eat them together as a cold noodle dish.
If you’re wondering where my love for Vietnamese food came from it’s from my parents. My parents and I are ethnically Chinese but my dad grew up as a kid in Vietnam, Laos and Thailand. My mom grew up in Vietnam, Thailand and Burma (a.k.a. Myanmar) so she also exposed me to a lot of Southeast Asian cuisine (and Indian cuisine since there’s a significant Indian population in Burma) as well. It’s from her that I developed a love for foods like nasi lemak, the “national dish” of Malaysia. My parents met each other when they went to university in Taiwan.
Mmmmm…now I’m craving nasi lemak.