Vietnamese-Style Spring Rolls

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes about

    25

    Small Spring Rolls

Appears in

I have long been an admirer and consumer of Vietnamese spring rolls. Their crackling rice paper skin with their savoury filling, all eaten in a leaf of fresh lettuce with either mint or basil, dipped in sauce, is an ideal appetizer. Here I have taken the classic Vietnamese spring roll recipe and have modified it to my own taste. I think you will find it as tasty and fun to eat.

Although they can be made in advance, it is best to deep-fry them at the last minute. They are terrific treats to go with drinks or make a lovely first course for a dinner party when served with the Dipping Sauce.

The rice paper wrappers can be found at Chinese or South-east Asian grocers. They are dry and must be gently soaked before using them. Handle them with care as they are quite fragile. When deep-frying them, do not crowd them in the pan as they tend to stick. If they stick don’t separate them as you may risk breaking them.

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Ingredients

For the Filling

  • 25 g (1 oz) beanthread (transparent) noodles
  • 15 g (½ oz) Chinese dried wood ears
  • 1 tablespoon groundnut oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped spring onions
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
  • 225 g (8 oz) minced pork
  • teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 175 g (4 oz) cooked fresh crabmeat
  • 5 tablespoons plain flour
  • 5 tablespoons water
  • 1 packet rice paper wrappers
  • 450 ml (15 fl oz) oil, preferably groundnut
  • 8 oz (225 g) iceberg lettuce
  • Assorted sprigs of fresh basil, mint or coriander, or a combination of all three

Method

Soak the noodles in a large bowl of warm water for 15 minutes. When they are soft, drain them and discard the water. Cut them into 7.5-cm (3-in) lengths using scissors or a knife. Soak the wood ears in warm water for about 20 minutes until soft. Rinse well in cold water and squeeze the excess liquid from the wood ears. Remove any hard stems and shred the caps finely.

Heat a wok or large frying-pan over high heat until it is hot. Add the oil, and when it is very hot and slightly smoking, add the onion, garlic, spring onions and shallots and stir-fry for 3 minutes. Add the pork, salt and pepper and continue to stir-fry for 5 minutes. Drain the pork in a colander and allow it to cool.

When the pork is cool, combine it in a large bowl with the beanthread noodles, wood ears and cooked crabmeat. In a small bowl, mix the flour and water together into a paste.

When you are ready to make the spring rolls, fill a large bowl with warm water. Dip one of the rice paper rounds in the water and let it soften. Remove and drain it on a linen tea towel. Put about 2 tablespoons of the filling on each softened rice paper wrapper. Fold in each side and then roll it up tightly. Seal the ends with a little of the flour paste mixture. You should have a roll about 7.5 cm (3 in) long, a little like a small sausage. Repeat the procedure until you have used up all the filling.

Heat the oil in a deep-fat fryer or a large wok until it is hot. Deep-fry the spring rolls, a few at a time, until they are golden brown. They have a tendency to stick to each other at the beginning of the frying, so only fry a few at a time. Do not attempt to break them apart should they stick together. You can do this after they have been removed from the oil. Drain them on kitchen paper.

Serve at once with lettuce leaves, herb sprigs, and dipping sauce.

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