Vietnamese Egg Rolls

This is the kind of food that will make you happy when you eat it, after you eat it, and whenever you think about it after you’ve eaten it. It’s a traditional Vietnamese dish that my family would make every time there was a reason for celebration (birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, etc), and it is a great meal to feed a crowd, though you may want a crowd to help you make it as well. A group effort definitely makes it go faster! The amount that I am writing the recipe for would easily feed 6-8.
Ingredients:
– 2 pounds ground beef/ground pork/any mixture of the two
– 2/3 cup “Dried Black Fungus” (2/3 cup dried/PRE-soaked)
– 2 little bundles “Glass” vermicelli noodles (typically come in a pink netted package with several bundles in each package)
– 1-2 large carrots, grated
– 1 large onion
– 1 Tablespoon Ground black pepper
– 8-10 dashes of Fish Sauce (straight from the bottle, not the mixed dipping sauce)
– 1 large egg
– 1 large egg white + 2 tablespoons of water
– 2 packages egg roll skins (there are lots of different varieties, and they are found in the freezer section of most asian stores. Make sure you take them out of the freezer and put them in the fridge the day before you want to make these so they have time to defrost.)
Served with:
– 2 packages dried Round Vermicelli noodles (interesting article on Vietnamese noodles here)
 (Make as directed, which is something close to boiling them for 5-7 minutes, or until they are soft. Rinse them with cold water; then when you are ready to serve, run them under hot water to warm them up again.)
– Bean sprouts
– Fresh basil
– Baby greens salad mix
– Crushed peanuts
– Dipping sauce     —————————————————————>>> 
Dipping Sauce
– 1/2 cup Fish sauce (photo)
– 1/3 cup Rice vinegar (photo)
– Chili paste (1 tsp/to taste) (photo)
– 1/2 cup Sugar
– Several cloves of fresh chopped garlic
– 2-3 cups Very warm water

(If you want to make it like my family does, use 1 cup fish sauce, 1 cup sugar, and 1/2 cup vinegar instead of the quantities above. Yeah, pretty intense.)
Mix all together in a quart mason jar. Seal airtight in the refrigerator.

Assemble:
Soak the dried mushrooms and “glass” vermicelli noodles in room temp water for at least 15 minutes. The mushrooms should be completely rehydrated, and the noodles should be mostly translucent. Sometimes there are hard stem-like knobs on the mushrooms that I like to cut off and throw away. 
Mix together the ground meat, grated carrots, 1 whole egg, pepper, fish sauce. Chop the mushrooms till fine; a food processor works great for this.  Chop the onions as well; food processor works well again. Use kitchen scissors to cut the soaked noodles into approx 1-inch pieces and add. Mix well; using my hands works best for me. 
Before I roll, I usually take a half-dollar sized piece of the meat mixture and cook it in the microwave so I can taste it. I like to taste the meat before I make 75 egg rolls and have them maybe accidentally end up tasting yucky. Just an idea. 
After the meat mixture is ready, it’s time to roll. Take out the egg roll skins, and cut them in half DIAGONALLY (from one corner to another). Mix together the egg white and water till its a bit frothy. You’ll use this as an adhesive to keep the rolls from falling apart. 
Place one of the triangle skins on a flat workspace in front of you. The longest edge should be closest to you, with the apex of the isosceles triangle pointing away from you. Dab your finger into the egg white and apply generously to the top corner. Using a fork, place an approx 1-inch x 2 1/2 inch x 1 cm rectangle of meat mixture in the center along the bottom edge of the skin. Take the right corner and fold it directly over the meat, keeping the bottom edges on top of each other, then the left corner over to the right as well. Roll up snugly till the moistened top corner sticks to the roll. I hope that made sense; please comment and let me know if you can’t figure it out! They should look something like those you see below. 

This process will take the longest. In this case, many hands definitely make light work. Roll, roll, roll!
Place them on a cookie sheet, and only stack them on top of each other if you put a later of plastic wrap between them. They WILL stick together and then tear when you try to pull them apart. 
After they are all rolled, you can keep them in the fridge to cook later that day, or the next day. I wouldn’t recommend keeping them uncooked longer than that; their tendency to stick and rip increases with the time they sit uncooked. 
Fill a fryer with enough oil to cover the egg rolls when they are placed in the pan. Heat the oil first, then cook on medium high till they are nice and brown and crispy. Remember that they do have raw meat in them, so if you have the heat too high, the skins will brown or burn before the meat is cooked all the way through. Fry one or two, then break them open to see how long it takes for the meat to cook through; if they happen to be done, then of course you need to try them… somebody’s got to make sure that they taste good… =) 

After they are done, let them drain on a paper-towel-covered plate to get the excess oil off.

Serve in big bowls layered as such (from bottom to top): bean sprouts, salad greens, noodles, fresh basil, egg rolls, chopped peanuts, and a generous helping of the dipping sauce (at least a 1/4 cup).
The picture below has everything on a plate instead of a bowl so you can see the layering and proportions a bit easier.

Enjoy!


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