There was something different to the spring rolls in Vietnam, something I wasn’t used to. They weren’t the same quintessential spring roll wrapper that I was used to experiencing in Australia. They were bubbly and super crisp and filled with delightful things that made my face smile upon consumption and they were available at every street corner and back alley food market. There would be an old lady with a small coal burner and a wok for deep frying and she would sit there and fry the day away, methodical and efficient like only a person that had been doing this for many years could be, but there was no long-service leave in sight for these patrons of the holy fried roll of goodness, they were doing what they knew and what they needed to do to survive, and doing it damn well. Damn well.
These are the sort of thing you might eat and have a bit of a Homer Simpson moment. That satisfied murmur and maybe just a little bit of dribble coming out of the side of your mouth, kinda like you are in the retirement home and losing control of your faculties.
That famous line from that one song “golden brown, texture like sun” had to have been written about these spring rolls. My argument is only enhanced as the song goes on to further describe pleasurable times, clearly spring roll happiness.
I still crave these deep fried goodies… these magical golden rolls… these… well, you get the picture.
To fulfill my cravings I scoured the vast recipe base of the interweb super highway. After conducting a brief survey of at least two sites on said super highway and decided I had the knowledge I needed to go forth and make Vietnamese/Laos spring rolls and I must say I did plenty good. These were pretty much bang on except I didn’t have rice vermicelli so I used cabbage instead which was fine, but use a few handfuls of soaked dried rice vermicelli if you want the truly authentic result.
Oh and the difference? Well the difference with these little puppies (often not just a figure of speech in ‘nam) is indeed the wrapper. Instead of the spring roll wrapper I am used to seeing, they use rice paper, slightly moistened and then rolled as we would do for fresh rice paper rolls, but then someone chucked them in a wok full of hot oil and the revolution begun! Viva la revolution! Viva la Vietnamese spring roll!
VIETNAMESE SPRING ROLLS (serves 6 with other things, maybe a few peeps with beer, or even just me if the mood strikes)
500g pork mince
1 cup dried wood ear fungus, rehydrated, drained and sliced
4-5 spring onions (scallions), sliced
1 carrot, grated
2 large handfuls shredded cabbage
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper
20-25 sheets dried rice paper
Oil for frying
Chilli-lime-fish sauce to serve
• Once you have stopped being amused by the squeakiness of the wood ear fungus you can mix everything together. Maybe leave the rice paper sheets out as you will need them to wrap the spring rolls, also this will make you appear smart
• Heat enough oil to fry stuff. A deep fryer is great but the stove top does the trick fine too. 180C is good
• It’s a good idea to fry a small sausage of the filling so you can check the seasoning. Once you are happy with it you can start rolling them up
• Drop rice paper sheets into a bowl of hot water for 3-4 seconds. Remove from water and lay on bench
• Form a small amount of pork mix into a sausage about the 6-7cm long and place onto the rice paper sheet close to the front edge
• Roll the paper around the sausage, tucking the side flaps over as you get past half way
• Look a bit like shit? It probably will, and so will the next one. They’ll get better as you go – it’s all about practice
• Fry spring rolls in batches for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown and delicious looking
• Eat with a dipping sauce made from fresh chilli, lime juice, fish sauce and a little sugar to balance it out
• Remember the good times in the streets of Vietnam