They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder and I couldn’t agree more, especially when it comes to food. As a kid, I was surrounded by Vietnamese food all the time, unfortunately, much to my disdain. “This doesn’t look like mac n’ cheese!” “Why can’t we just order pizza like everyone else?” I took every opportunity I could to revel in hot dogs, hamburgers, and milkshakes, making every attempt to Americanize myself and fit in. After kicking off my young professional life, constantly on the road and eating out on the expense account, I learned that nothing hits the spot like a good homecooked meal.
I had the pleasure of hosting my family in Madison this past week and was treated to a nonstop slew of delicious homecooked meals. We even had the opportunity to recreate one of my favorite childhood memories – rolling eggrolls in the kitchen with my family. Vietnamese eggrolls, or chả giò, are almost always made in gigantic batches as they’re an easy crowd pleaser and a staple in Vietnamese cuisine. You can serve them on their own with some fresh lettuce (always served with nước chấm, of course) or atop a pile of noodles or rice. I always loved that making them was a family affair. My grandmother would chop up the meat and veggies and mix everything together in a huge bowl, I would unlayer the eggrolls wrappers from a frozen package, my mother and aunts would help place the meat in the wrappers and roll them up, my father and uncles would tend to them in the deep fryer, and everyone would devour them.
Chả giò taught me two invaluable lessons about the kitchen; first, food always tastes better when you’re involved in the creation of it. The extra salt you add, the extra time you spend chopping an ingredient extra finely, are immediately detected and appreciated within the first bite. You can truly realize the value of good quality ingredients and good craft when you make something yourself. Secondly, food has the power to bring people together. Some of my best memories with my family are in the kitchen – the immediate serving of ice cream after a break-up, my parents’ childhood stories about their favorite meals, the staring contest with the Thanksgiving turkeys. We all need to eat so why not make it a joy to do so and in the company of our loved ones?
- 3 packages Vietnamese spring roll wrappers
- 1 lb ground pork
- 1 lb fresh shrimp
- 4 cups carrots, julienned
- 4 cups wood ear mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 4 cups cellophane noodles
- 4 cups onions, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 2 tsp sugar
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 egg white, whisked
- oil, for frying
- nước chấm
- Soak cellophane noodles in warm water until translucent.
- Grind fresh shrimp in a food processor until a mixture becomes pasty.
- Use your hands to mix together ground pork, ground shrimp, carrots, onions, mushrooms, soaked cellophane noodles, fish sauce, sugar, salt and pepper.
- Position an eggroll wrapper diagonally on a flat surface. Place 2 tsp of meat mixture in the center towards the bottom corner. Fold in the sides and roll up. Secure the top flap with a dab of egg white. Repeat for the remainder of the eggrolls.
- In a deep fryer, heat oil to 350 degrees. Fry eggrolls for 3 minutes.
- Serve eggrolls with lettuce wraps and prepared fish sauce for dipping.
- Spring Home is personally my favorite spring roll wrapper to use.