Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Vietnamese Deep-Fried Spring Rolls ( Cha Gio )

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One of the thing that makes these delightful Vietnamese spring rolls different to the Chinese variety is the wrapper of delicate rice paper. The filling is a lightly seasoned combination of pork, prawns, and transparent bean thread noodles, plus some crabmeat if you like. The coup de grace is the way they are eaten, tucked in a cool lettuce leaf with fragrant herbs and crunchy bean sprouts, then dipped in salty, soup, sweet, and hot Vietnamese Fish Sauce Dip.

INGREDIENTS:

30 wedge-shaped rice papers, or 20-25 small round rice papers ( 5-6 in or 14-16cm in diameter )
2-3 cups ( 500-750) oil for deep frying

ACCOMPANIMENT:
lettuce leaves
1 Cup mint sprigs
1 Cup fresh cilantro
1 cup bean sprouts
1 cup (250 ml) Vietnamese Fish sauce Dip

FILLING:
2 shallots, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
4 oz ( 125g ) lean pork, diced
1/2 lb ( 250 g ) small or medium raw prawns, peeled
1 green onion, minced
4 tsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
handful transparent noodles ( mung bean noodles ), soaked in hot water to soften,
drained, cut in 2cm lengths

VIETNAMESE FISH SAUCE DIP ( NUOC MAM ):
1 clove garlic, minced
1 large red chili, minced
2 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs lime juice
1/4 Cup rice vinegar
1/4 Cup fish sauce
1/4 Cup water

*** If you have a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic and chili together with a little of the sugar until coarsely ground. Stir in the rest of the sugar and remaining ingredients until the chili is faily fine. Pour into a bowl and allow the pink froth to dissapear before serving. This makes about 3/4 cup of dip; double the amounts if you like and refrigerate any left-over in a covered container for up a week.

PROCEDURES:

Step 1
Prepare the filling by processing the shallots, garlic, and pork in a food processor until the pork is finely ground. Add the prawns, crabmeat ( if using ), spring onion, fish sauce , and pepper and process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the noodles.

Step 2
Put a larga bowl of warm water and a clean kitchen towel on a table. Dip a rice paper in the water for 5 seconds, remove it and spread on the towel; if you are using wedge shaped rice papers, put the pointed end facing away from you. Smooth the rice paper with your fingers until soft and pliable. Repeat until you have 6 to 8 softened rice papers on the towel.

Step 3
Put about 2 tsp of the Filling accross the wider part of a wedge rice paper, or across each round rice paper, placing it about 3 cm from the bottom edge. Wet your fingers slightly and shape each portion of filling into a cigarette shape about 5 cm long. Rinse and dry your hands and then fold up the end closest to you. Tuck in both sides, squeezing gently to make sure there isn't any air trapped, then roll up firmly. Put on a plate, making sure rolls do not touch each other. Repeat until all the rolls are prepared.

Step 4
To prepare accompaniment, wash,drain, and dry lettuce, both lots of mint and cilantro. Divide between 2 large serving plates. Wash and drain bean sprouts and add to herbs. Put fish sauce dip into small sauce bowls.

Step 5
Heat a wok. Then add oil for deep frying. When the oil is moderately hot ( but not smoking ) add several of the spring rolls, one at a time, taking care not to over crowd the wok. Fry over medium heat until golden brown and cooked, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent them sticking together and to ensure they are golden brown all over. Drain and serve hot with the dip and salad platter and prepared accompaniments.

TO EAT:
Each person puts a spring rolls on a lettuce leaf, adding some of the herbs and bean sprouts. The leaf is tucked up and dipped in the sauce before eating.

NOTE:
If you want to prepare the spring rolls in advance, cook them until light golden, about 3 minutes. Drain them on paper towel and keep at room temperature. Just before serving, re-heat the oil until very hot, then fry the spring rolls for about 1 minute until golden brown and crisp.

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