Frying the spring rolls twice results in the crispiest wrapper and also allows you to make the rolls in advance and fry them in batches, as Tung Nguyen did at Hy Vong. For the bean thread noodles, she recommends Pagoda Lungkow Vermicelli.
Makes about 26 spring rolls
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1 3/4 ounce dried bean thread noodles (see headnote), soaked in hot tap water for 7 minutes, drained, and chopped into 1-inch lengths
- 1 1/2 ounce dried wood ear mushrooms (also known as Chinese black fungus; about 1 1/4 cups), soaked in water for 12 to 24 hours at room temperature, drained, and finely chopped in a food processor
- 1/2 small sweet onion, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon Accent Flavor Enhancer (optional)
- 26 dried circular spring roll wrappers, 8 1/2 inches in diameter
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- Leaves from about 2 heads red leaf lettuce
- About 15 mint sprigs
- 2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
- 1 cucumber, thinly sliced
- About 3 cups nuoc cham (recipe follows), for serving
In a large bowl, combine the pork, noodles, mushrooms, onion, fish sauce, salt, pepper, and Accent (if using). Mix the filling thoroughly with your hands.
Fill a large bowl with cold water. Submerge a rice paper wrapper in the water according to the package directions, then immediately lay out on a flat work surface. Spread 2 tablespoons of filling in a 3-inch horizontal strip along the center of the bottom third of the wrapper. Tuck the right and left sides of wrapper over the meat, then roll up from the bottom. The wrapper should gently hug the meat—don’t roll too tightly, or the spring roll will burst during frying. Set the spring roll on a large platter lined with plastic wrap or parchment paper. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling.
In a large heavy skillet (Tung uses cast-iron), heat 1/2 inch of oil over medium-high heat until almost smoking, about 350 degrees F. Line a large platter with paper towels.
When the oil is ready, carefully add 6 to 8 spring rolls to the skillet, seam-side down, and cook until light golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Flip over the spring rolls and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to the platter to drain. Repeat with the remaining spring rolls. When they are all at room temperature, cover and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes and up to 5 days before frying again.
When you are ready to finish the spring rolls, in a clean skillet, heat 1/2 inch of oil over medium-high heat until almost smoking, about 350 degrees F. Line a large platter with paper towels. When the oil is ready, carefully add 6 to 8 spring rolls to the skillet, seam-side down, and cook until deep golden brown, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Flip over the spring rolls and cook 1 to 1 1/2 minutes more. Transfer to the platter to drain. Repeat with the remaining spring rolls.
Wrap each roll in a lettuce leaf along with mint, tomato, and cucumber, as desired. Serve with the nuoc cham dipping sauce in a bowl.
This classic Vietnamese dipping sauce incorporates savory, tart, and sweet flavors. Nguyen chooses to highlight savory and tart: Her version uses far less sugar than you may find in other recipes. Nuoc cham is essential for Nguyen’s spring rolls (cha gio), fish with mango sauce, barbecued pork with rice noodles (bun thit nuong), and pork rolling cakes (banh cuon).
Makes about 3 cups
- 4 large garlic cloves, chopped
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- 2 cups water
In a medium bowl, stir together the garlic, fish sauce, sugar, and water until the sugar is dissolved.
Add the lime juice and stir again.
The sauce will keep, in an airtight container, in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks. Stir before using.
All recipes excerpted with permission from “Mango and Peppercorns: A Memoir of Food, an Unlikely Family, and the American Dream” by Tung Nguyen, Katherine Manning, and Lyn Nguyen, published by Chronicle Books 2021.