Food is such a fundamental part of a person’s identity. As an adult, I have found myself searching for my family’s culinary roots because, as a child, I always gravitated toward western food. The ABC show “Fresh Off the Boat” summarized it nicely: I just wanted to fit in and eat the kind of food that everyone around me was eating. Now that I am in my thirties, I feel that I have become more accepting of my identity. Not only do I accept my family’s roots, I want to celebrate them! I am so proud of our culinary traditions and the delicious flavor and texture profiles that they achieve.
So moving forward, I will probably be cooking a lot more Chinese and Vietnamese food. I’m using this little project as a way to learn the traditional ways of cooking from my grandmother, aunts, and mother. Growing up watching my grandmother cook in the kitchen, I always aspired to be as good of a cook as she was. They told us stories about how my grandmother manned her own fresh rice noodle stand in Saigon, Vietnam while taking care of young children at the same time. The dexterity with which my grandmother creates paper-thin and chewy rice noodles with a mere bamboo stick and suspended cloth above a boiling pot of water still astounds me to this day. I have tried my hand at it, but with little success. She handles the noodles when they are hot and fresh, releasing them from the rod that was used to roll them up. Ouch. I’m hoping that I will be able to share and replicate her recipe for fresh rice noodles stuffed with ground pork, shrimp, and woodear fungus. But for today, I thought I would share one of my all-time childhood favorites: her fried eggrolls, or cha gio. These are often served on top of vermicelli noodles with barbecue pork, fresh herbs, and cucumber with a fish sauce.
Vietnamese, Chinese, and Filipino versions of eggrolls are all delicious, but my personal favorite is the Vietnamese one. I am probably biased because of the memories that these eggrolls hold for me. My grandmother’s eggrolls are filled with delicious ground pork, ground shrimp, shallots, grated taro, and black pepper. It’s a simple list of ingredients, but when mixed together, they create a flavor powerhouse.
Making eggrolls is really a family event. Invite friends and family over to help you with rolling. It will make the work much more manageable and fun!
Folding eggrolls takes practice. I would suggest looking up some videos of rolling eggrolls online first because the visual learning will go a long way. But in general, the rolling of an eggroll is similar to the rolling of a burrito. There is a wonderful tutorial on how to roll a eggroll. Rather than re-inventing the wheel, I encourage you to visit this wonderful food blog for a different variation of Vietnamese eggrolls and for some helpful instructions on the art of eggroll rolling.
Always check oil before frying. Insert a piece of eggroll wrapper in the oil to test if the oil is at the right temperature. If lots of bubbles immediately start forming around the eggroll wrapper your oil is ready for frying.
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
1 package pre-made eggroll wrappers
½ lb ground pork
½ lb ground shrimp
1 large shallot, finely minced
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1 tsp black pepper, or to taste
1 cup taro root, grated
1 beaten egg (for sealing eggrolls)
Peel and devein shrimp. Then rinse and drain. When shrimp is relatively dry, use a food processor to pulse the shrimp. Pulse until the shrimp is ground up into a coarse paste with some small chunks still left.
Place ground pork, ground shrimp, minced shallots, salt, pepper, and grated taro into a large mixing bowl. Use hands to mix together all ingredients for filling. Once all mixed, set aside.
Sauté a little bit of the filling on a pan to taste for seasoning. Adjust salt & pepper to taste.
Prepare beaten egg mixture
Place ~1 tbsp of filling on the eggroll wrapper and roll eggroll. Right before you seal the eggroll, place egg mixture on the edges of the wrapper that is leftover and then seal the eggroll.
Once eggrolls are rolled, heat a pot of oil to 350 degrees, or use medium high heat to fry eggrolls. Allow the oil to heat up and use a test eggroll wrapper to test the heat of the oil: you’ll know the temperature is right when the oil immediately bubbles up around the wrapper when placed in the hot oil.
When using a pot to fry, do not overcrowd the pot. Fry eggrolls until golden brown (15-25 minutes). The time it takes will depend on how many eggrolls you have put in, as that will drop the temperature of the oil.
When using a device such as a fry-daddy, place eggrolls in vertically as if they are standing up. Fill will eggrolls, put on lid, and fry for 25 minutes. Vertical placement will ensure even cooking. Then remove lid and fry for another 5 minutes or until golden brown.
Once eggrolls are golden brown, remove from oil to drain, and then set on a plate lined with paper towels to cool.
Enjoy with thinly sliced cucumber, sweet and sour Vietnamese fish sauce, fresh herbs, or just as is!