Friday, July 24, 2009

Cooking Mama :: Cha Gio (Vietnamese Egg Roll)

While I am home for 2 weeks in the Bay Area, my mom is giving me daily cooking lessons. It's sad that after 25 years, I still don't know how to cook any authentic Vietnamese dishes, but that is all about to change! We started off my boot camp with a favorite of mine - Cha Gio with Bun or Vietnamese Egg Rolls with Cold Rice Noodles. From an eater's standpoint, this is a great dish for warm weather but maybe no so much for the cooker - standing in front of boiling oiling for 30 minutes can get dicey. This lesson took a total of 2.5 hours, but we did it the super long way - grinding our own meat, slicing all the veggies. If you have a food processor, this would take half the time. You can also make the rolls in advance and freeze them so they are ready to fry up for a later day.

  • 1 lb ground pork or pork roast
  • 1 lb of shrimp, shelled and chopped
  • 3 carrots, julienne
  • 1 white onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 jicama, julienne
  • 1 bundle of cellophane noodles, reconstitute in warm water
  • 1 egg
  • Salt and Pepper
The Rest
  • Menlo Wrappers
  • 1 Egg White, to seal wrappers
  • Vegetable or Olive Oil to fry
  • 1 Package of Rice Noodles
  • Cilantro and Romaine Lettuce to garnish
  • 3 Chopped Scallions plus leftover frying oil
Nuoc Mam Sauce
Mix all contents together in a bowl.
  • 1/4 Cup Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup White Vinegar
  • 1 Cup of Water
  • 1/2 Cup of Fish Sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon of crushed red pepper
  • 1 Garlic Clove, finely diced
Mix the Filling :: Mix all the contents of the filling together in a large bowl. Be sure that the veggies are not chopped too finely; you want to have the texture of the carrots and jicama in the rolls. Season lightly. Since you will be eating the rolls with Nuoc Mam, which is naturally salty, you do not want to over salt the filling but feel free to go buck wild on the pepper.

Roll the Rolls :: Spoon about 1 tablespoon of filling onto the bottom center of the wrapper leaving about a half an inch at the bottom. Shape the filling so that it is a firm rectangle. This will help keep air bubbles out.

Fold the two arms over so that they are hugging the filling. It should be a firm "bear hug" squeeze over the filling, so pull tight. Any extra air pockets will let oil seep in and I am told that that is not a good thing. The roll should look like an open envelope if done right.

Here comes the tricky part - start to roll the filling forward towards the tip of the envelope. While you're rolling, use your free fingers to push the filling towards you so that you create a tight roll. Seems a little complicated, but you get used to it after a few tries. Stop rolling once you get to the tip. Dab some egg white onto the envelope tip to help seal and finish your roll.

Tada! Now do this 50 more times.

Fry Time :: Heat a skillet with about a half inch of oil on medium high heat. The oil should cover the majority of the rolls. When the oil begins to smoke, you're ready to go. Place as many rolls as you can in the pan. Let the rolls fry for about 5 minutes on each side. They should be golden brown on the outside. Once they're done, place them on a paper towel to drain. You will want to wait about 10 minutes before eating - you will burn your mouth off if you eat it any earlier. I know this from experience. You only need to fry 1 batch to feed two people. The rest you can put in Tupperware lined with wax paper. Keep it in the freezer until you're ready to eat it. They can be fried straight from the freezer on a later date.

Eat! :: Phew! Finally, eating time. You could eat the Cha Gio (pronounced chaa zaw) by itself with a little bit of Nuoc Mam sauce. Since this was our dinner, we cut the Cha Gio in half and ate it over cold rice noodles mixed with scallions, lettuce and cilantro. Another way to eat it is wrapped in a lettuce leaf and dipped in Nuoc Mam. So many options - it's a good thing this is a recipe for 50 rolls.

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