Poor little Pablo has been suffering from eczema that makes him so itchy he scratches himself raw. Cousin Q's older brother's wife got him tested and it turns out the little guy is allergic to wheat, soy, egg whites, shrimp, and peanuts. Since she's still breastfeeding him, she's had to eliminate those foods from her diet as well.
So the other day while I was making Cha Gio (Vietnamese Egg Rolls), I decided to do a minimalist version without shrimp, eggs, or wheat wrappers. It wasn't hard. I just went back to my roots.
Traditionally, Vietnamese spring rolls are made with fried rice paper so they've always been naturally gluten-free. :P Bwahaha! It's a Vietnamese American adaptation to use Chinese egg roll wrappers because rice paper wasn't available when the refugees first arrived. Now, egg roll wrappers are often used for ease and convenience.
Even though I mentioned using rice paper in my regular cha gio recipe, sometimes it's nice to have a new post for the specific ingredients I have in mind. Plus, old recipe posts benefit from improved photography. If you're not allergic to shrimp, by all means, add some in if you wish. I'd normally add tree ear fungus too, but didn't realize I didn't have any in the pantry. The filling was simply pork, vermicelli noodles, and grated carrots and onions. Easy peasy.
Don't be deceived by the color. Even though the spring rolls are still mostly white, the natural color of the rice paper, they're still crispy on the outside. The inner part of the wrappers will be chewy. The crisp chewy texture is just the natural difference between rice paper versus egg roll wrappers.
Gluten-Free Cha Gio (Vietnamese Spring/Egg Rolls)
For about two dozen egg rolls, you'll need:
1 lb ground pork
1 package rice paper wrappers. I prefer Three Ladies brand.
1 small section bean thread vermicelli. They're sold individually or in packages, but the packages will tie a small bundle together. You just need one.
1 large onion, finely diced or grated
1 or 2 carrots, peeled and grated
1 tsp salt, adjust to taste
2 tsp sugar, adjust to taste
1 tsp black pepper, adjust to taste
2 tsp nuoc mam (Vietnamese fish sauce), adjust to taste
Optional: Ground turkey or chicken may be substituted for the pork. Add 1 cup minced shrimp if you're not allergic. Add finely shredded cabbage if you'd like more vegetables. Add minced crab to make it even more flavorful. Vegetarians may substitute the meats with fresh tofu. Add 1 cup dried mushrooms, soaked and sliced, or 1 cup Tree/Wood Ear Fungus/Mushroom, soaked.
Place the bean thread vermicelli noodles into hot water to soften. Squeeze vermicelli and mushrooms dry and allow to drain. Cut vermicelli into two-inch segments. I use a pair of scissors for ease. Cut off mushroom stems and slice thinly. Sometimes tree ear fungus is sold pre-sliced, if not, then slice into strips.
Grate the onion first and squeeze to remove excess water. Grate one or two carrots. Add 1 lb ground pork.
Add 1 tsp salt, 2 tsps sugar, 2 tsps fish sauce, and 1 tsp ground black pepper. Mix everything thoroughly. To check for taste, I usually take a tiny lump of the meat and pop it into the microwave for 30 seconds or so. It's easier to adjust seasonings if necessary this way. Just remember to factor in that the fish sauce will make the mixture saltier as it gets absorbed and cooked.
You should only wrap enough egg rolls for however many you plan to eat right then. They don't keep so well. Store the filling in the fridge if you plan to make more egg rolls over the next few days. Otherwise, you can also freeze the leftover filling for use the next time you have a craving.
It's best to work with about two rice paper sheets at a time. On the left is the rice paper before being wetted, on the right, I've just splashed it with water on both sides. Have a large bowl of warm water on hand and just wet the rice paper in the bowl or do it under running water. There is no need to let the rice paper sit in the water. It will become pliable in a few seconds.
So wet one rice paper sheet and leave it to become pliable. Then wet a second sheet and leave it to become pliable. Return to the first sheet and it will now be pliable enough to roll. When you finish rolling, set the spring roll aside to dry out. Wet another sheet, and leave it. Return to the second sheet, which has now become pliable, and roll it. Repeat as desired.
Now, in rolling an egg roll, don't be greedy. A tablespoon or two is more than enough filling. Spread it out on top of the wrapper. See the other sheet in the top corner? It has just been wetted (Yeah, I made up that word.) and is just resting until it becomes pliable?
Fold down the top and pinch in a bit to make the filling tight with the wrapper.
Fold in the two sides where it just touches the filling. Try to keep the sides straight so the egg roll will be even.
Keep pinching to hold the filling tightly inside the wrapper.
It's not just aesthetically pleasing to make a tight roll, it also keeps out excess oil when deep-frying.
Set the finished egg rolls aside to dry out as much as they can before frying.
I usually fry on medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the egg rolls.
Both my woks had stuff in them and my sink was full so frying with a cast iron pot works well too. The wok frying thingy is one of my favorite low-tech kitchen gadgets.
Drain on paper towels or paper bags.
Serve with lettuce and Nuoc Mam Cham (Vietnamese Fish Dipping Sauce).
Crispy outside, moist chewy inside. Traditional Vietnamese spring rolls are naturally gluten-free.
My other egg roll recipes:
Cha Gio (Vietnamese Egg Rolls)
Cha Gio Bap/Ram Bap (Vietnamese Corn Egg Rolls)
Cha Ram (Vietnamese Shrimp Egg Rolls)
Egg Rolls Stuffed with Bananas and Mangoes with Nutella Dipping Sauce
Egg Rolls with Salmon and Avocado
Lumpiang Prito (Filipino Fried Egg Rolls)
1 year ago today, sugarloaf pineapple.
2 years ago today, what are your sink habits?
3 years ago today, a Vietnamese rice paper recipe with diasporic roots - Bo Bia (Vietnamese Spring Rolls with Chinese Sausage, Shrimp, Eggs and Jicama with Peanut Hoisin Dipping Sauce).