Vietnamese egg rolls, called cha gio by the Southern Vietnamese, are usually thinner and lighter than the Chinese or American varieties. Though they can be wrapped in egg roll wrappers, many restaurants and cooks like to use wonton or spring roll wrappers instead. The fillings range from ground chicken and pork to shrimp or crab. These finger foods also usually contain a combination of vegetables that may feature cabbage, jicama, carrots, and onions. Those that dislike the heavy oiliness of Chinese egg rolls may enjoy lighter, smaller Vietnamese egg roll recipes instead.
Most Vietnamese egg roll recipes start with raw, ground meat of some kind. Some cooks like to use just one kind of meat, while others like to combine a few different kinds. Pork and shrimp is a popular combination, as are pork and chicken, or shrimp and crab. The meats are usually mixed with an egg and spices, then kneaded together by hand. Popular additions include onions, garlic, ginger, cilantro, and black pepper. Fish sauce and soy sauce may also be added to the meat mixture, and all of these ingredients may be added to taste, or omitted, if the cook doesn’t like them.
Vegetables are also an essential part of Vietnamese egg roll recipes. Cabbage is usually the predominant vegetable, with dried mushrooms, carrots, and jicama following closely behind. All of these veggies must be chopped into small pieces. They may be combined with the meat mixture or left separate to create layers inside finished egg rolls.
Though egg roll wrappers may be used in a pinch, most cooks making Vietnamese egg roll dishes prefer to use wonton or spring roll wrappers. These lighter, thinner wrappers should be placed in a shallow container of warm water for a few minutes before they are used. This makes them softer and more pliable, making tearing less likely. Egg roll wrappers, though thicker, don’t typically need to be soaked. These denser pastry sheets are stronger than their translucent cousins.
Each type of wrapper should be gently spread out onto a flat surface for rolling. Vietnamese egg roll wrappers don’t need a lot of filling, a generous tablespoonful should be plenty for each roll. The filling should be arranged in a line down the center of the wrapper. The cook should then lift the lower right corner of the wrapper up and over the filling. Next, he or she should fold the upper right corner down over the filling, followed by the lower left corner. The cook may then wrap the upper left corner of the wrapper around the egg roll.
Like their Chinese cousins, Vietnamese egg rolls are typically fried. They go into about 2 inches (about 4 cm) of slightly bubbling cooking oil. They generally fry for about four minutes on each side. When finished, they should be crisp and golden brown, and steamy in the center when cut in half.