Cha Gio: Vietnamese Egg Rolls

My mom's friend Hanh is from Vietnam and now lives a few houses down from her in Marietta, South Carolina. For the past year, I've heard both of my parents rave about Hanh's fabulously tasty Cha Gio, or Vietnamese Egg Rolls. About twice a year, Hanh hosts egg roll parties where she teaches her neighbors how to make this traditional family favorite. As I was working near my parents home last week, I was happy to be able to make Hanh's latest party. I brought my appetite and my camera...

Hanh shared the differences in her American style egg rolls to the ones you would find in her home country, "In Vietnam, they are wrapped in rice paper which is much more labor intensive and hard to handle and they stick to your teeth. They are much larger in Vietnam too- about three times the size and are made with all kinds of fillings including vegetarian. They are also served with noodle and fish sauce as a separate dish. In this dish the egg roll is the 'meat.' " 

The recipe, created after much trial and error by Hanh's sister, Phuong, will produce about 160 egg rolls, (depending how fat you make them). You will have enough to place in your freezer and enjoy for months to come. 

Ingredients: 1 pound of carrots, shredded; 2 pounds of cabbage, shredded; 2 pounds of ground turkey, chicken or pork; 2 pounds of shrimp (without shells); 2 medium onions, chopped; 1 bunch of spring onion, chopped; 2 eggs; 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of salt; 6 tablespoons sugar; 2 tablespoons black pepper; 6 tablespoons fish sauce; 1 tablespoon cold water; 5-6 packages of egg roll skin. 

Place all your ingredients into a bowl and mix well. My sweet momma is to the left, her friend Ann to the right. 

Hanh, "The egg rolls are only as good as the filling. So, follow the recipe until you master it, then you can adjust it to your own taste in terms of spices." 

Next is the fun part, the rolling. You'll soon realize this is a craft which takes much patience and skill. Hanh is an expert and showed us her technique but we had trouble imitating. I didn't like any of my rolls until I got to number 44 or 45. But as Ann said, "I don't care how they look, I just want them to taste good." I concur...

To roll your Cha Gio, place a spoonfull of your meat mixture in the middle of your skin. Fold the left and right sides over the meat, then lift the bottom section over. Tuck and roll. Hanh, "Roll them as tight as you can, seal them well and make sure you cover the filling with the skin at least twice. Err on making them skinny instead of fat." 

To seal each roll, use a dab of raw egg yolk. I'm allergic to eggs so I used a dab of water and replaced the eggs in the recipe with silken tofu. It worked great...so don't let any allergies stop you from making these, adjust as necessary. They're worth it. 

There were 13 of us gathered around Hanh's center table, heads down, hands filling and rolling. It took over 2 hours to complete. (Hanh quadrupled the recipe so we could all go home with a stash of 50 egg rolls for our freezers) We love Hanh. 

When you're ready, heat vegetable or canola oil over medium heat. Ensure the oil is very hot (sprinkle water and make sure that it sizzless.) Then, drop in your rolls to cook for 10 minutes and you notice a nicely browned exterior.

So delicious. And seeing how Sunday is the Chinese New Year, I think these rolls, although slightly different than the Chinese version, are a great way to celebrate. And the best part is, you can extend the gratification by saving some for a rainy (hungry) day. Thanks for sharing the family recipe Hanh! You have some very grateful and satiated neighbors, plus one happy blogger in Georgia...

 

Photos and Content: Sweet Peach