Cha gio/imperial rolls

The quintessential finger food of the Vietnamese has to be the chả giò, or imperial roll. Well, at least to me they are. I can eat them plain as is, wrap them in lettuce and dip in nuoc mam, or as part of a full meal (like in the picture above).

Cha gio usually has a filling of pork, veggies like carrots and mushrooms, glass noodles, and other meats like shrimp and crab. Traditionally they’re rolled in rice paper and then fried to a golden brown. Wheat flour paper can also be used but makes them look more like an egg roll. This causes a lot of confusion, especially for me, since I’ve gone through life calling these egg rolls. I prefer the wheat flour paper to the rice paper since it fries up much nicer. My rice paper version came out bubbly and greyish, though it was my first time so I don’t feel so bad. I guess the trick is to fry them in oil that isn’t too hot so the paper doesn’t bubble up. Even though the rice paper version didn’t turn out cookbook photo perfect, they tasted just fine.

This is a good recipe using rice paper, though I prefer to add mushrooms to it. Here’s one with the mushrooms using wheat flour wrappers. And just for good measure, here’s one using both kinds of wrappers.

It felt good to perfect the wrapping of the rolls since they came out a bit wonky at first. My friend suggested using a cast iron pot (dutch oven) to fry the rolls in because they retain heat better and the oil wouldn’t fluctuate too much in temperature. They’re best a few minutes after coming out of the oil since they lose their crispiness a few hours after cooking. I still  have some in the freezer. You can crisp them up again in the oven if you’re into that kind of thing, but I’m not picky and will eat them anyway I can.

Top: ingredients...meat and veggie mixture, dried mushrooms, mung bean/glass nooodles. Bottom left: with wheat flour wrappers. Bottom right: with rice paper wrapper


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