Thursday, January 06, 2005

fried lumpia: Vietnamese cha gio

one of the best fringe benefits of working at the Philippine Refugee Processing Center in the Bataan "bundoks" (aeons and ages ago!) was being invited to our students' billets, where they made do with Spartan temporary accommodations and makeshift kitchens and pocket-handkerchief gardens...where i had my first taste of the crunchy, spicy cha gio..."come, teacher, eat, my house!" they prepared it for celebrations, like for our class graduation parties, and for Tet New Year.
(i make mine with crab meat because it's sweeter and milder, and my #1 son is not fond of shrimp, but it is a good substitute.)

Vietnamese spring rolls:

1 lb. fatty pork, ground
6 ozs. of crab meat, picked over
6 ozs. of mung bean thread, sotanghon noodles, soaked in tepid water to soften
2 ozs. of dried wood ears, soaked to soften, chopped, tough stems removed
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 medium shallot, finely minced
1 cup grated carrots
1 cup grated sweet potato
1/4 cup Vietnamese fish sauce ("Phu Quoc")
2 tsps. ground black pepper
1 egg

1 package of thawed spring roll wrappers (used TYJ brand-freezer section of Asian markets, 8-in. squares)

mix filling ingredients, and wrap, chef celia K's way in spring roll wrappers. Deep fry in 360F canola/vegetable oil in batches of 5 to 6 rolls (do not overcrowd so they brown evenly), 5-6 minutes per batch.
drain in paper towel lined platters. serve over lettuce leaves.
we slice each roll (using kitchen shears) into 3 or 4 little pieces for the little kittens' little fingers to easily dip into...
nuoc cham (dipping sauce)my easy version:
2 tbsps. sweet chili dipping sauce (Maesri brand)
1/2 cup fresh lime or calamansi juice
1 smashed garlic clove
2 tbsps. of Vietnamese fish sauce
2 tsps. of mild (rice) vinegar
a grate of black pepper
grated fresh carrots.

give each diner a bowl of sauce. roll each piece in a lettuce leaf, dip, and crunch away.

dried wood ears