The Cookbook Challenge: Week 17 Vietnamese recipe – Non-deep fried Cha Gio (Vietnamese spring rolls)

by April@MyFoodTrail on March 22, 2010

in Asian, Cookbook Challenge 2010, Cooking, Entrees, Recipes

Theme: Vietnamese
Cookbook: Secrets of the Red Lantern by Pauline Nguyen

I’m a week behind in the Cookbook Challenge but shall be aiming to catch up by the end of this week!

Week 17’s theme was Vietnamese and it prompted me to look back through my 2007 Vietnam trip photos. We weren’t into food as much as we are now, though I was taking photos of my food even back then! The food photos from that trip were pretty terrible (crappy camera, over use of flash, lousy angles) so it’s pretty rewarding to see how far I have come! We didn’t have much knowledge of the local food beyond pho and spring rolls so we never knew what to order. If you are planning a trip to Vietnam, I would definitely recommend reading either the Songs of Sapa or Secrets of the Red Lantern cookbooks to get an idea of Vietnamese dishes.

We did a tour of Vietnam starting in the south in Saigon and made our way through central Vietnam, finishing up in Hanoi. We travelled to many of the places in the Songs of Sapa and seeing the photos in the cookbook brought back memories (and also made me wish I could go back armed with a lot more food knowledge!). Below are some of the better photos from our trip.

The crazy traffic in Saigon – motorbikes everywhere

Mekong Delta

The beautiful Citadel at Hue

The serene Halong Bay

The scary mess of wires on the streets of Hanoi

After my recent visit to Red Lantern Restaurant in Sydney, I came home and flipped through the cookbook again. I realised a lot of the recipes on the Red Lantern menu were actually in the cookbook so for Vietnamese theme week, I wanted to make something I ate at the restaurant.

Again because I was going to cook this week’s challenge on a weeknight, the recipe needed to be quick and easy to make. I decided on the cha gio (spring rolls) recipe, but decided to make a healthier version since I hate to deep fry at home. Deep frying at home wastes so much oil and stinks out the house so I went with cooking the filling completely before wrapping them up, brushing over with oil and sticking them in a sandwich press. The recipe below is the way I made it.

Cha gio (Vietnamese spring rolls)

65g dried glass or cellophane (mung bean) noodles
25g wood ear mushrooms (also known as black fungus)
300g minced pork
200g carrots, finely grated (approx. 2)
½ small onion, finely diced
1 tbsp sugar
1 ½ tsp salt
Sprinkle white pepper
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 packet spring roll papers, 22cm square (medium sized)

1. Soak the wood ear mushrooms in warm water for 20 minutes, then drain. Slice into thin strips.

Left: Dried, straight out of the pocket; Right: After soaking

2. Soak the noodles in cold water for 20 minutes. Drain, then cut the noodles into 4cm lengths.

3. Combine all the filling ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.

Mixed ingredients

4. Heat a large frying pan with oil, then fry filling until pork is cooked through.

5. To assemble, place a piece of spring roll wrapper on a flat surface and position the square wrapper to become a diamond shape. Place the filling slightly below the middle of the square and roll away from you. Once you reach the middle, fold the two sides over and keep rolling to the end. Using your finger, wet the ends like an envelope to help it seal.


6. Brush oil over the spring roll before placing in a sandwich press. Cook until spring roll has browned.

Cooking on the sandwich press

Results: It’s not the prettiest looking spring rolls (and didn’t photograph well), but at least it wasn’t deep fried! The filling was a bit dry and could have used a bit more seasoning. The recipe included an optional dipping fish sauce which I didn’t make, but I think it definitely needs it. I also found the carrot a tad overpowering.

Inside the spring roll

Would I make it again? Only if I tweaked the seasonings a bit and reduced the amount of carrots. I will be using the sandwich press method again.

P.S. As I have been meeting more fellow food bloggers in real life, I thought I better remove the confusion and change my “pen” name of Rilsta to my proper name, April!

Over & Out, April xx

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

mademoiselle délicieuse March 22, 2010 at 7:21 pm

I hate deep-frying too for the reasons you've listed and I have a mortal fear of being burnt by boiling oil!

Just realised I never got around to asking why your pen name was Rilsta…


What's For Tea? March 22, 2010 at 7:56 pm

Oh you clever thing using the sandwich press! What an excellent idea…April 😉


Conor @ HoldtheBeef March 22, 2010 at 8:01 pm

Ooh the secret is out! It's like Superman revealing his identity (well, if Superman were female and an excellent cook, but apart from that it's exactly the same).

The filling for this looks delicious, and I love the idea of using a sandwich press! I thought you were going to oven bake them, but squishing them inbetween the hot plates is a cool idea!


Yen@Foodforfour March 22, 2010 at 9:02 pm

Using the sandwich press is a brilliant and healthy idea. Baking is also another healthier option.

Btw, nice to meet you April.


Cherrie Pie March 22, 2010 at 9:31 pm

Oh! Sandwich press huh? what a great idea. Healthy and no mess


Adrian @ Food Rehab March 22, 2010 at 10:21 pm

hehe, now I can reply to your comments using 'April'… 🙂

Yes, a nice healthy option this is. I've been sandwich pressing hamburgers (reheating) to zucchini- for the nights where I can't be bothered cleaning up! Plus theres no need for oil! yay


Vee - A Melbourne Munchkin. March 23, 2010 at 11:30 am

I love my sandwich press, I use it to cook alll sorts of things from eggs to tiny pancakes and bananas! Ok..all sorts of brekkie things clearly! Thse spring rolls look good on the inside if untanned on the out! 😉


OohLookBel March 24, 2010 at 1:05 pm

Points to you for the spring rolls not being deep-fried! And I really like your Vietnam photos, too; Halong Bay looks gorgeous.


imasugarjunkie March 24, 2010 at 1:39 pm

ooh these look good! I've seen spring rolls done in the oven too – either way they look yummy and are a great alternative to deep frying!
And hi April!

Reply March 24, 2010 at 1:53 pm

Fantastic idea – not a fan of deep frying myself, so will need to give this idea a go. Thanks April (feels a bit weird not writing Rilsta). Leigh


ms s loveridge March 25, 2010 at 10:11 am

Hi April! 🙂
Totally didn't suspect that Rilsta is a pen name 😉
Spring roll looks yummy!


April @ My Food Trail March 25, 2010 at 10:50 am

Hi mademoiselle délicieuse: I'll eat deep fried foods outside, but won't do it home! I meant to ask you the same thing about your name! 😉

Rilsta was a name some people called me in school using the "Ril" part of "April".

Hi What's for Tea?: Thanks! 🙂

Hi Conor: LOL your superman comparison! 😛 I never thought of using the oven because I thought they would dry out too much!

Hi Yen: Nice to meet you too! 🙂

Hi Cherrie: I was thinking of ways to make the skin crispy but without deep frying and came up with the sandwich press idea!

Hi Adrian: That's a great idea too, but I find sometimes my sandwich press heats up too quickly with a temperature control so things get crispy on the outside but still cold in the inside.

Hi Vee: Wow, those are some good ideas for sandwich presses!

Hi Belle: Thanks! Halong Bay was really beautiful!

Hi imasugarjunkie: Those spring rolls done in the oven normally need to be deep fried first to get the crisp skin!

Hi Leigh: Haha! 🙂 I think others will have the same problem since I have been using Rilsta for so long!

Hi ms s loveridge: Yeah, I guess it could pass as a "normal" name – there are so many different unusual names out in the world nowadays!


Leona March 25, 2010 at 11:57 am

I totally know how you feel when you look back at previous holiday photos and you think "damnit i wasnt into food as much back then"

I cant wait to got o vietnam this year thinking about all the food ^_^

I love wood ear mushrooms.. when i was a kid my parents told me it was "bat ears" and thought i really was eating bat ears hehe

Food is looking deelish! loving your cookbook challenges


Amy @ cookbookmaniac March 28, 2010 at 10:35 pm

Yes, I'm with you about deepfrying. I love depfried foods but I really dislike the smell it leaves in the house and the amount of oil that gets used and thrown out. Oil isn't cheap and could very well end up being half the expense of all the ingredients.


April @ My Food Trail March 31, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Hi Leona: Haha, bat ears! They totally look like it to!! I would have believed it too!

Hi Amy: Thanks for visiting! I ow… oil is so expensive nowadays and deep frying always wastes so much!


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