SnackRena Meyer

Fried Vietnamese Spring Rolls

SnackRena Meyer
Fried Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Hanoi is a beautiful, fast paced, romantic city in Northern Vietnam. In the winter a low fog settles over the buildings and a cool mist hangs in the air. The damp air mixes with smoke from the coal fires of thousands of pop-up street food vendors who set up stalls in the city each day. Eating on the street is a huge part of Vietnamese culture. They consider eating alone to be “painful”. Each day Vietnamese on their way to and from work stop at their favorite stalls to eat an array of dishes, catch up with friends and conduct business.
The Dong Xuan market in the Hoan Kiem district is famous. The original structure was built in 1889 by the French, and almost burned to the ground in 1994. Since then it has been renovated and houses 5 huge floors of textiles, appliances, shoes, cookware, spices, dried fish and shrimp, preserved fruits, household items, jewelry, luggage, and hundreds of other items. Outside, the street market is where all of the produce vendors, meat and seafood purveyors are set up, along side street food stalls. It is organized chaos to say the least. Many of the outdoor markets are called “frog markets” because the sellers don’t have permits, so the police shoo them away and they hop to a new location to temporarily set up shop.
I was amazed by the array of street food dishes that are fried, steamed, sautéed or grilled – all over small charcoal fires right on the street. The vendor usually has a few tiny plastic stools to sit on, and maybe a low table with chopsticks and a bottle or two of chili sauce. People come in to grab a bite and chat, and then run off to work or family.
At Hidden Hanoi Cooking School, we took a street food class that began with a market tour, where we learned a lot about ingredients and daily shopping routines. After the tour we made a number of street food dishes, including the fried spring roll recipe below. They were surprisingly easy to prepare and have a light, crunchy shell. The dipping sauce – a classic in Vietnamese cuisine – is bright, and sweet with hints of fish sauce. Yin and yang play a big roll in each Vietnamese meal, and they always try to balance sweet, salty, sour and spicy.

Active Time: 1 hour
Serves 6
Adapted from Hidden Hanoi Cooking School, Hanoi, Vietnam



½ cup shallots, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon coconut caramel – substitute molasses if coconut caramel is hard to find*

Fried Spring Rolls: Nem Rán

5 scallions, white and green parts finely chopped
1 teaspoon finely chopped cilantro
¼ cup finely chopped wood ear mushrooms
½ cup finely sliced shiitake mushroom caps
1 carrot, julienned or coarsely grated
1 small kohlrabi bulb, peeled and julienned or coarsely grated
½ lb ground pork
½ pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 handful bean sprouts, torn into pieces
1 bunch vermicelli noodles, soaked in warm water for 5 minutes and drained
2 eggs

1 package small rice paper wrappers
Vegetable oil for frying

* coconut caramel can be found at Asian markets

Dipping Sauce: Nuóc Châm

2 tablespoons fish sauce
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons warm water
½ teaspoon lime zest
¼ cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 small red chilies, thinly sliced into rounds



Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.

Fried Spring Rolls: Nem Rán

Cut the vermicelli noodles into 2-inch long pieces with kitchen sheers and place the noodles in a bowl with the remaining spring roll ingredients. Whisk the eggs into the marinade and then pour the marinade over the spring roll filling. Mix the filling together with your hands for about 2 minutes, or until the mixture is well blended.

Place a shallow bowl of warm water next to the filling and put a damp kitchen towel in front of you. Dip one rice paper sheet at a time into the warm water, moving it around until it becomes soft – about 30 seconds. Remove the rice paper sheet and place it on the damp towel. Take a small handful – about ¼ cup – of the filling mixture and put it in the middle of the wrapper, about 1/3 from the bottom of the circle. Leave at least an inch on all sides of the filling. First fold the bottom 1/3 of the wrapper up like a sushi roll, tightly covering the filling. Next fold in the sides of the wrapper in, and then tightly roll the spring roll up into a cylinder. Repeat until all filling has been used.

Fill a high-sided pan with 2 inches of vegetable oil until shimmering. Add the spring rolls and fry, turning often, until just beginning to turn golden. Remove the spring rolls and place on a paper towel lined sheet to drain. Bring the oil to the point of almost smoking and fry the spring rolls again, this time until they are deep golden and very crispy on all sides. Drain on fresh paper towels and serve hot.

Dipping Sauce: Nuóc Châm

In a small bowl, whisk all ingredients together until the sugar has dissolved. Transfer to a serving bowl and let rest at room temperature until serving.