Nem Rán Hà Nội – Vietnamese spring rolls

Another very traditional dish from roadside vendors around Hanoi although vendors selling this dish are becoming increasingly rare. If you find such a stall, make sure you stop and try the freshly fried rolls, served, of course, with fresh lettuce leaves and herbs.

Normally, stalls like these are a family affair. Mum will fry the rolls in peanut oil in a huge pot and act as overseer of the whole operation while the rest of the family will divide the duties of food preparation, serving the food at small plastic tables, collecting the money, and doing the dishes among themselves.

INGREDIENTS

30g dried Shiitake mushroom
30g dried Mu – err mushroom
2 medium carrots
salt
sugar
100g cellophane noodles
100g turnips
4 shallots
100g mung bean sprout
1 bunch chives
1 egg yolk
500g pork mince
pepper
30 sheets rice papers (around 9 inch diameter) 
400 ml oil for frying
200ml nước mắm pha
1 small green papaya
1 herb plate including lettuce, Thai basil, cilantro, perilla, Vietnamese coriander

METHOD

Start with the filling by soaking both mushrooms in hot water between 20-40 minutes depending on their size. Then drain them, remove the stems which are inedible, cut them into thin strips and then finely chop.

In the meantime, wash and peel the carrots, cut one into very fine dice, cut the other in half lengthwise and cut into very fine strips across. Put the carrots strips into a small bowl, add a pinch of salt and sugar, and marinate for 30 minutes. Set the diced carrot aside.

Cook the cellophane noodles according to package instructions, then rinse in cold water, drain, and use scissors to cut them into small bits.

Wash and peel the turnips and shallots and cut into fine dice. Wash the sprouts carefully, shake them dry, and cut into pieces of around 1/2 inch. Wash the chives, shake dry, and cut into thin rolls.

Combine the egg yolk with the pork mince in a bowl, add the diced vegetables, the chives, the mushrooms, and the noodles, stir well, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Have a large plate filled with cold water ready. Soak a rice paper in the water briefly, then put on the work top. Put two tablespoons of the stuffing in the lower middle and give it a brief roll, then tuck the sides under and roll up completely. Make sure the the end of the roll is firmly pressed down. The rolls should be less than one inch thick and around 5 inches long.  Repeat with the remaining rice paper sheets and filling.

Preheat the oven to 300° F.

Heat the oil in a deep fryer or a suitable pot until it reaches 370° F. Fry the rolls in small batches making sure they do not stick together (which happens easily). After 2-3 minutes, they should turn a light brown colour. Remove them with with a slotted spoon, drain them on absorbent kitchen paper and keep warm in the oven.

In the meantime, wash the green papaya, cut it lengthwise in half, remove the seeds and discard them. Cut two long strips from the papaya measuring around 1/2 inch. Cut them across into very fine strips using a vegetable peeler.  Use the rest of the papaya for a papaya salad.

Squeeze the carrot strips dry, put into a bowl, add the papaya strips and the nước mắm pha to make a dipping sauce.

Clean and wash the lettuce, keeping the leaves intact. Wash herbs and dry on kitchen paper. Use scissors to cut the red shiso leaves in fine strips. Pull the cilantro apart, remove leaves from the remaining herbs, discard the stems, cut into bite-size pieces, if necessary.   Cut the nem into three pieces each using scissors and serve them with the lettuce leaves, herbs, and sauce.

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