Crispy Rice Paper Rolls (Cha Gio)

Meet my favourite Vietnamese appetizer that I never order. Cha gio comes in either a rice paper wrapper, or more commonly a yellow egg wrapper. The rice paper wrapper is far superior in my books. With a fry, you get that chew, and light crisp, and all the filling. You can make these rolls to your preference: all vegetarian, without taro, or a combo of everything, like I have!

If you’re more visual, catch the video on how this all comes together here.

Why this recipe works:

  • Deep frying is mandatory. Air frying won’t produce the same surface of bubbles and crunch. To reheat, broil on low for 3 minutes.
  • Mix the roll filling with your hands to ensure that it is well blended. We don’t want any clumps.
  • (Note 1) The rice paper dipping liquid is 100% mandatory and gives the perfect crunch (from corn starch & vinegar) and colour (from the brown sugar). If you don’t have corn starch, sub it for another starch. And brown sugar is welcome for subbing for another sugar.
  • Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to dip rice paper in warm water to soften it. So don’t worry if the dipping liquid becomes cold quickly. Warm/hot water makes the rice paper too watery and harder to manage (as the rice paper soaks more liquid in because it’s hot). Just a quick dip, and lay it onto your plate. Guaranteed it’ll be pliable in 20-30 seconds.
  • Always taste test the filling. After combining the filling , nuke a small spoon in the microwave for 30 minutes. Adjust the seasoning as needed between fish sauce, liquid seasoning, fish sauce, salt & pepper. But keep in mind that you don’t need to make it too salty if serving with fish sauce dip!
  • (Note 2) The rice paper is key according to your taste. Read the ingredients! Rice paper either is made with tapioca or not. Tapioca would give more bubbling (and is not as appealing to the eye), but more chew! While rice paper made with no tapioca is better to handle and reheat. I used both, and don’t mind either – but the tapioca is best when fresh.
  • Minimal moisture & air pockets is key to crispier rolls. Transfer minimal water when dipping rice paper into dipping liquid, and onto plate. Alternatively have a paper towel on hand to dab any excess liquid. When rolling the rolls, make it as compact as possible (but not too tight, as it would effect the texture of the filling).
  • Lay rolls spaced apart on a parchment paper once assembled. Air dry for 30 minutes, or in the fridge if it’s wet.
  • Space your rolls well when frying. Depending on your skillet/fryer size, cook only a few at a time (I did 4). These rolls will stick easily when dropped into the hot oil and make it very hard to separate. Make sure to space them out.

Makes: 20
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Preparation time: 45 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Ingredients:

Roll Filling

450g Ground Pork, Medium
160g Shrimp, chopped
1 Egg
2 tbsp Shallot, chopped
1 tbsp Garlic, chopped
50g Carrot, julienned
75g Taro, julienned
10g Dried Wood Ear Mushrooms
50g Bean Thread Noodles
1 Package Rice Paper (read Note 2)

Filling Seasoning

1 tbsp Knorr Liquid Seasoning (sub for 1/2 tbsp Fish Sauce)
½ tbsp Fish Sauce
½ tsp Black Pepper
½ tbsp Granulated Sugar

Tapioca Batter

3 tbsp Corn Starch
2 tbsp Brown Sugar (read Note 1)
2 tbsp Vinegar
3 cups Water

Fish Sauce Dip

3 tbsp Granulated Sugar
3 tbsp Fish Sauce
1 ½ Cups of Water
1 tsp Rice Vinegar (or 1 tbsp Lime Juice)
1 Thai Chili, sliced (optional)

Instructions

Make: Roll Filling

  1. Soak bean thread noodles and wood ear mushrooms in separate bowls with lukewarm water. Set aside for 30 minutes to soak. Drain and chop.
  2. Combine Filling Seasoning in a bowl until sugar is dissolved.
  3. Combine all roll fillings in a large mixing bowl, add Filling Seasoning mix. Mix using hands until thoroughly combined. To taste, microwave one teaspoon of filling in the microwave for 30 seconds. Adjust seasoning if needed.

Make: Fried Rice Paper Rolls

  1. Into a shallow pan or bowl (large enough to dip or rotate rice paper in), combine all dipping liquid ingredients. Dip rice paper (rotate quickly & do not soak) and lay onto a flat surface (transfer rice paper with the least amount of water). Onto one middle end of the rice paper, spoon on about 2 tablespoons of filling. Fold in sides, and roll until reaching mid point. Place roll onto a parchment paper, and space apart to air-dry.
  2. If the roll is wet, allow the roll to dry in the fridge for 30 minutes before frying. Allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before frying.
  3. Fill a skillet or pot with oil until 5 cm in depth, heat until 320 F. Test oil readiness by placing a chopstick in, if bubbling occurs, the oil is ready for frying. Place rolls in, spacing them out and ensuring that they do not touch. Rotate the rolls in the oil to develop a crisp outer layer (1 minute). Then allow to sit on one side until it begins to bubble well (3 minutes). Then rotate to the other side to bubble (2 minutes). Rotate and fry until the entire surface is bubbled (2 minutes). Transfer to a paper towel lined plate.
  4. Once all rolls are complete, re-heat oil to 350 F to re-fry for crispier rolls if needed.

Make: Fish Sauce Dip

  1. Create sauce by combining sugar with water until combined. Add fish sauce and rice vinegar (or lime). Add additional water a few tablespoons at a time to taste. Add sliced Thai chili if using.
  2. Enjoy with green lettuce, cilantro & beansprouts, and dip into sauce.

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