Yield
Makes about 20 rolls

Ingredients

  • 1 heaping tablespoon tree ear mushrooms
  • 1 package cellophane noodles (2 ounces)
  • 1 pound ground fatty pork
  • 1/2 pound coarsely chopped fresh shrimp
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped Chinese chives
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 package rice paper in 8-inch rounds (1 pound)
  • Beer
  • Peanut oil for deep-frying
  • Large leaves from 3 heads iceberg lettuce (see Note)
  • 1 1/2 cups Asian basil leaves, loosely packed
  • 2 thin cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and thinly sliced
  • 6 to 8 red chili peppers, sliced into thin rounds
  • Dipping sauce (recipe follows)

Directions

Put the tree ears in a small bowl, cover them with boiling water, and allow to stand 15 minutes. Cover the cellophane noodles with hot water, and allow to stand 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, with a cleaver or a French chef's knife, chop the pork for a minute or two to create a finer mince. Put the pork in a mixing bowl with the shrimp, fish sauce, salt, pepper, garlic, and chopped chives. Drain the tree ears, rinse them, chop them lightly, and add to the pork. Drain the cellophane noodles and chop roughly; add 1 cup noodles to the pork. Add the water and mix all these ingredients well with your hands or a spoon, stirring in one direction.

Taking a sheet at a time, brush each side of the rice paper liberally with beer, and set aside. After a sheet softens, which takes a minute or two, lay it in front of you. Put a heaping tablespoon of filling across the bottom third of the rice paper, stopping an inch from either edge. Fold the bottom flap over the filling, and then fold the sheet with the filling over once more, making sure that the rice paper is taut around the filling. Fold the sides in over the filling and continue to roll. Press the edges to seal. As each spring roll is finished, set it aside on a lightly oiled platter. When all are rolled, heat a large quantity of oil in a wok for deep-frying.

While the oil is heating, put the lettuce leaves on a platter or in a basket, and arrange the basil, cucumber, and chili peppers on a small platter; put both on the dining table. Set out the Vietnamese Dipping Sauce in one or two small bowls.

When the oil it hot, about 375 degrees, add as many spring rolls as will comfortably cover the surface of the oil. (Too many will lower the temperature of the oil.) Fry for about 5 minutes, turning from time to time, and remove to drain on paper towels. Repeat until all the spring rolls are cooked.

When all the spring rolls are done, turn up the heat slightly under the oil, and fry the spring rolls again for another minute. Remove to drain, pat lightly with paper towels, and then place on a cutting board. When they have cooled slightly, cut each into three or four sections. Arrange on a serving platter, and set out with the other ingredients.

Each eater should take a lettuce leaf, put in a couple of the spring roll sections and any or all of the garnishes, sprinkle these to taste with the sauce, roll up the lettuce, and eat.

Note: Any lettuce will do, so long as it is a type that won t wilt when wrapped around the hot spring rolls.

Vietnamese Dipping Sauce
Makes 4 to 6 dipping bowls

A more substantial sauce than the sweet, insipid versions set out in most Vietnamese restaurants here, a little of this goes a long way. It's excellent with even non-Asian batter-fried foods, or with steamed or boiled Chinese dumplings.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup fish sauce
  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon chili oil

Directions

Mix the garlic, fish sauce, lime juice, and sugar, and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the chili oil. Serve in small bowls for dipping with fried food.

Note: This sauce is best made 1 hour ahead.

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Adapted from Asian Main Ingredients A Guide to the Foodstuffs of China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam by Bruce Cost.

 

Adapted from Asian Main Ingredients A Guide to the Foodstuffs of China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam by Bruce Cost.