|8 ounces||Thin rice vermicelli vermicelli (bun) or|
|2 bunches||Of Japanese alimentary paste noodles (somen).|
|6||Dried Chinese mushrooms|
|1 tablespoon||Dried tree ear mushrooms|
|6||Water chestnuts or 1/2 small jicama, peeled and chopped|
|4 ounces||Fresh or canned lump crabmeat, picked over and drained|
|8 ounces||Raw shrimp, shelled, deveined and minced|
|12 ounces||Ground pork shoulder|
|1 medium||Onion, minced|
|4||Garlic cloves, minced|
|2 tablespoons||Nuoc mam (Vietnamese fish sauce)|
|1 teaspoon||Freshly ground black pepper|
|80 smalls||Rounds of rice paper (banh trang), each 6 1/2 inches in diameter|
|Peanut oil, for frying|
ASSEMBLING AND FRYING
This is another version of the superlative Cha Gio (also called Nems). The filling here is a bit more elaborate than in the first one. Boil the noodles. Prepare the Nuoc Cham and Vegetable Platter.
Prepare the filling: Soak the two types of mushrooms in hot water until soft, about 30 minutes. Drain. Remove the stems from the mushrooms and squeeze to extract the liquid. Mince the mushrooms.
Combine the mushrooms with the remaining filling ingredients in a large bowl. Mix with your hands to blend. Set aside.
Assemble the rolls: Fill a mixing bowl with 4 cups of warm water and dissolve the sugar in it. The rice paper sheets are brittle and must be handled with care. (The water is used to soften the sheets for handling. Sweetening the water helps the rice paper turn a deep golden color when fried and also produces crisper rolls.) Work with only 4 sheets of rice paper at a time, keeping the remaining sheets covered with a barely damp cloth to prevent curling. One at a time, immerse a sheet in the warm water. Quickly remove it and spread flat on a dry towel. Do not let the sheets touch each other. The rice paper will become pliable within seconds.
Fold up the bottom third of each round. Put 1 generous teaspoon of filling in the center of the folded-over portion. Press into a compact rectangle. Fold one side of the paper over the mixture, then the other side. Roll from bottom to top to completely enclose the filling. Continue until all of the mixture is used.
Fry the rolls: If possible, fry in 2 skillets. Pour 1 to 1½ inches of oil into each skillet and heat to 325F. Working in batches, add some of the rolls to each skillet, but do not crowd or let them touch, or they will stick together. Fry over moderate heat for 10 to 12 minutes, turning often, until golden and crisp. Remove the rolls with tongs and drain on paper towels. Keep warm in a low oven while frying the remaining rolls.
Traditionally, Cha Gio is served with the accompaniments suggested in this recipe.
To eat, each diner wraps a roll in a lettuce leaf along with a few strands of noodles and a variety of other ingredients from the Vegetable Platter before dipping it in the Nuoc Cham. If served as an hors d'ouvre, allow 4 or 5 rolls per person; serve 8 to 10 as a main course.
NOTE: Another popular way of serving this dish is to divide the noodles and elements of the Vegetable Platter evenly among the individual bowls. Top each with cut-up pieces of Cha Gio, ground roasted peanuts and Nuoc Cham.
As a quick and easy appetizer, Cha Gio can be served with just Nuoc Cham.
Yield: about 80 spring rolls.
Posted by Stephen Ceideberg; March 27 1991.
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