These recipes are from the cooking demonstration of the Auco Cruise (Fact: Currently the most luxurious cruise there is on Halong Bay. But that's for another post.)
In the picture above, from left, one of the super sweet crew who played the merry-go-round with me, "Cook" and "Talk" -> The assistant manager of the cruise.
The two most famous cuisine of Vietnam is undoubtly the Pho and Nem (but we know it as springroll).
Spring rolls are called that, because of the many ingredients in the filling, with the many colors which look like spring season. The Vietnamese eat spring roll regardless of season or social status.
'Nem' in Vietnamese, means the desire to eat.
On the cruise we were shown by Chef how the ingredients were put together, were given a trial on wrapping the spring roll, and we started eating it. Nothing other than common sense (which i didn't show) would have prepared me for the hard work in preparing the ingredients for the spring rolls.
Note: If you are not patient, do not have good knife skills, want life to be easier for you, please buy a dicer before you attempt to make spring rolls. I set out to prepare 3 x portion as stated in the following ingredient list, because I intended the spring rolls to be mains, besides a salt-baked fish and a fresh clams ginger soup. My hand got a cramp from chopping and dicing everything, literally.
'Nem' Spring Rolls (Serves 4 as a starter) - Ingredients
Minced Pork: 100g (can be swapped for chicken or beef, just don't mix them)
Minced shrimp or crab meat: 100g (shrimp is easier, or buy the canned crab meat. Do not substitute with crab stick)
Chopped Carrots: 100g (The worst to prepare if you do not have a dicer)
Minced Oyster Mushrooms: 10g
Chopped Vermicelli: 10g (optional if find it too much trouble)
Chopped Shitake mushrooms: 5g
Chopped Bean Sprout: 10g
Minced Onions: 10g
Chopped Spring Onions: 10g
In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients thoroughly. You should be left with a bright and vibrant spring roll filling mix.
Resist strongly from adding another egg when the initial mixture doesn't seem smooth, just keep mixing, it'll be fine.
Steps to prepare the Spring Rolls
1. Season the mix with some salt and pepper
2. Shape and assembly the spring rolls using the round rice paper (Vietnam translucent type)
3. Place a damp cloth on a large plate. Cloth should be moist but not wet. This cloth will enable the rice paper to soak up enough water to make it flexible, but the rice paper cannot be used if it's too wet.
4. Place one sheet of rice paper on the damp cloth followed by one table spoon of the spring roll mix.
5. Roll the spring roll by tucking one layer under the ingredients so that there's one layer around the ingredients, then fold the side halves in, rolling the spring roll length wise until it forms a neat cylinder-like package.
6. Fry the spring rolls in peanut/ vegetable oil. The Vietnamese strongly recommend peanut oil, but it blackens quickly if overheated. There should be enough oil in the pan/pot to cover the spring rolls. Oil should not be too hot, oil is hot enough when tiny bubbles form around wooden chopsticks when inserted into the oil.
7. Fry for 8 to 10 minutes until medium/golden-brown.
The ingredients in the spring roll are raw, so you need to ensure that the insides are fully cooked. Frying them on high heat blacks the outside while the inside is not cooked yet, so try frying a few for the first batch and break them one open to check that it's done right.
It's embarrassing to acknowledge, but our second batch of oil was overheated and turned black. The spring rolls from that batch did NOT look good, and we threw it away because it looked toxic.
As with any good dish, the accompanying condiments are important. In this case, the dip for the spring rolls to balance the oily taste.
Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce - Ingredients
Fish sauce: 1 table spoon
Lemon juice: 1/2 table spoon
Sugar: 2 table spoons
Warm water: 3 table spoons
Slices of Fresh bird chilli (The chilli padi tastes much better than regular chilli, but is also more spicy. Decide how much chilli slices you would like to have in your sauce according to how tasty/spicy you want it to be).
Minced Garlic (Again, to your taste. As the taste of garlic is strong, 1/2 to 1 table spoon is enough)
Steps to prepare the Dipping Sauce
Combine all ingredients in one bowl and mix.
Hack: Start with the warm water and sugar, then added the rest in, so that it'll be easier for the sugar to dissolve.
Adjust the sauce to taste. It's a light punchy sauce, with consistency like water, so it's more of a dip than a sauce.
Still, a magical sauce that enhances the spring roll experience.
If you intend to make in larger quantity and keep the sauce (because you're going to buy a whole packet of everything, and is probably going to use only a few of each ingredient), separate the portions before the meal as the spring roll will make the sauce oily.
I FORGOT TO TAKE PICTURES OF WHAT WE DID AT HOME. Sigh.
But the recipe works. Really. Send me pictures if you do xD Or i'll just to wait until the next time I attempt the dish again.