October 27, 2009

Home-made Spring Rolls/Nem

Teaching in Vietnam has definitely had some benefits – notably being invited to colleagues’ houses for a bit of Sunday lunch! Forget the roasties and send those tastebuds a little further east…

Nem – Spring rolls

Definitely one of my favourite Asian appetisers, spring rolls are also popular as a starter in Vietnam. However, they are made using rice paper rather than the heavier batter that you usually come across in the UK.

The great thing about spring rolls or ‘nem’ is that you can pretty much fill them with anything - whether you’re a vegan, veggie or enjoy anything and everything. It seems common to go for the vegetable option in Vietnam, and you can really take your pick with the ingredients. A suggested alternative as a dipping sauce is mayonnaise.

I thought I’d just give that a while to sink in. MAYONNAISE?! My thoughts exactly - especially as I wouldn’t necessarily place it as an ‘Eastern’ condiment. However, I gave it a go, and sure enough, while it may seem a little odd, it did taste surprisingly ok, however, I think I’d rather stick to some regular sweet chilli or soy…

Adjust to serving numbers – around 3 per person as a starter

Rice paper (sold in Asian food shops and larger supermarkets, can be frozen)
Choice of vegetables, my suggestion:
1 carrot, grated
Beansprouts, handful
Cabbage (handful), sliced thin and long
Shitake mushrooms (handful), sliced thin and long (use regular English if unavailable)
Coriander (small handful – parsley is an alternative), chopped
2-3 spring onions, sliced thinly into roughly 1 inch lengths
1 egg, beaten (if required)
Vegetable/sunflower oil

To serve:

Any of these condiments is optional, and a matter of personal taste. We were given mayonnaise and shrimp sauce as dipping sauces, but you may wish to try something different.

· Soy sauce
· Shrimp paste
· Sweet chilli sauce
· Mayonnaise

Mix all the prepared ingredients into a bowl, minus the egg and rice paper. Take one sheet of rice paper having prepared it according to the instructions (some may need to be soaked first).

Fill lengthways along the middle or one edge, leaving enough space at the edges to fold in (around 1 inch).

Now fold in the two side edges and roll the rice paper like you would a fajita, until it is rolled into an oblong shape (make sure the side edges have been folded in as you roll). Once you come to the end, use a brush to paint the beaten egg (not too much) onto the final edge. The egg acts as an adhesive which should ‘glue’ the final edge onto the roll, so that it does not come apart.

  • NB Some rice paper pancakes do not require using egg as they are sticky enough to hold without it.

Using a saucepan or wok, heat a few tablespoons of oil by first heating up the pan, and once hot, adding the oil. When the oil looks as though it is bubbling slightly, add the spring rolls using some tongs or chopsticks to the pan.

When the spring rolls turn a golden-brown colour, they are ready to serve. Remove from the pan and place on a plate covered in a piece of kitchen towel to absorb the excess oil. You may wish to leave them to cool slightly before serving.


If you wish to add some chicken, pork or prawns to the rolls, for example, simply slice into small, thin strips (throw in the prawns whole) and mix with the vegetables in the bowl. The meat will be cooked through once the rolls have turned golden-brown, but make sure that it is sliced small and thin to be sure.

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