This classic Cambodian fried spring rolls recipe makes a crunchy deep-fried egg roll filled with minced pork, dried shrimp, carrot, garlic, and daikon radish or taro, seasoned with fish sauce, Kampot pepper, sea salt, and palm sugar. We also have a Cambodian fried spring roll dipping sauce recipe to go with it.
Our Cambodian fried spring rolls recipe makes a traditional crispy deep-fried spring roll – or egg roll, as our American readers call them – of the kind you’ll find sold in markets and street food stalls as a snack and served in restaurants as an appetiser here in Cambodia. We also have a tangy Cambodian fried spring roll dipping sauce recipe that you can make to serve with them.
Easy to make, once you get the hang of the rolling technique, these Cambodian fried spring rolls are a classic, but by all means can be adapted to your taste. While the origin of the spring roll is Chinese, and in Cambodia specifically its provenance is the Chinese-Cambodian community, these fried spring rolls are eaten by everyone these days. When you taste them you’ll realise why!
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Cambodian Fried Spring Rolls Recipe for Classic Crispy Egg Rolls
This Cambodian fried spring rolls recipe makes a deliciously crispy deep-fried spring roll – or egg roll, as our American and Khmer-American readers call them. Here in Siem Reap, we can tuck into Cambodian deep-fried spring rolls in markets, at street food stalls and at restaurants all over the country.
While having originated in China, where fried spring rolls were originally a seasonal specialty consumed in spring to make use of fresh spring vegetables, Cambodian-style fried spring rolls are a bit different to the Chinese fried spring rolls you might be used to from mainland China, Chinese communities in Southeast Asia, or Chinese restaurants and dim sum joints around the world.
As a child growing up in Sydney’s multicultural western suburbs in the 1970s, Chinese food was a family favourite. Once a week we’d eat out at our local Chinese restaurant and our meal would almost always start with fried spring rolls. And I’m talking about authentic Chinese spring rolls – not the Australian fast food snack, the Chiko roll!
After my parents later settled in the countryside, without a Chinese restaurant nearby, they’d make big batches of Chinese-style deep-fried spring rolls filled with minced pork, fresh sweet prawns, cabbage, carrots, and mung bean sprouts, some of which they’d freeze.
While fillings vary from region to region in China, the pork mince-based mixture is nearly always marinated and the marinade typically includes any combination of oyster sauce (if you’re using it, we like Lee Kum Kee Premium Oyster Sauce), soy sauces (we like to use these light and dark soy sauce brands), sesame oil, and perhaps Shaoxing cooking wine. If the fried spring rolls include prawns or shrimp, it’s typical fresh prawns or shrimp.
The spring roll mixture is usually fried before filling the rolls, sometimes with corn starch, and the filling mostly includes ingredients such as cabbage, mung bean sprouts and mushrooms, and the spring rolls are often twice-fried so they are extra crunchy.
While Cambodian fried spring rolls arrived with the Chinese and spread through the Chinese-Cambodian community, here in Cambodia the filling is rarely cooked, but is instead usually raw when it’s rolled in the spring roll sheet. This gives the spring rolls a fresher, lighter taste.
Traditionally, locally made fish sauce is used in the filling mixture in Cambodian spring rolls, instead of oyster sauce or soy sauce (although these days anything goes), and Cambodian fried spring rolls are generally only fried once, unless they’re reheated.
Tips to Making This Cambodian Fried Spring Rolls Recipe
As our Cambodian fried spring rolls recipe makes the sort of fried spring rolls you’ll find in markets and street food stalls here in Cambodia, we’ve stuck with the local recipe, which means dried shrimp, as much as I love fresh plump sweet prawns in spring rolls.
Having said that, dried shrimp is one of my favourite ingredients and you’ll find it in numerous dishes here, such as this Cambodian papaya salad, long bean salad with smoked fish, green mango salad with smoked fish, and cucumber salad.
If you haven’t used dried shrimp before, you need to soak the dried shrimps in water first for a while – just as long as it takes you to prep your vegetables is enough time – then drain them before adding them to the mixture.
In Cambodia, cooks will use either daikon radish (also called white radish or winter radish) or taro in the filling; never both. I’ve used daikon simply because I prefer the flavour and texture. If you want the filling to be firmer, you can julienne the daikon radish and carrots, however, I prefer the vegetables grated. Do as you like.
I use a simple crinkle-blade hand grater, which will give you a texture that’s somewhere in between a standard grater and julienning. They are hugely popular here in Southeast Asia and cost about a dollar at local markets. (I used to buy them for my culinary tour clients.) You could also use a mandolin with a crinkle-ripple blade.
For Cambodian dishes, I usually use a Cambodian fish sauce, which tends to be saltier than a Thai fish sauce or Vietnamese fish sauce, however, the latter are more widely available outside Cambodia, and available online.
Cambodians have historically used palm sugar to sweeten food, however, these days they’ll also use white sugar if they don’t have any to hand. I prefer palm sugar, but if you can’t get palm sugar, use brown sugar, which has a similar caramel flavour.
When seasoning with salt and pepper, always keep in mind that everyone’s palate is different and trust your instinct. I recommend always adding seasoning gradually, especially the salt, and tasting as you do.
When you’re making a raw filling for spring rolls (or dumplings or pasta etc), pop half a teaspoon of the raw mixture in the microwave or wok or fry pan to cook it, taste, then if needed, add a little more, repeat, and taste again.
Having lived in Southeast Asia for so long, we love intense flavours, so our cooking tends to be on the saltier and spicier side, however, we tend to tone things down for our readers. When you see “or to taste” it tends to mean Lara adds more of this!
For a really full flavoured filling and loads of umami, I use both more salt and fish sauce for these spring rolls, but I appreciate that’s not to everyone’s taste. If you don’t use a lot of salt, start with one teaspoon, or even half a teaspoon, cook the filling in the microwave/pan, try it, then adjust as you like to suit your palate.
For Cambodian dishes, we recommend Kampot black pepper, but if you can’t get hold of that, the black pepper you have on hand will be just fine. These days, as I sadly and increasingly have an allergic reaction to black pepper, I use white pepper, which bewilderingly is fine.
Cambodians have traditionally used rice paper to roll their Cambodian fried spring rolls as well as fresh spring rolls, as rice is the staple and Cambodia does not grow wheat, however, you’ll find these fried spring rolls made with both rice paper and wheat flour in Cambodia.
I’ve used the latter and specifically a pack of 50 sheets of Spring Home TYJ Spring Roll Pastry in the 190mm x 190mm size, although they were actually 180mm x 180mm.
While Cambodian fried spring rolls are traditionally deep-fried here in a big pot in a lot of oil, that’s because they’re making huge batches for sale and will fry many at once. We’ve actually shallow-fried the spring rolls in a small deep pan (about 17-18cm in diameter), so as not to waste our cooking oil. The result is the same.
We do, however, find that it can be a little bit tricky to keep the heat as the temperature drops as soon as you slide the first batch of spring rolls into the pan.
We’ve found that slipping them in just as the thermometer reaches 175˚C is the best way to ensure that the temperature doesn’t drop too much. When you get the temperature just right each batch takes around 3 minutes to get golden brown spring rolls. There are more frying instructions below.
A better alternative if you deep-fry quite often is to buy a decent deep fryer, as it automatically recovers the lost temperature after you plunge the spring rolls in. It’s also safer than a pot or pan. As we make them together – I make the mixture and roll the spring rolls while Terence does the frying – it’s faster than the time we’ve given here, so highly recommend finding a spring roll-making partner.
Traditionally, Cambodian fried spring rolls are eaten with a dipping sauce and little else, unlike the Vietnamese who like to wrap their spring rolls in lettuce and fresh fragrant herbs (which Cambodians do for other snacks), however, the latter way of eating spring rolls has become very popular here in Cambodia. Try it, if you haven’t.
We’ve shared the Cambodian spring roll dipping sauce recipe in our next post.
Cambodian Fried Spring Rolls Recipe
- 1 cup neutral cooking oil
- 10 g dried shrimp - soaked and drained
- 5 cloves garlic - finely chopped
- 5-6 pieces small shallots or 120g white onion - finely chopped
- 200 g daikon radish or taro - grated
- 150 g carrot - grated
- 150 g minced pork
- 2 tbsp fish sauce - or to taste
- 2 tsp table salt - or to taste
- 2 tsp black pepper - or to taste
- 1 tsp palm sugar
- 1 packet spring roll pastry (see notes above)
- Remove the spring roll sheets from the freezer just before you start so that they have thawed enough by the time you are ready to form the spring rolls.
- Soak the dried shrimp in water for 15 minutes, while you prep the garlic, shallots, daikon radish, and carrots, then drain them.
- Combine the dried shrimp, finely chopped garlic and shallots, grated daikon radish and carrots, minced pork, fish sauce, salt, pepper, and palm sugar in a large bowl, ensuring everything combines well, especially the seasoning.
- Fry a teaspoon of the mixture in a pan of hot oil. Once done, try it to ensure the seasoning is to your taste. If it isn’t, adjust it as necessary, then taste it again.
- Carefully pull one spring roll sheet toward you to separate it from the other sheets and lay it down flat on a cutting board so that it sits in a square shape in front of you.
- Scoop a heaped tablespoon or 24g of the pork and vegetable mixture filling and place it on the lower one-third of the sheet, forming it into a sausage-like shape that’s approximately 7cm in length. This should leave around 6cm of sheet either side of the mixture.
- Roll the bottom of the sheet up and over the sausage-like shaped mixture once (it should fully cover it and touch the pastry), then bring each of the sides of pastry over tightly so that they meet each other. Smooth out any creases, then tightly roll it upwards.
- Dip your finger into a bowl of water and rub it along the join to smoothly seal the pastry together. Make sure it’s smooth and there are no gaps as these will poke out when you fry the spring rolls.
- Place the roll on a paper towel on a tray, then repeat. If you find it’s taking you a while and it looks like they are drying out, put a tea towel sprinkled with a few drops of water over the rolls. Make sure the tea-towel is not damp or wet.
- Repeat until you’ve used up all the filling.
- Pour oil into a high-sided small-medium sized pan (around 17-18cm in diameter) until it reaches around 2.5cm (one inch) from the base of the pan then heat the oil until it gets to 175°C (350°F).
- Fry 3-4 spring rolls at a time for 3.5cm, ensuring they don’t touch and turning them occasionally to make sure they are even coloured and don’t burn. Remove them when they are golden-brown. If necessary, place them on a paper towel on a rack to drain any excess oil.
- Repeat until all spring rolls are fried.
- Serve warm with the Cambodian spring roll dipping sauce.
Please do let us know if you make our Cambodian fried spring rolls recipe in the comments below as we’d love to know how they turn out for you.