Our Vietnamese deep fried spring rolls recipe for nem ran as they’re known in Hanoi and Northern Vietnam is a classic and it’s easy to make. Crunchy and chewy with a bubbly surface, these Hanoi-style fried spring rolls are eaten with bun cha or wrapped in lettuce and fresh herbs.
This Vietnamese deep fried spring rolls recipe for nem rán as they’re called in Hanoi (more correctly, nem rán Hà Nội) and northern Vietnam or cha gio (chả giò) in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and southern Vietnam – is the fourth in a series of Vietnamese spring roll recipes I started sharing after returning from Vietnam in July where I’d hosted our first 22-day Culinary Tour.
I started the series with phở cuốn Hà Nội, made with fresh pho noodle sheets which my little group learnt to make in Hoi An, and left you a few weeks ago with a gỏi cuốn, fresh prawn and pork spring rolls. However, it was this Vietnamese deep fried spring rolls recipe that I had been planning to make when I arrived back home in Siem Reap from Hanoi with spring roll cravings.
And apologies for the wait between recipes. It’s been hectic here in our Siem Reap studios. I’ve been organising upcoming Cambodia trips and planning delicious new holidays for you, including another Vietnam food adventure, a Luxury Edition of Eat, Learn, Love Cambodia (which we first held in May 2015), and a new 8-night Cambodia Food Tour – Handmade, Home-Cooked and Hands-On Edition, announced yesterday. Plus I’ve been continuing to research our Cambodia cookbook (and have made exciting discoveries) and we’ve been working hard on other exciting projects that we’ll tell you about soon.
In the meantime, here’s our Vietnamese deep fried spring rolls recipe for nem rán.
Vietnamese Deep Fried Spring Rolls Recipe – Classic Nem Rán Recipe
So why was I dreaming about these Vietnamese deep fried spring rolls when I arrived home in Siem Reap from Vietnam two months ago? Because in Hanoi nem rán are typically chopped into small pieces like those, above, and offered with our absolute favourite Hanoi street food dish, bun cha or bún chả Hà Nội. Terence and I used to head out for lunch to perch on tiny blue plastic stools to eat bun cha for lunch almost every other day when we lived in Hanoi – on ‘Food Street’ of all addresses.
Bun cha consists of smoky chargrilled pork patties and melt-in-your-mouth pork belly served with cold rice noodles and fresh Vietnamese greens and aromatic herbs. Depending upon the bun cha cook, the pork might swim in a tangy saucy soup or a dipping sauce will be served on the side.
These Vietnamese deep fried spring rolls are usually (but not always) offered with bun cha. Sometimes you need to ask for “bún chả nem” or you won’t get your nem rán on the side, while some stalls we frequented in Hanoi automatically served a plastic dish of sliced deep fried spring rolls, which look pretty much like mine above. (See the this post to see what I mean.)
Before the recent Vietnam trip, I’d dreamt about devouring bun cha every day during our time in Hanoi, yet bewilderingly we only ended up eating it once. (Note to self: schedule more bun cha time next trip.) Fortunately Terence satisfied my bun cha cravings when I got home and we’ll post his recipe here soon.
Aside from bun cha, you can also use our Vietnamese deep fried spring rolls recipe to prepare bun nem ran (bún nem rán). Serve the spring rolls on a platter, tray or basket with cold rice noodles, a salad of lettuce leaves and aromatic herbs (mint, perilla, coriander), and dipping sauce (nước chấm). You sit a lettuce leaf in the palm of your hand, pop some noodles on top, then herbs, then the spring roll and wrap the lettuce around it all, then dip it in your sauce. Your guests can follow suit or you can serve in individual bowls.
Note that the wrappers used for this Vietnamese deep fried spring rolls recipe are the same dried, translucent, round rice paper sheets that are used for the fresh spring roll recipes. It’s because they’ve been quickly dipped into water and are damp when rolled that these fried spring rolls have a bumpy, bubbly exterior and chewy texture.
They’re different to the fresh, square, spring roll pastry wrappers that you can buy in supermarkets, here in Southeast Asia, and in Australia, Europe and the USA, that come with plastic between each piece. They don’t need to dipped into water, obviously, so after deep frying the spring roll retains its smooth surface and is crunchier.
In our Vietnamese deep fried spring rolls recipe, below, we don’t specify that you should cut the rolls into the bite-size pieces you see, above. You would probably leave them whole if serving as an appetiser, snack or party finger food. I’ve cut mine as we were using them for bun cha. And I’ve cut them with a knife, which is why the open ends appear smooth and don’t look as rustic as the piece on lettuce. On the streets of Hanoi, the cooks cut them with scissors.
This Vietnamese deep fried spring rolls recipe is a classic recipe. The wood ear mushrooms and minced pork are essential, as is seafood. Australian-Vietnamese chef Luke Nguyen uses tiger prawns, crab meat and minced pork in his nem ran, while Aussie Tracey Lister, a long-time Hanoi resident, who opened Hanoi Cooking Centre, uses pork mince and crab meat. Here in Siem Reap, we tend to use pork mince and prawn. If we lived on the southern Cambodian coast at Kep, famous for its crab, we’d certainly be adding some to the mix.
How to Make a Classic Vietnamese Dipping Sauce
This Vietnamese deep fried spring rolls recipe calls for a classic Vietnamese dipping sauce that should be served in small individual bowls for each guest. There are so many recipes out there that you really need to try a few and experiment to find which is to your taste and then adjust portions to find the right balance for you, but the basic ingredients are Vietnamese fish sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, garlic cloves, birds eye chillies, and lime juice.
For Luke Nguyen’s nuoc mam cham (nước mắm chấm) recipe, he stirs 3 tablespoons of fish sauce, 3 tablespoons of rice vinegar and ½ cup of water in a saucepan over medium heat, removing before it boils, then allowing it to cool. He adds 2 finely chopped garlic cloves, a thinly sliced birds eye chilli, and stirs in 2 tablespoons of lime juice. This makes about a cup. If you don’t use it all you can keep it in the fridge for up to five days.
Tracey Lister’s nước chấm recipe is even easier and you don’t have to dirty a saucepan. She combines 3 tablespoons of fish sauce, 100ml lime juice, 1 teaspoon of rice vinegar, and ½ cup of sugar in a bowl, stirring vigorously until the sugar dissolves completely. She then adds 2 finely chopped garlic cloves but 1 finely chopped long red chilli. The long red chillies are very mild and we prefer more bite, but experiment with both and see what you prefer. This makes enough for around six small dipping bowls.
- 5 dried wood ear mushrooms
- 50 g dried bean thread noodles vermicelli, cellophane or glass noodles
- 200 g raw prawns
- 200 g minced pork
- 1 small jicama peeled, julienned
- 3 small red shallots finely chopped
- 1 tbsp Vietnamese fish sauce
- 1 tsp quality sea salt
- 1 tsp pepper freshly ground
- 1 egg
- 20-24 dried round rice paper wrappers 22 cm width; the pack should say ‘Bánh tráng' and we buy them in 500 gram packs
- vegetable oil for deep-frying
- Salad and herbs to serve on side:
- 1 small iceberg or butter lettuce
- 1 handful mint leaves
- 1 handful Vietnamese mint leaves
- 1 handful coriander
- 1 handful perilla leaves
- Soak the dried wood ear mushrooms in warm water for 20 minutes or until they’re soft, then drain, squeeze out excess water, and slice thinly.
- Soak the dried bean thread noodles in hot water until soft but firm (this could take anything from a minute to a few minutes depending on what kind you use), drain, and cut into uneven 4-5 cm pieces.
- Peel and julienne the jicama, squeezing it in paper towels to remove moisture, and let sit to further dry.
- Finely diced the small red shallots.
- Pound the prawns in a mortar and pestle to a rough, chunky texture; stop before it becomes a smooth paste.
- In a bowl, combine the mushrooms, noodles, prawns, minced pork, jicama, shallots, egg, fish sauce, and pepper.
- Prepare a large flat tray with 1cm of water into which you should quickly submerge one sheet of rice paper, for no more than a second, then quickly lay it on your work surface.
- Place 2 tablespoons of the filling at the centre of the bottom third of the rice paper, forming the filling into a sausage shape, fold each of the sides in and over the sausage shape, roll over tightly, squeezing out any air as you go, then place your roll (seam-side down to secure) on a plate.
- Repeat until you have used up your filling.
- Pour enough vegetable oil for deep-frying your rolls into a wok or fry pan and heat to 180°C or until you can drop a cube of bread into the oil and it quickly browns.
- Fry the spring rolls in batches of 3-4 until crisp and golden brown.
- Serve whole or cut in halves on a tray with mounds of fresh greens and herbs, perhaps some cold rice noodles on the side, and small bowls of dipping sauce, and let people help themselves. Or distribute across individual bowls. If you're serving them with bun cha, cut in bite-size pieces as above.
More of our Vietnamese Spring Rolls Recipes
Fresh prawn and pork spring rolls – classic gỏi cuốn recipe
Fresh Hanoi-style rice noodle rolls – phở cuốn Hà Nội recipe
How to make fresh rice noodle sheets for phở cuốn Hà Nội
More Spring Roll Recipes
You’ll find more spring roll recipes in these Vietnamese cookbooks.
Vietnamese Street Food by Tracey Lister and Andreas Pohl – the former owners of Hanoi Cooking Centre and authors of several Vietnam cookbooks have ten Vietnamese spring roll recipes in this book, which is one of our favourites. When we last met Tracey she was talking of writing a book 100% dedicated to spring rolls. Fingers crossed.
The Songs of Sapa, Stories and Recipes from Vietnam by Luke Nguyen – the Aussie-Vietnamese chef who splits his time between Sydney and Saigon and owns the excellent GRAIN Cooking Studio has half a dozen different Vietnamese spring roll recipes in this beautiful book that charts his discovery of dishes during his travels through Vietnam.
Street Food Asia by Luke Nguyen – you’ll find some spring roll recipes in this cookbook on street food snacks from Vietnam and beyond.
As usual, we’d love to hear from you if you make our Vietnamese deep fried spring rolls recipe. Please let us know how they turned out in the comments below and share a pic with us on Instagram.
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