Vietnamese Imperial Rolls

When I was young, on Friday nights, my mom and my sister often went out at the Vietnamese restaurant. Somehow, at that age, I wasn’t much of an adventurous eater and I preferred to stay at home and eat, let say, lasagna. I don’t remember if I had actually tried Vietnamese food before, or if I just thought I wouldn’t like it (the same goes with Indian food, and nowadays, I’m simply addicted). At some point though, maybe when I got tired of being left out, I decided to accompany them and give it a try and, surprise, I totally fell in love with imperial rolls! I even began craving them (and other Vietnamese typical fare, such as pho, meat/shrimp skewers, etc.) and I had to get them regularly. It’s funny how tastes evolve over time. Or the way psychological barriers can be overcome!

It turns out that it is very easy to make these rolls yourself at home. Most of the ingredients can be found at your regular grocery store, except maybe for the black fungus (available at any Asian grocery store). Once you’ve gathered the ingredients, you just mix them and then roll them! It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3! They are very popular at family or friends gatherings: you’ll see how quickly they vanish! Also, everyone can help rolling, to speed things up! Another good thing is that the rolls can be frozen (if there are any left), which is very convenient!

1 pack of wheat sheets or rice sheets
5 dried black fungus
2 oz of translucent vermicelli
1.5 lbs of ground pork (or chicken or tofu)
2 onions, diced
3 carrots
1/2 cup of bean sprouts
2 teaspoons of salt
2 teaspoons of sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon of coarsely cracked pepper
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoon of fish sauce (nuoc mam)

Dipping Sauce
2 tablespoons of fish sauce (nuoc mam)
2 tablespoons of sugar
2 tablespoons of white vinegar
1/3 cup of boiling water
Finely chopped garlic
Pequin peppers (bird peppers), finely chopped (make sure to thoroughly wash your hands after manipulating those peppers!)
Lime wedges


·         Soak the fungus and the vermicelli in warm water for 30 minutes. Strain thoroughly and chop in small pieces (1/4 inch).
·         In a bowl, mix all the ingredients and seasonings.

·         If using rice sheets: Bring water to a boil in a saucepan, and add 1 tablespoon of soy sauce (optional). Dip the rice sheets in the water, one at a time, and place them on a tea towel (prepare max. 4 rolls at a time).
·         If using wheat sheets: follow indications on wrapping.
·         Put 3 teaspoons of the mixture at the centre of the lower third of the [wheat or rice] sheet.
Fold the lower end of the sheet on the mixture. Roll tightly (on ply) to make sure the mixture is well enclosed. Then flip the sides of the sheet towards the inner part, rounding the ends to avoid sharp hedges that could later break. Continue rolling tightly to obtain a nice roll. [If using a wheat roll, brush the extremity of the sheet with water or egg wash before making the last fold in order to seal the roll.] Make sure you deep-fry the rolls soon after they have been rolled, otherwise, they will get soggy and it might not work out so well.
·         In a deep-fryer, preheat the oil at 350°F.
Deep-fry the rolls for about 6-8 minutes, 2 or 3 at a time depending on the size of your deep-fryer, making sure the rolls don’t stick to one another. The rolls are cooked through when they are golden brown and they float to the surface. Place them vertically and let the excess oil drip.
·         In a bowl, mix all the dipping sauce ingredients, and pour in individual ramequins.

Serve immediately with a ramequin of sauce. Just dunk and enjoy!

Note: The rolls made using the rice noodles cannot be frozen. If you plan to freeze the rolls, use the wheat sheets. Deep-fry the rolls before freezing them. For optimal results, partially thaw the rolls and deep-fry them to reheat them. Another option is to reheat the partially thawed rolls in a hot oven (425oF) on a wire rack, turning the rolls a couple of times. Do not completely thaw the rolls before reheating them or they will become soggy.

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