kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)
Description follows.

[Image: Three deep-fried spring rolls sitting on a white doily on a white plate, garnished with a sprig of parsley. The skins of the rolls are blistered from the frying process.]

Although as I mentioned earlier this week dim sum is a Cantonese tradition, it has a fair number of influences from other cuisines, both Chinese and non-Chinese. Grilled pork dumplings/potstickers (鍋貼/guō tiē), for example, are actually from north China (whereas Cantonese cuisine originates from Guangdong province in the south), which is why they're often referred to in English as "Peking dumplings". Similarly, soup dumplings/xiao long bao (小籠包/xiǎo lóng bāo) originate from the Shanghai area.

Today I'm posting about one of those influences that comes from outside China — Vietnamese-style spring rolls, or 越式炸春卷 (yuè shì zhà chūn juǎn). "Vietnam" is 越南 (yuè nán) in Chinese, and 式 (shì) means "style", so 越式 is "Vietnamese-style". 炸 (zhà) is "deep-fried", 春 (chūn) is "spring", and 卷 (juǎn) is "roll".

One difference from Cantonese spring rolls is the wrapper — Vietnamese spring rolls are wrapped in rice paper skins, which is what makes the outsides blistered rather than smooth. The filling is also different, being a mixture of minced pork and prawns, shredded vegetables, and bean thread noodles (粉絲/fěn sī). Finally, the recipes I've seen tend to use black pepper rather than the white pepper that's more common in Chinese cuisine, though I don't know whether this is original to Vietnam or an adaptation to Western kitchens.

The owner of Vinh Phat once told me that within Vietnamese cuisine, the skins used for deep-fried spring rolls are not the same as the ones used for fresh summer rolls, but I'm not sure exactly what the difference is — I was a bit short of time so didn't press him further. In any case, Viet World Kitchen has some tips on choosing rice paper.

When I made these, I mostly followed the Rasa Malaysia recipe, but taking hints from the method of another recipe I found on vietnam.com — I made sure to mix the filling well, smooshing it down with the spoon I was using (the noodles didn't seem to mind the smooshing, but I put them in towards the end anyway), and I also set it aside in the fridge for half an hour before rolling.

Other changes I made: I wanted to add some wood ears as suggested in the vietnam.com recipe but I couldn't find them in the mass of stuff that got shoved in my pantry after my recent house move, so I used dried shiitakes instead. Also, I used finely-chopped water chestnuts instead of carrots, since I had some to use up. I didn't have crabmeat, so I used an extra ounce of minced prawns instead.

While my filling turned out great, the end result was not really a success. My wrappers almost all came apart during frying, even though I followed the advice of vietnam.com to make sure that the fold of the roll touches the oil first to stop it unravelling. I also followed the advice of both sources to use a fairly low heat to fry the rolls — vietnam.com says the frying time should be about 15 minutes, and I tried to stick to this, but it still didn't help. The best results came from the rolls that I didn't have time to fry on the day of making and hence let sit in the fridge for a couple of days, but even then only two of the three made it through without coming apart.

I will definitely be trying this again, though, perhaps with a different brand of wrapper, and will report back if I ever get them to work!

Characters mentioned in this post:
Other related posts:
If you have any questions or corrections, please leave a comment (here's how) and let me know (or email me at kake@earth.li). See my introductory post to the Chinese menu project for what these posts are all about.

kake: The word "kake" written in white fixed-font on a black background. (Default)
On Monday I despaired at the falling-down-ness of my house.

On Tuesday I did a big pile of work and very little else.

On Wednesday a plumber came to fix my house! Again! We don't appear to be leaking any more, though we still have no downstairs lighting circuit.

On Thursday I went to Hawksmoor for [personal profile] bob's birthday. It was pretty damn good. I shared a porterhouse with [personal profile] ewan — his first ever steak. I wish my first ever steak had been that good (though I seem to remember it was in the Star back when the food was as good as the beer, so it can't have been bad).

On Friday I played Guitar Hero and watched girly TV with Richard.

On Saturday I did a little bit of Discworld hacking then had a takeaway from Banzi which consisted almost entirely of breakfast foods (congee and banh mi, though the banh mi was actually a pre-emptive strike on tomorrow's breakfast). Oh Banzi, your food is tasty, why do you not have online ordering? I would abandon Royal Margin (except for pho) if you did.

On Sunday I had banh mi for breakfast! Then I did a big pile of work.
kake: The word "kake" written in white fixed-font on a black background. (Default)
On Monday I had a North London adventure! I'd intended to have lunch at Jai Shri Krishna, but it was closed, so I bought a few groceries at the Turnpike Lane Food Hall and wandered up towards Wood Green (via the Big Green Bookshop) to see what I could see. I didn't hold out much hope of finding anything interesting, since Wood Green High Street is basically chain central; I did spot a tiny restaurant with only Chinese writing on the frontage, but the menu looked uninspiring. I ended up having a bowl of decent enough pho at a Vietnamese restaurant called Ha Long Bay.

I then wandered southwards into Harringay and popped into the Old Ale Emporium and the Garden Ladder, to update the RGL reviews. The Old Ale Emporium had been done up since my last visit; it's looking pretty nice now. Finally I had a quick dinner at a Bulgarian restaurant called The Village, before getting the Overground to Leyton for choir.

I can't remember what I did on Tuesday and Wednesday. Probably just work. Oh, I did cook pig's ears, in collaboration with [personal profile] bob.

On Thursday I went on another North London adventure! This time to Hampstead in the company of [personal profile] ewan, [personal profile] superpitching, and [livejournal.com profile] claudacity. We had lunch in the Olde White Bear, coffee (and tea) in Ginger and White, beer (and cider) in the Holly Bush and the Duke of Hamilton, and finally dinner (and sake) in Jinkichi.

I can't remember what I did on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (I'm writing this a week late, and backdating it). I think maybe I did some programming on the Discworld MUD, but I'm really not sure.
kake: The word "kake" written in white fixed-font on a black background. (Default)
On Monday I went to sing with the London Forest Choir. It was awesome. I hadn't sung with a choir since college and I'd forgotten how brilliant it is.

On Tuesday I went out for dinner with [personal profile] bob. Apparently we were having some kind of anniversary or something. We attempted to go to the new location of Cafe East, but they were closed due to having run out of food the night before, so instead we went to Banzi. We then pubcrawled home via a couple of local pubs; the China Hall and the Crown. The China Hall, surprisingly for the area, had two handpumps offering real ale — we didn't stay long, though, as it also had sport on the TVs. The Crown had no real ale but also no sport, and there were people singing! As we were leaving, we saw the landlord having a smoke in the beer garden, and he chatted to us for a bit. He and his partner (wife?) took the place over a couple of months ago; I'd not realised it had changed management. Will visit again soon.

On Thursday I had lunch at a Syrian restaurant in Shepherd's Bush, Abu Zaad. It was OK; I think it would have been better if I'd had company so we could have ordered more of a variety of dishes. I've heard a lot of good things about this place, so I'm happy to give it another chance.

On Friday I realised I had run out of work! So I went to Mama Pho for lunch. This is the new Vietnamese place which opened at the old location of Cafe East, which is the old Vietnamese place we tried to visit at its new location on Tuesday. I had bun bo hue (photo), and it was good. When I got home, I fixed a few terrains bugs on the Discworld MUD. Terrains are complicated.

On Saturday I tried to do some singing practice, but I didn't enjoy it much because I was worried about people hearing me and being annoyed by it.

On Sunday I spent the entire day fixing bugs on the Discworld MUD. (We were having a Bugfix Sunday event. I was logged on for 17 hours. Oops.)

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