Unabashedly Vietnamese-inspired, from the seasoning to the rice paper wrapper, these spring rolls will make meat lovers sigh with pleasure. I know my husband did. And he’s a carnivore to the core of his being.
This dish begins with ground pork seasoned with Vietnamese mixed fish sauce — ginger is added to the basic mixture of lime juice, sugar, chilies, garlic and fish sauce. Mix the sauce in a bowl, pour over the ground pork and mix until the meat soaks up the liquid. For even better results, knead the seasoned ground pork for a couple of minutes to transform it into a thick paste.
The pork is formed into flattened logs and fried in a regular frying pan or wok (if you’re using non-stick cookware, there is no need to add oil) over medium-high heat, allowing the underside to brown before flipping. About two minutes per side should be just right.
Note, however, that you don’t have to pan fry the patties. I made these spring rolls back in 2012 when I had never heard of an air fryer (did air fryers even exist back then?). It’s 2022 and I can tell you that you may cook the pork patties in an air fryer. If you want meat with a smoky flavor and aroma, grill them. Cooking the patties is the only real cooking in making the spring rolls, so, better cook them in the best possible way, right?
To make a spring roll, dip a sheet of rice paper in water to soften, shake off excess water and lay flat. Place salad greens across the middle, drop a pork patty on top, then pile on julienned cucumber, mint and cilantro. Wrap up the filling and so have a pork patty spring roll.
When the spring rolls are cut into halves to expose the layers of meat and vegetable filling, the halves are just the right size for an appetizer or snack.
Served whole, these lovely spring rolls can be enjoyed as a main course. Believe me, they are filling! Devour two to four pieces and you won’t be asking what else there is to eat. And your taste buds won’t be left yearning for more either. There is so much flavor and texture in each bite because the filling is a blend of salty, spicy, sweet and tangy.
- 250 grams ground pork with at least 20% fat
- juice of 1/2 lime or lemon
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar
- ¼ teaspoon finely minced garlic
- ¼ teaspoon finely minced ginger
- ½ bird’s eye chili finely chopped (or substitute chili flakes)
- 6 sheets rice paper (available in Asian groceries)
- salad greens (I used a mix of lettuce and arugula)
- cucumber cut into thin sticks
- fresh mint leaves
- fresh cilantro
- Make the marinade. Mix together the lemon or lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, ginger, garlic and chilis.
- Place the ground pork in a bowl. Pour in the marinade. Mix well.
- Divide the mixture into six portions; form each portion into a log about an inch and a half in diameter then flatten with your hand to a thickness of less than a half inch.
- Fry, broil, air fry or grill your patties.
- Cool the patties for a few minutes.
- Prepare a wide shallow bowl for dipping the rice paper.
- Moisten a piece of rice paper and lay flat on the work surface.
- Place some greens near the center.
- Place a pork patty on top of the greens.
- Top the patty with cucumber sticks, mint and cilantro.
- Roll to seal the fillings.
- Repeat until all the patties are snugly inside the sheets of rice paper.
- With a very sharp knife, cut each spring roll horizontally into two to three pieces.
- Arrange the rolls, cut side up, on a plate or bowl and serve.