Before travel supplemented my very classical education, I was of the impression that sweet spring rolls with banana filling was a Filipino thing. We call it turon in the Philippines, and we cook it with only one kind of banana — saba, a cooking banana that’s cultivated abundantly in this country.
Imagine my surprise when, in a cooking class in Vietnam, one of the dishes we made was banana spring rolls. The preparation is similar but the end result is not the same.
To start with, they’re not really familiar with saba banana at the cooking school. Eating banana (as opposed to cooking banana) was used, I don’t know what cultivar, and the bananas were cut into small pieces before they were used as filling. And instead of the usual jackfruit that accompanied saba banana in Filipino turon, cashew nuts and sesame seeds were scattered over the banana pieces before the wrapper was rolled and sealed.
Which one do I like better? The Vietnamese version. I’ve always found that the addition of jackfruit in turon made it cloying and that’s why we substitute cheese. The contrast of sweet and salty appealed to our palate better than sweet over sweet.
But what makes Vietnamese banana spring rolls stand out for me was the textural contrast provided by the cashew nuts and sesame seeds. Instead of a filling that’s mushy all the way, you get crunch here and there, and the aroma emitted by the sesame seeds gives the spring rolls a savory touch that makes them even more appetizing.
The process for wrapping the spring rolls is the same. Lay the wrapper flat, pile on the fillings, moisten the edges with water, then fold in and roll to seal. Then fry. They’re good by themselves but because we enjoyed them with coconut ice cream in Vietnam, we decided to do the same at home. But, instead of plain coconut ice cream, we made mango coconut ice cream.
We used an ice cream machine to make the mango coconut ice cream. If you don’t own one, here’s an alternative method. Stir together equal amounts of pureed sweet ripe mangoes and coconut cream, and place in a freezer-safe container with a tight lid. Freeze the mixture until firm. For best results, stir the ice cream every hour or so to prevent ice crystals from forming.
Vietnamese banana and cashew nut spring rolls
- 4 ripe bananas peeled and cut into small cubes to measure one to one and a half cups
- ⅓ cup cashew nuts roughly chopped and toasted; cooled
- ¼ cup sesame seeds toasted and cooled
- 15 small spring roll wrappers (if using large wrappers, just cut in half)
- white sugar optional
- cooking oil for deep frying
- mango coconut ice cream to serve
- Lay a spring roll wrapper flat. Place a heaping tablespoon of banana cubes, half teaspoon of nuts and half a teaspoon of sesame seeds (and a sprinkle of sugar, if you like) and wrap. Make sure to seal the edges by dabbing with water or egg wash.
- Repeat until all the wrappers have been filled or until you run out of filling, whichever comes first.
- In a wok or frying pan, heat enough cooking oil to reach a depth of at least two inches.
- Fry the banana spring rolls in batches just until golden and crisp.
- Drain the banana spring rolls on paper towels.
- Serve with mango coconut ice cream.