Me: Tell me about Chả Giò or Vietnamese egg rolls.
AL: So, my parents’ recipe to it… I know it from my dad which I think he knows it from his sister, my aunt. I don’t know where she knows it from… We would make this for the restaurant that we own, and uh so what we would do is pre-peel the egg roll wrapper or the rice paper because it came in, essentially, like a sheet of paper but stuck together because it was cold or frozen. And so we would let it thaw and pre-peel it so that it would be easier to fill it… The filling consisted of shredded taro [root], shredded carrots, cooked pork, and clear rice noodles that were cooked already and seasoned with, like, pepper and salt and what not. And then it was mixed and then placed into the wrapper and then folded in a particular way…
Me: Kind of like a pinching. Keeps everything together.
AL: Almost like a burrito wrap. Almost. And you would seal it off with water, I believe. And uhm that would be your… raw egg roll, or Chả Giò. And then you would fry it for… For like 8 minutes… The sauce that it can be served with is nước mắm, uhm fish sauce… Or a mixed soy sauce for vegetarians… Usually, they’re either served at a restaurant or… At a party setting— of like a huge, huge tray of just—
Me: Huuuuge pile of egg rolls.
AL: A pile. And it would be kinda scary to look at but they were usually good, so…
An interview I had with my roommate in the Cale & Irani Apartments at USC Village. He is of Vietnamese descent. We often talk about certain food items from home and bond over them. Although he is vegetarian, he is most familiar with this pork recipe.
These can be made vegetarian, with shrimp, or with pork. I was familiar with these egg rolls and this recipe from my own mother, so it was good to reminisce with my roommate. The last time I had them was over Christmas break of 2021, and they remain one of my favorite Vietnamese dishes, far better and more authentic than ones you find in Oriental restaurants. I like the way my roommate describes it here, and it’s interesting how this folk recipe has been modernized, especially with me being from the South. My sister and I would use sweet chili sauce as compared to the traditional sauces, and we would even make them in the air fryer. My mom would also gift these in frozen batches to her friends on certain holidays, so this folk recipe and piece of our culture was shared throughout with our predominantly white, small town. This small cultural exchange through food alone can bring more appreciation and foster relationship between different communities.