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|Ground meat, mushrooms, vegetables (carrots, kohlrabi, jicama), rice paper|
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Nem rán is a popular dish in Vietnamese cuisine and usually served as an appetizer in America and European countries, where there are large Vietnamese communities. In Northern or standard Vietnamese, it is called nem rán ("fried roll"). In southern Vietnam and overseas Vietnamese communities with origins in southern Vietnam, it is referred to as chả giò ("minced pork sausage").
The main structure of a roll of chả giò is commonly seasoned ground meat, mushrooms, and diced vegetables such as carrots, kohlrabi and jicama, rolled up in a sheet of moist rice paper. The roll is then deep fried until the rice paper coat turns crispy and golden brown.
The ingredients, however, are not fixed. The most commonly used meat is pork, but one can also use crab, shrimp, chicken, and sometimes snails (in northern Vietnam), and tofu (for vegan chả giò- 'chả giò chay'). If diced carrots and jicama are used, the stuffing is a little bit crunchy, matching the crispy fried rice paper, but the juice from these vegetables can cause the rolls to soften after a short time. If the rolls are to be stored for a long time, mashed sweet potato or mung beans may be used instead to keep the rolls crispy. One may also include bean sprouts and rice vermicelli. Eggs and various spices can be added to one's preference. Sometimes, the ingredients can include julienned taro root and carrots if jicama cannot be found. Taro roots give it a fatty and crunchy taste.
Chả giò rế is an uncommmon kind of chả giò ( nem ) that uses bánh hỏi (thin rice vermicelli woven into a sheet) instead of rice paper. The stuffing inside the roll is the same as normal chả giò, and the roll is also deep fried. The sheets of bánh hỏi are narrow, and the rice vermicelli strands are brittle, chả giò rế rolls are often small and difficult to make. They are only seen at large parties and restaurants.
The most interesting part in nem recipe is that it varies on different families and also different regions of Vietnam. No recipe is official. It depends on the custom of eating of each family. Therefore,in some ways the chả giò made by the wives show their cares for their own family
Nem can be eaten by itself, dipped into nước chấm or nước mắm pha (fish sauce mixed with lemon juice or vinegar, water, sugar, garlic and chili pepper), or served with rice vermicelli (in bún chả giò). Usually it is served with a dish of rau sống ( raw vegetable) containing several kinds of vegetable such as lettuce, coriander, etc.
- To prevent juice from the vegetables from making the nem wet: you can try mashing sweet potato or mung bean; or add no salt to the vegetables, pour some cooking oil instead. Mix the meat with salt and egg yolk and other spices. After mixing the vegetables and meat separately, mix them together.
- To prevent the rice paper being torn: often the reason is too dry rice paper. So you should keep them wrapped in banana leaves or other kinds of leaves, such as kohlrabi's leaves for several hours. An alternative method is to use a spray bottle filled with water and set to deliver a mist. Two or three sprays is normally enough to dampen the rice paper on top so that it can be easily peeled off. Storing them in the refrigerator helps retain any moisture that is in the package when the product is sealed at the factory. Avoid leaving the package exposed to open air or in direct sunlight.
Confusion with other varieties of rolls
There can often be confusion as to what exactly is meant by nem depending on the circumstances. In Vietnam, there can be confusion between northerners and southerners because northerners tend to use the term nem to refer to a variety of rice paper rolls, including gỏi cuốn (often referred to in western restaurants as "summer rolls"). The southerners, however, tend to adopt a more narrow definition of nem.
Further confusion can occur outside of Vietnam because the English translation of chả giò varies according to restaurants' menus, chả giò is often confused with other dishes such as egg rolls or summer rolls. As chả giò made with rice paper can easily be shattered when fried, and also stay crispy for only a few hours, restaurants outside of Vietnam have adopted wheat flour sheet to make chả giò, in place of rice paper, thus blurring the difference between chả giò and the Chinese egg roll.
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