Mini Vietnamese Spring Rolls

So my favorite Vietnamese restaurant closed down around a year ago (or maybe more? I can't remember exactly) and of course, that means I've been craving Vietnamese food constantly. There are a few other Vietnamese restaurants around and they're good but it's just not the same. I miss the staff and food at Viet Ai and I'm devastated that they didn't reopen elsewhere.

Well, I've been cooking some of my favorite Viet Ai dishes at home, including banh hoi and bun bo hue, and the next on my list to tackle was deep fried spring rolls. At Viet Ai, they served it as an appetizer with lettuce and mint and pickled daikon & carrot to make little wraps and then a bowl of nuoc cham for dipping. They also had it as a protein option for vermicelli bowls, which was my favorite and that's what I ended up making with this batch of spring rolls.
Ingredients [yields 3 to 4 dozen]:
1 lb. ground pork
1 egg, separated
1 small carrot, julienned
3 cloves garlic, minced
15 to 20 chives, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon fish sauce
3 tablespoons brown sugar
package small wonton wrappers
+ oil for frying

In a bowl, add the ground pork, egg yolk, the garlic, carrot, chives, fish sauce, salt, pepper, and brown sugar and then use a pair of chopsticks to gently mix everything together. The goal is to evenly distribute the ingredients without densifying them and that's why the chopsticks are useful. You can use a swirling motion and kind of fluff up the ground meat, which has inevitably compacted itself under its own weight in the package.
To assemble the spring rolls, start with a wrapper with one of the corners closest to your body. Add a little scoop of filling, about a tablespoon's worth, to the bottom third of the wrapper. Start to roll up the bottom and once you've rolled it about two-thirds of the way up, fold in the sides and then dab a little bit of egg white at the top corner and finish rolling to seal it up. Make sure you're rolling it up nice and tightly because otherwise, filling will leak out when you're cooking it.

Continue until you've used up all of the meat.
If you don't want to eat all of them in one go, this is the time to freeze them. Place the spring rolls on a sheet tray, leaving enough space between them so they don't freeze stuck to each other, and once they're frozen, you can pop them into a zip top baggie and back into the freezer until you want to eat them. And, when you want to eat them, you can let them defrost in the fridge for an hour before cooking them. The wrappers might get a little sweaty during the defrosting so just dab with a paper towel before you cook them.
To fry the spring rolls, heat a skillet over medium high with about a ½" of oil until the oil is 300F. Fry for 3 to 5 minutes on each side until the wrapper starts to turn golden and the pork inside is cooked through. Then, crank the heat until the oil is 375F and fry for another minute or two on each side until they're lovely and brown and the skin is crackly and crisp.
Drain the spring rolls on a paper towel-lined wire rack and serve while they're still piping hot.
To assemble the vermicelli bowls, you'll need rice vermicelli noodles, some kind of greens, a few crispy vegetables, some herbs (either cilantro or Thai basil), and something crunchy like cashews. Peanuts are typical but I'm allergic so I avoid those.
Pile the chopped greens in the bottom (I like green leaf lettuce for the crunch), then the noodles on top, and add everything else around the perimeter, including a couple of the spring rolls cut in half.
And of course, you'll need some nuoc cham to drizzle all over the top.

The spring rolls have a lovely crispy exterior, the filling is sweet and salty and savory all at the same time, and the textural contrast between the two is great. And then when you combine it with the freshness of all of the vegetables, the stretchy and chewy noodles, the acidity of the lime in the nuoc cham, and the floral fragrance from the herbs, it all comes together in a glorious dish that's bright and light enough to be refreshing and not bog you down but satisfying enough to fill you up and sate your hungry belly.
Here's the recipe page: