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Nem Chian
Cambodian Spring Rolls


This dish can be used as a snack, appetiser or starter.  It is of Vietnamese origin which has become very popular amongst the Khmers and almost everywhere else in Southeast Asia. Once you have mastered the wrapping technique, this recipe is very simple to make.

This recipe can also be used for vegetarian rolls by replacing pork and prawn with minced tofu or adding more vegetables such as bean sprouts, grated turnip and shredded cabbage; and substituting soy sauce for fish sauce. The only difference is the vegetable mixture has to be fried first before rolling.

 Did you know …
You can half-cook the rolls (deep-fry for 1.5 minutes each side), allow to cool and then freeze for up to 2 months. When needed, take them out of freezer, arrange on baking tray, still frozen, and then bake them in a very hot preheated oven at 230ºC/450ºF/Gas 8 (fan oven should be at lower temperature) and cook for 10-12 minutes, flip over and continue cooking for another 10 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. For chilled spring rolls, the cooking time should be slightly less.

          Mung Bean Noodles
         Wood Ear Mushrooms
             Rice Papers
            Pastry Sheets




Serves 4-6 for snack or 8-10 for starter 

Rice paper 1 pack of 22 cm (9 inch) diameter or pastry sheets (feuilles de brick) (insert pic)
Vegetable oil 3 cups - for frying 
Dipping sauce
1.5 cups (see below)

Mung bean noodles1100g (3½ oz), soaked in warm water for 15 minutes, drained and cut into 2.5 cm (1 inch) lengths
Dried wood ear mushrooms1 (black fungus) 28g (1 oz), soaked in warm water for 15 minutes, drained, cut off hard parts, then thinly sliced (use dried Chinese black mushrooms, if preferred)
Garlic 2 cloves, peeled and finely chopped
Onion 1, peeled, quartered and thinly sliced
Carrots 2, peeled, grated and squeezed off some of the moisture – yields about 1½ cups
Minced (ground) pork 300g (⅔ lb)
Prawns 300g (⅔ lb), peeled, deveined and coarsely chopped
Fish sauce 2 Tbsp
Sugar 1 Tbsp
Freshly ground pepper 1 tsp
Salt 1 tsp
Eggs 2, beaten 

Vegetables for accompaniment
Cucumber slices
Lettuce leaves
Aromatic herbs  - chi angkarm (mint), chi tpal trei (fish wort), chi neang vorng (Thai basil) and chi saing krahum (Vietnamese basil) 

Start with making the dipping sauce (recipe)

To prepare the filling
In a large bowl, add the mung bean noodles, mushrooms, garlic, onion, pork, shrimps, fish sauce, sugar, salt and pepper, and eggs then mix well using your hands to bind together. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. 

To make the rolls
Rehydrate a sheet of rice paper by dipping half first into a large bowl of warm water2 and then gently rotate it around until the edge and the centre are wet, about 10 seconds. Then place it on a flat surface such as chopping board3 (or the back of a clean baking sheet). Allow to soften for 20 seconds then it will be ready for use. (skip this step if using pastry sheets) 

On the softened rice paper, place 2 tablespoons of the filling at about 5 cm (2 inch) from the edge nearest to you. Shape it into a small sausage of 6 cm (2½ inch) long with a diameter of about 2.5 cm (1 inch). Lift the edge nearest to you to cover the filling, fold in both left and right sides and roll tightly to form a compact cylinder. Repeat this process with the remaining filling. Place each one on a plate and cover to prevent them from drying (see technique). 

To fry the rolls
In a wok or skillet, heat about 4 cm (1½ inch) of oil (just enough to cover the rolls4) over medium5 (not high) heat until it reaches 180ºC/350ºF. To test if it is ready, stand a chopstick in the middle of the wok/skillet and see small bubbles rising up. Fry the rolls in batches, 3-4 at a time. Cook for 4-5 minutes until golden brown, turning once. Remove the rolls with a slotted spoon and drain excess oil on kitchen paper. Repeat the process with the remaining rolls. 

To serve
Arrange 2-3 rolls on a serving plate and dress with slices of cucumber, lettuce leaves and aromatic herbs. Place a little bowl of dipping sauce on the same plate at one side. Eat with your hands by laying out a lettuce leaf, adding cucumber slices, aromatic herbs and placing a roll on top; and then folding the lettuce leaf around the content and dipping in the sauce. 

1-      Mung bean noodles are also known as ‘glass noodles’ or ‘cellophane noodles’ and are available at Asian grocery stores where you can buy ‘wood ear mushrooms’ and ‘dried Chinese black mushrooms’ too.

2-      Adding a few tablespoon of lime/lemon juice to the water will toughen the rice paper and help to become crispier when fried. Make sure you use warm water and not boiling water.

3-      To save time, soften another rice paper each time before you start rolling the ready soft one.

4-      Using less oil is more effective than normal deep-frying because the rolls are not floating around - whereby you can easily handle the rolls and cook them more evenly.

5-      The temperature is important. If the oil is not hot enough, the rolls will absorb the oil and become greasy; if it is too hot, they will not be cooked through.