BEER. THAT’S THE SECRET INGREDIENT responsible for the golden skin surrounding Eric Banh ’s imperial rolls. The chef and owner of Monsoon Restaurants (monsoonrestaurants.com) adds it to the water he uses to soften the rice paper, and the result is crisp perfection. The recipe is surprisingly flexible: You can do most of the work up to 24 hours before serving. If you’ve never worked with spring roll wrappers, practice stuffing them with rice noodles first—you don’t want a drop of the pork, shrimp, and veggie filling to go to waste.
Crispy Imperial Rolls with Nuoc Cham Spicy Dipping Sauce
Recipe courtesy Eric Banh, chef and owner, Monsoon Restaurants
Makes: About 20 rolls
Total Time: 2½ hours
1 cup rice vermicelli (1 small bundle)
1 lb ground pork shoulder
1 cup shredded carrots
½ cup shredded taro root
¼ lb diced white shrimp
¼ cup finely diced yellow onion
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tbsp fish sauce
For wrapping and frying:
1 cup hot water
1 tbsp sugar
½ cup beer
20 to 25 rice paper rounds
Nuoc Cham Dipping Sauce
1 cup water, room temperature
½ cup sugar
½ cup white vinegar
½ cup fish sauce
Juice of 1 lime
5 cloves finely chopped garlic
3 diced Thai chilies (for a spicier sauce,
use seeds; otherwise discard)
To make the filling, soak the vermicelli in cold water for 15 minutes, then cut into roughly 1-inch pieces and dump into a medium bowl. Add the rest of the filling ingredients and mix with your hands.
Fill a large, deep plate with the hot water, add sugar, and stir until dissolved. Add beer and stir. Place a damp dishtowel on a clean surface. Slide a round of rice paper into the water, moisten both sides well, and let it sit 5 seconds. Transfer to the towel and let sit another minute to soften. Center 2 heaping tablespoonfuls of filling on the lower third of the softened rice paper. Use your fingers to shape the filling into a solid 4-inch log that is roughly 1-inch in diameter.
Lift the bottom edge of the rice paper over the filling, making sure it is smooth. To reinforce the ends, which brown quickly, fold each side of the rice paper in on itself and then fold again over the filling. Roll from the bottom up to finish (the rice paper is self-sealing) and place seam-side-down on a platter. Dip a new rice paper round and repeat. Continue working until all the filling is used (you may have to make more dipping water), wiping your hands on a damp towel when necessary. Keep the rolls from touching so they don’t stick together.
To a deep pan, add enough oil to cover the rolls and heat to 265 degrees. Submerge the rolls one at a time and without overcrowding in the oil—they should bubble a bit. Fry for 5 to 7 minutes, until firm but not browned. Transfer to a platter and refrigerate until cool (or overnight). Increase oil temperature to 350, and fry another 5 minutes or so, until lightly golden and crisp. The rolls are ready when tiny bubbles appear on the wrapping. Drain on a paper towel–lined plate and let cool for 5 minutes.
Whisk nuoc cham dipping sauce ingredients together in a small mixing bowl and serve alongside imperial rolls.