"In the south we call these crisp parcels cha gio, and in the north they are called nem ran and are rolled much larger. These crisp parcels are traditionally served together with bun cha, chargrilled pork patties." - Luke Nguyen



40 g (1 ½ oz) dried wood ear mushrooms

40 g (1 ½ oz) dried bean thread (glass) vermicelli noddles

200 g (7 oz) raw small tiger prawns (shrimp), peeled and deveined,
roughly chopped

200 g (7 oz) minced pork

200 g (7 oz) crabmeat (from your fishmonger)

½ onion, finely diced

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1 tablespoon caster (superfine) sugar

2 teaspoons ground white pepper

20 dried round rice paper wrappers (20 cm / 8 inch diameter)

1 egg white, lightly beaten

vegetable oil, for deep frying


1 iceberg lettuce, leaves separated

1 large handful perilla leaves

1 large handful mint leaves

1 large handful Vietnamese mint leaves

250 ml (9 fl oz / 1 cup) dipping fish sauce


Put the mushrooms in a bowl, cover with water and soak for 20 minutes, then drain and thinly slice. Soak the bean thread vermicelli in water for 20 minutes, then drain and use kitchen scissors to cut into 4 cm (1 ½ inch) lengths. Meanwhile, pound the prawns to a paste using a mortar and pestle.

In a large bowl, combine the mushrooms, vermicelli, prawn meat, pork, crabmeat, onion, fish sauce, sugar, white pepper and 2 teaspoons of salt. Knead the mixture in the bowl for 10 minutes, or until your arms get tired.

Working with one rice paper wrapper at a time, briefly dip the rice paper in a large bowl of warm water until just softened, then lay it flat on the work surface. Take 1 ½ heaped tablespoons of the prawn and pork mixture and place it on the bottom edge of the rice paper. Fold the two adjacent sides, one on top of the other into the centre. Roll up to form a nice firm roll, and secure with a dab of egg white. Repeat until you have filled all the rice paper wrappers.

Pour the oil into a wok and heat to 180˚C (350˚F), or until a cube of bread dropped into the oil browns in 15 seconds. Deep-fry the parcels in three batches for 6 minutes, or until lightly browned and crisp. Remove and drain on paper towel. Wrap the crisp parcels in a lettuce leaf, adding some herbs, and serve with the dipping fish sauce.

Luke Nguyen’s The Songs of Sapa

Phuong Nguyen