Anne Metcalf from FamilySearch shares her mother’s impact in understanding more about their heritage through traditional cuisine:My mother was born close to Hanoi, Vietnam, but moved to Saigon during the First Indochina War in the early 1950s. My parents met in Saigon when my father was working for the U.S. State Department. My father is originally from Salt Lake City and eventually settled the family there after the Vietnam War.
Vietnamese food is known for its layers of varied flavors and smells—sweet, spicy, sour, aromatics—and of course, salty fish sauce. My mom would say that authentic Vietnamese food would make everything smell—the house, your clothes, your skin and hair—and because of this, she would only make her spring rolls once or twice a year. She would make them in large batches and freeze them. Friends and neighbors always seemed to visit right after she made them—hoping, of course, to try them.
Vietnamese Fried Spring Rolls (Nem rán hay Chả giò)
Makes 4 servings. Total prep/cook time: 20 minutes
- 1 lb. ground pork
- 2 cups shredded cabbage
- 1 cup shredded carrots
- ½ cup chopped onion
- ½ tsp. Salt
- ½ tsp. Pepper
- 1 package of spring roll shells
- Lettuce, Thai basil, mint, and cilantro for garnish
Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Use a tablespoon to scoop ingredients onto a spring roll shell. Use one beaten egg to stick the shell together. Deep fry in oil about medium-high for 6–8 minutes. Wrap lettuce and herbs around the spring roll before dipping in sauce.
Note: If you order fried spring rolls at a restaurant, most likely they will be served with rice noodles and/or shrimp or crab inside the roll. My mother never put this in her rolls, but you can add them if you want.
Dipping Sauce (Nước Mắm)
- Fresh-squeezed juice from one lime
- 2 tbsp. white sugar
- ½ cup water
- 2–3 tbsp. fish sauce
- Minced garlic
- Thinly sliced chili, chili flakes, or chili garlic sauce
Combine lime juice, sugar, and water. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Add fish sauce. Taste and adjust the flavors for your liking.
Note: My family never measured out the ingredients. We just eyeballed it and adjusted to our desired taste. This can be made in advance and stored in an airtight container.