What is cha gio?
The Vietnamese dish, cha gio (pronounced “tsha-ghee-oh”) goes by many names. In the north of the country, it is called ren; in Western countries it is called either a Vietnamese spring roll, an egg roll or an imperial roll.
Whichever name you use, it is and remains one of the best-known Vietnamese dishes. Vietnamese spring rolls are popular at parties, weddings and other celebrations.
Cha gio is traditionally made with rice sheets (banh trang) but wheat-based dough sheets are also used. The wheat-based version turns golden brown when baked and stays crispy for longer. The two types can be distinguished from each other by their colour; wheat-based spring rolls are golden brown in colour while rice-sheet spring rolls appear paler and have blisters on the surface.
East vs. west
The Vietnamese spring roll is one of the first Vietnamese dishes that Europeans came in contact with. Spring rolls have been on sale in European markets and stalls since the early 1980s and have since become a classic dish. Most Asian countries have their own unique version of the dish, Vietnamese spring rolls are generally smaller in size than their Chinese and Indonesian counterparts.
How to make cha gio
Soaked and chopped glass noodles (bun tau), thin strips of taro root, grated jicama and/or onion are mixed in with minced pork and shrimp. The filling is then carefully rolled into a rice or wheat pocket and fried in vegetable or rapeseed oil.
How to eat
Although Europeans prefer dipping spring rolls in a sweet chilli sauce, Vietnamese people prefer “nuoc mam”, a fish-based dipping sauce. Spring rolls can also be enjoyed by cutting them into smaller pieces and rolling them into a lettuce leaf along with aromatic herbs like mint and coriander. Dip and enjoy!
Are you fond of these fried rolls but have a bit bigger appetite? Opt for a Chinese loempia, the bigger brother of the cha gio. You can also try bun cha gio, Vietnamese spring rolls served with a fresh rice noodle salad.