Nem rán is the Hanoi version of Vietnamese fried spring rolls , featuring a crispy exterior and a flavorful filling. Not only are they delicious, but they’re also completely gluten-free.
In this post, I’m sharing the authentic recipe for Nem Rán along with its genuine Hanoi-styled dipping sauce. You’ll also find here all the tips to ensure that your spring rolls don’t burst or explode while frying but turn out super crispy.
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❤️ Nem Rán: A Must-Try Street Food When Visiting Hanoi
Even though I was born and raised in the South, Hanoi’s cuisine still holds a special place in my heart. Having lived in Hanoi for a year, the local food has truly captivated me. As a result, I’ve created a post highlighting the must-try street food in Hanoi.
Nem Rán is a type of spring roll popular in Hanoi and it is commonly served with Bún Chả . You can easily find Nem Rán at many Bún Chả food stalls.
Nem Rán is also an essential dish for Tết (Vietnamese Lunar New Year) in the north.
I understand that the long list of ingredients and multiple steps might seem daunting, but it’s absolutely worth your time, especially when you aim to capture the authentic flavor of the dish.
❤️ Nem Rán vs. Chả Giò: What Sets Them Apart?
I guess many people think Nem Rán and Chả Giò are just two names for Vietnamese fried spring rolls/egg rolls, but no, they are not just the same (at least for a Vietnamese Southern girl like me).
Nem Rán is typically wrapped in rice papers, with the best ones made from 100% rice (no tapioca starch). They are totally gluten-free.
The filling achieves a harmonious balance between a meaty texture, with proteins like ground pork, shrimp, and crunchy vegetables like Mung Bean Sprouts, Kohlrabi, or Jicama. Additionally, a hint of cilantro is added to infuse a deeper flavor.
Chả Giò from the South is a bit different. Since the Southern cuisine is influenced by the Chinese/Cantonese immigrants, the spring rolls in the South also share some similar to Cantonese egg rolls.
They can be wrapped in either rice papers or egg roll wrappers, so they can be referred to by both names, spring rolls or egg rolls. If they are made with egg roll wrappers, they would contain gluten.
The filling is also different. It includes ground pork, crunchy vegetables, and starchy ingredients such as taro roots, sweet potatoes, or mung beans.
Besides, in Vietnam, you’ll also find various other variations of fried spring rolls, such as:
- Crab Spring Rolls (Nem Cua Bể from Hải Phòng province)
- Seafood Spring Rolls (Chả Giò Hải Sản, featuring seafood and mayo)
- Mini Spring Rolls (Chả Ram from central Vietnam).
Of course, don’t confuse these fried spring rolls with Vietnamese fresh spring rolls (gỏi cuốn).
All in all, Nem Rán and Chả Giò are kind of different spring rolls if you are really into Vietnamese cooking. Chả Giò tends to be more popular in North America, while Nem Rán enjoys greater popularity in Europe.
There are 3 main parts when preparing Hanoi-styled spring rolls: the rice papers, the filling, and the dipping sauce
The best rice papers for Hanoi Spring Rolls are called Bánh Đa Nem, which are made from 100% rice. They will help your spring rolls turn out super crispy.
However, imported rice paper often contains a percentage of tapioca starch. This makes them much easier to handle and store for a longer time but results in less crispiness when frying.
Don’t forget to check out my compliation of rice paper recipes (Summer Rolls, Spring Rolls and beyond).
To incorporate more rice content to the rice papers, I made a mixture with rice powder and wine (or beer) . Both rice powder and alcohol will contribute to making your spring rolls crispy when frying.
The filling is the key factor that ensures your spring rolls won’t burst or explode. It’s also important to get the ingredient ratios right for the best flavor and texture.
Here are the traditional ingredients for Nem Rán Hà Nội:
- Ground pork: Pork is a staple in Vietnamese cuisine. You can also substitute a portion of the pork with shrimp or crab to enhance the flavor.
- Mung bean sprouts: Another traditional ingredient for Nem Rán. While you can use Kohlrabi or Jicama, mung bean sprouts save time as you don’t need to julienne the vegetables.
- Carrot: It imparts a sweet flavor to the filling, but be cautious not to add too much carrot, as it can lead to the spring rolls burning easily.
- Egg yolk: This ingredient helps bind and enrich the filling. (save the egg white to seal the spring rolls)
- Bean thread noodles and wood ear mushrooms: These may be small in quantity but are crucial for enhancing the texture of the filling.
- Crispy-fried shallots, green onions, and cilantro (optional): These additions contribute a deep and flavorful dimension to the spring rolls.
- Seasonings: Including chicken powder, salt, sugar, black pepper powder, and cooking oil to complete the flavor profile.
Dipping Sauce for Nem Rán (Hanoi Spring Rolls)
The simplest dipping sauce for spring rolls is store-bought sweet chili sauce. You can also enjoy spring rolls with Nước Chấm (dipping fish sauce), but this recipe leans more towards the Southern flavor.
If you’re truly seeking an authentic Vietnamese taste, I recommend you to take a little extra time to prepare my Northern-style dipping fish sauce . This versatile dipping sauce pairs perfectly with several signature Hanoi dishes, not limited to spring rolls, including Bún Chả and Bún Bò Nam Bộ.
For this dipping sauce, you will need:
- Fish Sauce: A fundamental component of many Vietnamese dishes.
- Vinegar: Vinegar contributes a tangy and slightly acidic element to the sauce.
- Sugar: Sugar provides sweetness, harmonizing the flavors.
- Chili: Chili adds spiciness and a hint of heat to the sauce.
- Salt: salt helps season the vegetable in the sauce.
- Garlic: It’s often minced or finely chopped to release its essence into the sauce.
- Black Pepper Powder: Hanoian love to incorporate some pepper to their dipping sauce.
- Kohlrabi (or Green Papaya) & Carrot: These vegetables give a refreshing crunch to the sauce.
📝 Make the Spring Rolls
Prepare the filling
Here’s a tip to prevent your spring rolls from bursting during frying:
Ensure a dry filling, as a watery filling can cause your fried rolls to explode. Follow this tip: mix the vegetable part and pork part separately before combining them later.
- Begin by soaking the wood ear mushrooms and bean thread noodles. Only soak the bean thread noodles for about 10 minutes.
- Cut the mung bean sprouts into 0.6 inches (1.5 cm) pieces. If you’re using Kohlrabi or Jicama, julienne them instead.
- Julienne the carrots.
- Chop the cilantro, green onion, and wood ear mushrooms.
- Cut the bean thread noodles into 1-inch (3 cm) pieces.
- In one bowl, combine these ingredients: mung bean sprouts, carrots, cilantro, green onion, wood ear mushrooms, bean thread noodles, and fried shallots. Gently mix them until just combined.
- In another bowl, add the ground pork, egg yolk, and all the seasonings, mixing them thoroughly.
- Now, add the meat mixture to the vegetable bowl and gently combine them together.
Prepare the rice paper
This step is optional but it contributes exceptionally to crispy spring rolls. If you don’t make this mixture, dip your rice paper into room-temperature for 3-5 second to soften it before wrapping.
- Combine water, rice powder, salt, and wine (I used red wine, but you can also use rice wine or even beer) in a mixing bowl.
- Use a brush to apply this mixture to one side of the rice paper.
- Continue with all lelftover rice papers.
Assemble the Spring Rolls
You could check my post about how to wrap both fried and fresh spring rolls.
- Place a rice paper on a large plate, ensuring the side brushed with the liquid mixture faces down onto the plate.
- On the lower third of the rice paper, place about 2.5 tablespoons of filling for an 8.5-inch (22 cm) diameter rice paper.
- Roll the rice paper up to envelop the filling. After completing one rotation, fold the sides inwards towards the center. Continue rolling until the filling is entirely enclosed.
- Utilize any remaining egg white as adhesive to seal the edge of the roll.
- Repeat this process until you have wrapped all the filling.
Fry the spring rolls
My secret for achieving exceptionally crispy spring rolls is the double-frying technique.
- Heat a generous amount of oil in a pan. You’ll need enough oil to submerge the spring rolls at least halfway, or even better, if you can deep-fry the rolls.
- Fry the spring rolls over medium-low heat until the rice paper turns a light golden color. Remove them from the oil and allow them to cool before the second frying.
- For the second frying, you have the option to either deep-fry or air-fry your spring rolls. (I prefer air frying because it helps drain excess oil from the spring rolls, making them less greasy and healthier.)
- You can deep-fry the spring rolls over high heat until they become crispy.
- Or you can air-fry them at 390°F (200°C) for approximately 10 minutes or until they achieve a crispy texture.
📝 Prepare Hanoi-styled Dipping Fish Sauce
- Peel and thinly slice the carrot and kohlrabi.
- Mix the carrot and kohlrabi with salt and sugar. Let them sit for 15 minutes.
- In a separate bowl, combine fish sauce, sugar, vinegar, chili, garlic, and black pepper.
- Add carrot and kohlrabi (without brine) to the bowl of fish sauce.
- Now you could enjoy this dipping sauce with spring rolls.
🥢 How to Enjoy Nem Rán
- Nem Rán Spring Rolls can be enjoyed as an appetizer or a side dish alongside rice (my quick Microwave Jasmine rice takes you less than 15 minutes).
- These spring rolls also make a delightful pairing with rice noodles. They can take center stage in Bún Chả Giò/Bún Chả Nem (spring roll rice noodle salad) or serve as a complementary addition to dishes like:
More Authentic Vietnamese Recipes:
The best way to store spring rolls is keeping them in the freezer after the initial frying. Before eating, simply reheat them in an air fryer or deep-fry them again (no need to thaw).
This method allows you to prepare spring rolls in a large batch and store them in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- Wheat flour could be substituted for rice powder when making the mixture for applying to the rice papers.
- Enhance flavor by adding some crab meat or chopped shrimp to the filling.
- For a pork-free alternative, use ground chicken.
- You can substitute rice vinegar with lime juice, lemon juice, or apple cider vinegar.
- The dipping sauce is optional; store-bought sweet chili sauce works or skip it altogether.
Can I air-fry the spring rolls instead of deep-frying?
No, air-frying tends to result in a very dry filling. I recommend deep-frying them for the first round and then air-frying for the second round. This method keeps the spring rolls’ crispy exterior, juicy interior, while reducing the greasiness.
Why my spring rolls burst or explode why frying?
– Your filling is too watery (check my tips for achieving a dry filling in the post).
– You’ve wrapped your spring rolls either too tightly or too loosely.
Nem Rán (The Authentic Spring Rolls From Hanoi, Vietnam)
- 2 Mixing bowls
- 1 silicone brush
- 1 Large plate
- 1 non-stick pan
For the rice papers (optinal but this step helps your spring rolls turn out super-crispy)
- Rice Papers (I used 8.5 inches / 22 cm diameter rice papers)
- 3 tbsp rice powder
- 3 tbsp water
- 1 tbsp wine or beer
- ¼ tsp salt
For the filling
- 1.1 pound ground pork (500g)
- 1 tbsp cooking oil
- 2 egg yolks (use egg white to seal the spring rolls)
- ½ tbsp chicken powder
- ½ tbsp salt
- ½ tbsp black pepper powder
- ¼ tbsp sugar
- 1 pound mung bean sprouts (400g)
- ⅓ medium-sized carrot (25g)
- 5 wood ear mushroom (5g)
- 1 handful cilantro (optional)
- 1 sprig green onion (optional)
- 1 oz bean thread noodles (30g)
- 2 tbsp fried shallots (optional)
Hanoi-styled dipping sauce (optional)
- ½ bulb kohlrabi (3.5oz or 100g) (green papaya, cucumber)
- ⅔ medium-sized carrot (1.7oz or 50g)
- ½ tsp salt (for the pickle)
- 1 tbsp sugar (for the pickle)
- 1 tbsp vinegar (for the pickle)
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 5 tbsp water
- ¾ tbsp vinegar
- 1 tbsp sugar
- minced garlic (to your taste)
- minced chili (to your taste)
- black pepper powder (to your taste)
Make the filling
- To start, soak the wood ear mushrooms and bean thread noodles, but only soak the bean thread noodles for approximately 10 minutes.
- Next, cut the mung bean sprouts into 0.6-inch (1.5 cm) pieces. If you're using kohlrabi or jicama, julienne them instead.
- Julienne the carrots, chop the cilantro, green onion, and wood ear mushrooms, and cut the bean thread noodles into 1-inch (3 cm) pieces.
- In one bowl, combine these ingredients: mung bean sprouts, carrots, cilantro, green onion, wood ear mushrooms, bean thread noodles, and fried shallots. Gently mix them until just incorporated.
- In another bowl, add the ground pork, egg yolk, and all the seasonings, thoroughly mixing them together.
- Finally, combine the meat mixture with the vegetable bowl and gently mix them together.
Prepare the rice paper (optional)
- Mix water, wine (or beer), rice powder and salt together.
- Use a brush to apply this mixture to one side of all your rice papers.
- If you skip this step, dip your rice paper into room-temperature water for 3-5 seconds to soften it before wrapping.
Wrap the spring rolls
- Place a single rice paper on a spacious plate, making sure the side coated with the liquid mixture faces downward.
- Put 2.5 tablespoons of filling, suitable for an 8.5-inch (22 cm) diameter rice paper, on the lower third of the rice paper.
- Roll the rice paper around the filling, starting with one rotation, and then fold the sides inwards towards the center. Continue rolling until the filling is completely enclosed.
- Use any remaining egg white as adhesive to seal the roll's edge.
- Repeat this procedure until you have wrapped all the filling.
Fry the spring rolls
- Heat a generous quantity of oil in a pan, ensuring there's enough to submerge the spring rolls at least halfway. Ideally, if you can deep-fry the rolls, that's even better.
- Fry the spring rolls over medium-low heat until the rice paper takes on a light golden hue. Remove them from the oil and let them cool before the second round of frying.
- For the second frying, you can choose to either deep-fry or air-fry your spring rolls. (I personally favor air frying as it helps remove excess oil from the spring rolls, resulting in a less greasy and healthier outcome.)You can deep-fry the spring rolls on high heat until crispy or air-fry them at 390°F (200°C) for about 10 minutes.
Make the dipping sauce (optional)
- Peel and thinly slice the carrot and kohlrabi.
- Toss the carrot and kohlrabi with salt and sugar, then let them sit for 15 minutes.
- In a separate bowl, combine together fish sauce, sugar, vinegar, chili, garlic, and black pepper.
- Introduce the carrot and kohlrabi (without the brine) into the fish sauce bowl.
- Now you can savor this dipping sauce with your spring rolls or many Hanoi dishes like Bún Bò Nam Bộ (Stir-fried Beef Rice Noodle Salad).