Chicken Eggrolls (Cha Gio Recipe)

Chicken Eggrolls (Cha Gio Recipe) Recipe

We're only a week away from Tết, the Asian New Year. And of course, food is what makes the festivities so much fun. Eggrolls (chả giò) are Maman's must-have dish for the celebration. My favorite version is chicken eggrolls. I usually use dark meat (chicken thighs and legs), which make the dish more moist and flavorful. I also mix in fried jicama and carrots for added crunch.

Preparing them isn't that complicated; they're labor-intensive, but if you have a large crew of little helpers as I do, rolling them is a piece of cake. All you need to do next is deep-fry them and enjoy them wrapped in lettuce along with rice noodles.

Ingredients

Yields: 8 servings

1-½ pounds ground chicken (see tips), freshly ground
½ cup canola oil (or any neutral oil), as needed
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
½ teaspoon salt
4 fresh wood ear mushrooms, thinly sliced
½ jicama (see tips)
¼ cup leeks (green part only)
1 carrot, shredded
1 (2-ounce) package dried bean thread noodles
4 tablespoons fried yellow onions (see tips)
1 teaspoon mushroom seasoning salt (or regular salt)
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
2 packages frozen eggroll wrappers


Directions

Prepping the chicken: In a large bowl, combine the ground chicken, fried onions, leeks and ginger. Season with salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

For the dried bean thread noodles: Place the whole package of dried bean thread noodles in a bowl. Don't forget to cut the little threads and discard them! Soak the noodles in cold water for 30-40 minutes (up to 1 hour, depending on the brand), then drain. Chop into 1 inch threads. Set aside.

For the jicama: Peel and slice horizontally into ½-inch thick pieces. In a large pan, heat the oil and fry the jicama slices until golden brown. Once they are cool enough to handle, cut the pieces into very thin strips, then finely chop them. Set aside.

Making eggroll filling: Add carrots, jicama, bean thread noodles, wood ear mushrooms and cilantro to the chicken mixture. Sprinkle with mushroom powder. Mix well. Refrigerate the mixture until you're ready to wrap the eggrolls.

Key for proper seasoning: In a small pan, heat about 1 teaspoon of oil. Add about 1 tablespoon of the chicken mixture. Cook for about 3 minutes. Taste the meat. Season with more salt and pepper if necessary.


Assembly time:

Get a bowl filled with cold water ready.

Cut the eggroll wrappers into 2 triangles and separate them. They're sold in packages of 30 squares that are stuck together.

Place about 2-3 teaspoons of the eggroll filling at the base of the triangle. Moisten one of the corners and fold it along the base towards the other corner along the base so that it just covers the filling. Then roll the wrapper once towards the top corner. Repeat with the other corner that is along the base. Moisten the exposed top corner with water using your finger, then finish rolling. 

Once a plate is full of uncooked eggrolls, you can either cover with plastic wrap and store them in the refrigerator overnight or in the freezer for up to a month. Once you're ready to cook them, fill a large frying pan with any neutral oil about 2 inches high. Make sure your pan is tall enough so that there is enough room to add the eggrolls without the oil overflowing. Place the eggrolls in the hot oil one at a time, seam side down. You will see bubbles. As soon as each eggroll turns slightly golden, rotate it. When the eggrolls are even and golden all the way around, remove from the pan and place on a paper towel to drain the oil. They should be golden, crispy and delicious.

You can serve them as appetizers or a main course.

Wrap the eggrolls in lettuce with cooked thin rice vermicelli noodles (called bún) and Vietnamese mint.  Serve with a dipping sauce (fermented fish sauce base called nước mắm) and Sriracha.

Bon appétit!


Tips

I prefer dark meat (chicken thighs);. I find the result is more moist because dark meat has more fat than chicken breasts. I usually grind the meat using the attachment of my Kitchenaid. Just make sure to remove all the bones prior to grinding!

I also make eggrolls with veal, which are amazingly delicious.

The eggroll filling can be tailored to suit your favorite flavorings. You could also use water chestnut, taro, shiitake mushrooms, tofu or potatoes. The possibilities are endless.

If you can't find frozen eggroll wrappers, you can substitute bánh tráng (dried rice paper sheets). They're as good, but maybe a little greasier. That was how my mom used to make eggrolls. Fill a bowl with beer and add a teaspoon of baking powder. Brush each bánh tráng with the beer mixture then let dry for about 2 minutes on paper towels. Then continue as you would with the frozen eggroll wrappers. Personally I prefer the frozen ones; it's a big time saver, which is important since making eggrolls is time-consuming to begin with.

Frying onions is easy. Chop the onion. Heat about 1 inch of canola oil in a skillet. Fry the onions in the oil, stirring frequently to prevent them from burning, until the color is evenly golden brown. Drain the oil on paper towels. I always make extra so that I can vacuum-seal and store them in the freezer for future use. I place about one cup per bag. You can store them up to 3 months. I think it's the best way to keep the same flavor without getting freezer burn.

Mushroom seasoning salt brings a very distinct, earthy flavor to the broth. You can find it at gourmet specialty stores or in most Korean stores. I buy mine at Marina Foods -10122 Bandley drive, Cupertino, CA 95014.

Fresh Wood Ear Mushrooms
Fresh Wood Ear Mushrooms.

You can find wood ear mushrooms in most Asian stores. I was pleased to find fresh mushrooms at a local market called the Milk Pail Market. The address is 2585 California Street, Mountain View, CA 94040. They're flavorless but they give an interesting, chewy texture to the dish.

Jicama is a large, sweet, firm root vegetable that is used in vegetarian Vietnamese cuisine to imitate juicy pork fat and pork skin (when fried). It's crunchy like an apple and filling like a potato. You can find it in most supermarket produce departments or any Vietnamese store; it's called củ sắn. You could replace jicama with water chestnuts to add crunch to the eggroll filling.

For optimum results when heating the frying oil, the thermometer should register 345°F to 360°F. Heat the oil over medium to high heat (for a nice golden color).

You can find all the ingredients listed in most Asian stores.

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on January 16, 2012.


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