Red Lantern Crisp Parcels (Cha Gio or Spring Rolls)


Photo of Vietnamese Spring Rolls (Cha Gio) courtesy of Secrets of the Red Lantern Cookbook! It’s gorgeous!

secrets-red-lanternOne of the books that is always near my nighstand is the absolutely stunning Secrets of the Red Lantern by Pauline Nguyen. I was in Los Angeles at the famous Cook’s Libarary bookstore and was drawn in by the gorgeous cover artwork. I picked up the volumous 345 page book and simply could not put it down. No, seriously, I did not let this baby out of my sight the rest of the trip and even chose to pack my laptop in my suitcase and instead brought Secrets of the Red Lantern in my carry-on baggage.

Baby, that’s true love.

I got a chance to chat with the lovely Pauline Nguyen last night and just couldn’t wait to share her recipe for Vietnamese Spring Rolls or Cha Gio with you. At her restaurant, Red Lantern, this dish is called “Red Lantern Crisp Parcels.”

Secrets of the Red Lantern book is part cookbook, part bittersweet memoir of the Nguyen family’s escape from war-ravaged Vietnam and their struggles as they adapt to the harsh refugee life and finally making their lives in Australia. Pauline bares her soul in this debut book – it will make you smile, laugh, cry and even fume with anger. There are links at end of post to others who have written fabulous reviews of her book, so I won’t go in much detail here, but I wanted to give you a glimpse of Pauline, mom of Mia and soon to be mom of baby #2. Oh yes, and to give you her recipe for Vietnamese Spring Rolls too!

Pauline Nguyen, author of Secrets of the Red Lantern


Pauline lives in Australia and I live in Florida, so you can imagine the very thin snippet of the day where our two schedules can meet for an uninterrupted phone call! Luckily, I’m a total night owl and call her 12:30AM my time, which was 4:30PM her time. And guess where she took my call?


35C/95F degrees


Sydney, Australia.

Ooooh….I wanted to be right there on the beach with her! Oh yeah.

Pauline Nguyen took two years off from the busy restaurant business (oh yes, Red Lantern is the name of her restaurant she owns with her brother Luke and partner Mark) to write this book, and she penned this memoir as a heirloom for her now 4-year old daughter, Mia.

More on my phone chat with Pauline Nguyen in another post (and yes, another recipe from her book in the next post too). In the meantime, enjoy her recipe for Vietnamese Spring Rolls (Cha Gio).

mother-famous-chinese-egg-rolls-recipeIf you’d like to learn step by step photo instructions on how to roll the Vietnamese Spring Rolls correctly – come see the recipe of My Mother’s Famous Chinese Egg Rolls.

The Chinese version uses similar wrapper and same wrapping technique, just different filling inside. If you’d like a gluten-free version, use rice paper instead of these Spring Roll or Egg Roll wrappers. These are wonderful fried  as well. Just follow instructions on package of rice paper to use.


Vietnamese Spring Rolls Recipe (Cha Gio) (Red Lantern Crisp Parcels)

Servings: Makes 40 spring rolls Prep Time: Cook Time:

From Secrets of the Red Lantern by Pauline Nguyen with recipes by Luke Nguyen and Mark Jensen
These can be cooked and eaten on their own, dipped in dipping fish sauce, or placed on top of a dressed vermicelli salad. At Red Lantern, we like to wrap the parcels in lettuce with herbs and serve with dipping fish sauce.
Note: Be sure you use the spring roll wrappers as soon as they thaw.


For the Vietnamese Spring Rolls
2 ¾ ounces dried bean thread noodles (or mung bean noodles)
1 ¾ ounces dried mushroom strips, such as wood ear mushrooms or Chinese black fungus
½ pound ground pork
½ pound ground chicken
1 pound carrots, grated
½ onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons fine white pepper
1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
20 spring (egg) roll wrappers, 8½ inches square
Dipping fish sauce, for serving
For the Dipping Sauce Recipe (Nuoc Mam Cham)
3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cloves garlic
1 bird's-eye chili
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice


Soak the noodles and mushroom strips separately in cold water for 20 minutes, then drain and drip dry in a colander. Cut the noodles into 1½-inch-long pieces, then combine with all of the filling ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.

Cut the spring roll wrappers diagonally to form two triangles, then separate them into single sheets. Place a piece of wrapper on a plate with the base of the triangle facing you. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the mixture onto the middle of the bottom edge of the wrapper and fold the two adjacent sides, one on top of the other into the center. Roll toward the apex to form a nice firm roll, and secure with a dab of flour mixed with some water. Repeat until you have filled all of the wrappers.

When freshly rolled, the cha gio can be deep-fried in oil preheated to 350 degrees F or until a cube of bread dropped in the oil browns in 15 seconds. Alternatively, you can store them in the freezer and cook when needed. Just carefully slide frozen spring rolls (do not defrots) in the oil and cook an additional minute or so.

To make the Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Mam Cham)
Combine the fish sauce, rice vinegar, 1/2 cup of water, and sugar in a saucepan and place over medium heat. Stir well and cook until just before boiling point is reached, then allow to cool. To serve, finely chop the garlic and chile and stir in the lime juice. To liven it up, add pickled vegetables.Combine the fish sauce, rice vinegar, 1/2 cup of water, and sugar in a saucepan and place over medium heat. Stir well and cook until just before boiling point is reached, then allow to cool. To serve, finely chop the garlic and chile and stir in the lime juice. To liven it up, add pickled vegetables.


Reviews on Pauline Nguyen’s Secrets of the Red Lantern Cookbook

White On Rice Couple – plus recipe for Tamarind Crab and Tamarind Shrimp

In Mama’s Kitchen review

Global Gourmet – plus recipe for Steamed Cockles or Periwinkle, Bittermelon Stuffed with Pork and Black Fungus, Wok-tossed Water Spinach
with Fermented Bean Curd Sauce

and of course good ‘ol where you can purchase the Secrets of the Red Lantern book.

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Comments 280

  1. Murasaki Shikibu

    I was just looking for a recipe for Vietnamese spring rolls (the fried variety) and this is perfect!

    For the variety that’s not cooked, I like to put finely sliced cucumbers & leeks, ground pork sauteed in garlic, rice vermicelli, mint and coriander leaves.

    For the fried variety I like ground pork & mung bean noodles. I’m not a big fan of carrots but if they’re in there I’ll eat them. To be honest I’d wrap a lot of strange things in the egg roll wrappers but they wouldn’t be spring rolls anymore if I filled them with mozzarella cheese, sun dried tomatoes and a fresh basil leaf.

  2. Jeannie

    Hi. Thanks for the great post. I think I would want a vegetarian filling…because I have 2 daughters who are vegetarian and it would be nice to learn to cook for them – lol – lol – what a mom! Jeannie

  3. Pearl Maxey

    I like shitaki mushrooms, bamboo shoots, shrimp and pork, with a few beanspouts and shredded carrots! Yum! Yum!

  4. Bhavna

    I like mushrooms & scallions with cream cheese. Delicious! Also, fried egg with caramelised onion.

  5. Yen

    I’m a firm believer in everything tastes good in a spring roll. My dormmate and I would essentially take any leftover meat that we had, wrap it with some lettuce, cucumbers, herbs and noodles and that’d be our delicious healthy dinner. As for the fried variety, it wouldn’t be complete without taro.

  6. Jayne

    I like shredded carrots, mushrooms, celery, cellophane noodles, wood ears, and bamboo shoots in my spring rolls- meat optional.

  7. Deb

    Jaden, I have a question about this recipe. Are you SURE it contains one POUND of carrots, grated? That seems like a lot for one pound of ground meat. I thought maybe it was a typo of some kind. Curious cooks want know! If I had the cookbook, I could check, but alas not.

  8. Judy in SATX

    When it comes to spring rolls, I go with the classic bean noodles, pork and shredded veggies. Of course, anything tastes good deep-fried, so I’m not going to be fussy!

  9. Barbara

    I’d like Pork and veggies in mine. I love spring rolls, much lighter and crisper than egg rolls.

  10. Grace

    Just by reading your post I’m completely sold and intensely craving spring rolls. I prefer my with bean thread/veggie/pork filling but when necessity and/or boredom strikes I grab just about anything from the fridge.

  11. Annie

    My favorite filling is my mom’s popiah filling made with shredded jicama, cabbage, carrots, pork, shrimp, and a whole lot more!

  12. Lee Chen

    Grated turnip, carrot, mushroom and pork seasoned with lots of pepper would be great in spring rolls!

  13. Frances Bee

    My hubby makes really yummy spring rolls with crab meat instead of shrimps,pork,jicama, cabbages, carrots, bean thread noodle, blacfungus and his secret seasonings…and they are sooo good.

  14. Roossy Tirta

    The vendor at my church in Bandung, Indonesia sold the best spring roll. He would spread the spring roll skin with a combination of Javanese brown sugar cooked with diluted cornstarch the he would cook the filling on the spot of mashed garlic and shallot, lots of beansprouts,chopped jicama and chopped bamboo shot. He did not fry the spring roll instead he put all the filling over the diluted cornstarch and brown sugar and wrapped them with a fresh spring roll skin…and he would add lots of sambal oelek if I request for an extra spicy one!

  15. Emily

    Love the pork and shittake mushroom combo, all minced together. Just like I had them when I went to Vietnam this fall!

  16. Marie-ann

    This recipe is awsome for my son’s and his beautiful bride’s upcoming wedding. I was looking for a recipe for some Asian appetizers to make, to honor the part Vietnameze heritage of my future daughter in law. It’s funny her maternal grandfather’s last name was Nguyen, they were in Vietnam searching for long lost relatives this summer…sad story, very difficult to find any information, as they tell me the last name Nguyen is very common in Vietnam because of the Nguyen dynasty.
    Thanks to you and Pauline for this wondrful recipe, aand if I can’t win the book I will definetely buy it, I know it will make a very nice gift 😉

  17. Jeff

    love cha gio. i also like the non fried vietnamese spring roll.

    my favorite fillings are shrimp (grills if possible) and ground chicken with carrots, shitake mushroom and some herb.

  18. John

    I am anxious to try this recipe. I did recently purchase what said to be rice roll wrappers, but don’t look anything close to what I have seen in these pictures. They look dry and brittle. Unfortunately for the poor student, I will be cutting all the vegetables by hand. I am curious on the details of the mentioned book. I will be checking it out at my local book giant. Will let ya know how it turned out.


    you can still use rice wrappers and fry them or use them like this: Vietnamese Summer Rolls ~jaden

  19. Pam

    I have been looking for this recipe for a long time. Years ago a refuge family from Vietnam lived in the neighborhood. In exchange for “English lesson” which were mainly afternoons talking about our children, she offered to teach me to cook. But mainly we talked and ate and Vietnamese spring rolls were a favorite of mine. I so remember the pork and the carrots! Lan and her family relocated very quickly to the mid west and I never got the recipe. This sounds so close, I can’t wait to try them!

  20. Keyi

    I miss Vietnamese spring rolls! By the way do I need to precook the ingredients for the filling first before wrapping them? Many thanks!

  21. Alyssa

    My aunt made these and I thought that they were a family recipe (we’re Chinese). Imagine my surprise when I asked her for the recipe and she gave me this link! They are so delicious! She just brought them to Christmas and her full tray was gone before the other appetizers were even half finished!

  22. Larry White

    I made Mother’s egg rolls and they turned out great. I used ordinary green cabbage and perhaps I should have used Napa Valley Cabbage the recipe didn’t specify. In any event, these are without doubt the best egg rolls I have ever made. Thank you and Mother for the recipe. Sincerely, Larry White, Courtenay, B.C.,Canada

  23. Leah

    Can these be rolled ahead and frozen? I’m planning appetizers for New Years Eve and am looking for things I can make ahead. I”ve made your other egg rolls on multiple occasions and they are fantastic! Even though my rolling still needs work. Thanks

    1. Post

      Yes! Roll ahead, freeze in a single layer. I put them on a paper plate, then put paper plate into a freezer bag. When ready to cook, don’t defrost, just gently slide them in the oil and add an extra minute or so. jaden

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