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. Sophia

    i like shredded taro or chopped jicama in my spring roll with shrimp and pork. The taro brings this smooth creamy texture of the filling and when jicama is used, it gives a nice little crunch!

  2. silver.

    My favourite spring rolls ever are made by the vegan restaurant in town… I think it’s the mushrooms. Mmmmm…

  3. Emily Lauren

    I like shrimp the best… and whatever thin, crunchy, green vegetables I can find. Yum.

  4. Diana

    Chicken and lots of veggies! Napa Cabbage, carrots, green onions, mmmmm my mouth is watering just thinking about it 🙂

  5. Judy

    Love shrimp or pork filling. I would love to get my hand on this book. I should have looked at it when I was there. Pretty sure it was right next to the computer LOL!!!

  6. Tracy

    Just the way my mother makes it! – pork, onion, cellophane noodles, and Chinese black mushrooms

  7. anne

    and vermichelli
    but the best part is wrapping the crunchy roll in herbs(mint.cilantro etc.)and lettuce and dipping

  8. nikkipolani

    I was surprised to find neither shrimp nor crab in the recipe you posted. My mom also adds an egg yolk (using the whites to seal the cha gio) as well as shredded cabbage.

  9. Kate

    I like mine vegetarian, with lots of crisp veggies and plenty of bite – carrots, bean sprouts, cabbage, green onions. Yum! If we were talking ‘fresh’ spring rolls (uncooked with rice paper wrappers?), I’d add basil and cilantro… The DH, however, loves him some pork cha gio.

    Makes my mouth water just thinking about it!

  10. Denise

    This recipe sounds awesome but I would love to replace the chicken/pork mixture with shrimp. Maybe add cilantro and a little crunch of finely chopped waterchestnuts?! I love a little “crunch” in the mix of the spring rolls 🙂 The book sounds fantastic by the way!

  11. Thanh

    The traditional Vietnamese stuffing, of course: crabmeat and ground pork, with the usual vermicelli, jicama, scallion.

  12. Tuty

    Ground pork, roughly chopped shrimp, diced scallop, julienned jicama & carrots, green onion, minced garlic, black wood ear mushroom and mung bean thread. Egg yolk as binder….

  13. Sarah Young

    pork and water chestnut with ginger and peanut butter (not from georgia though)

  14. suzie

    Would have to be sprimp and pork, I cannot wait to try this recipe, thank you for sharing

  15. gaylei

    i’ve always had shrimp in my rolls, but i’d love to try her recipes with other fillings.

  16. Sumi

    ummm…. shrimp and pork

    pork and chicken….


    how about this, some of each! 🙂

  17. George

    Everyone’s sleeping on super fresh cilantro … for me, preferably from my garden – yeah!

  18. LB

    I love vegetarian spring rolls. Lots of mung beans, tofu or mock duck, carrots and other veggies. What a great cookbook! Thanks

  19. Angela

    I like ground pork, shrimp/crab, shredded jicama, vermicelli and woodears in my spring rolls.

  20. justM

    Mushrooms,black fungus,vermicelli, shrimp or crab with hot chili sour sauce YUMMIE 😛

    I saw a dutch version of this cookbook in the store and I wanted to buy it. I hope that I am that lucky to own an english version ;P

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