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. Rita

    Shrimp, vermicelli, cilantro, carrots, sprouts, and sometimes a little crab or pork too.

  2. Millie

    HI Jaden

    Great fan of your work from Down Under. The spring rolls are great as is. I endorsed the way Red Lantern serves it with lettuce – one savours the cool crispness of the lettuce with the savoury crunch of a well fried spring roll. Very satisfying….

  3. Meilin

    I like shrimp in mine! That’s in addition to the ones you listed (noodles, sugar, fish sauce, mushrooms, white pepper, and carrots for color). Yum. And I love these fried and sliced and served alongside soup for then you get the lovely texture contrast of the liquid from the soup and the still-crisp but just starting to get soggy skins from the fried rolls. Somewhat like a savory version of crisp cereal in milk. But you can’t let it wait too long because then it gets too soggy and no fun. Yum…

  4. caroline

    I like shrimp and pork in mine, BUT, the most important thing is the vermicelli~ 🙂 Vermicelli is such a wonderful product and has so many yummy uses!

  5. Banzai

    I’m a big fan of veggies and chicken. But shrimp is always nice (except I made a promise years ago to only eat farm raised shrimp due to the ecological destruction harvesting shrimp does).

  6. Kimcly

    Oh man… my mom’s Thanksgiving cha gio has the best filling. She uses minced shrimp and pork with cabbage, carrots, glass noodles, and woodear mushrooms. So super freaking good!

  7. OnigiriFB

    I like ground pork, thinly cut napa cabbage, shredded carrots, mung bean thread noodles in my spring rolls. Can’t wait to try this recipe though. 🙂

  8. Amy

    I love cabbage… mm pork, and bean sprouts. I’ve honestly never made them before, but these are the basic things I like…

  9. Tania

    my mother makes it with taro, carrots, ground pork, black fungus and adds in an egg =)

    It’s a hit and is usually gone as soon as it hits the table!

  10. Joe

    Shrimp, bean thread, carrots, cilantro. Truth be told I like just about anything in spring rolls.

  11. Jonathan P

    Had this vegetarian one in the past that was lovely. Pretty much the recipe you shared with radish and water chestnut replacing the pork and chicken mince. Definitely my fav 🙂

  12. joey

    Oooh! Lovely looking book! 🙂 Crossing my fingers 😉 Here’s what I like in my Vietnamese springrolls: shrimp, rice vermicelli, cilantro, vietnamese mint, carrots, cucumber! Mmmm!

  13. ChefRunner

    Carrot, cabbage, mushroom — and the veggies have to still be crisp. There’s a restaurant near my mother owned by a guy whose car my dad used to fix that makes the best spring rolls, not too greasy and with everything still bright and fresh-tasting inside.

  14. Sarah Marie

    Mmmm . . . cucumbers and pork with not too many noodles. But I’ll eat anything in a spring roll as long as the dipping sauce is good!

  15. Barbara

    I love shrimp and pork in my spring rolls along with carrots, cucumber, cabbage, mint and mushrooms. That paired with a bright delicious dipping sauce make my day 🙂

  16. Kristin

    The crispy spring rolls my Korean friend makes with beef, jap chae noodles, onion, carrot, napa cabbage and toasted sesame seeds are out of this world. I have tried and failed on many occasions to recreate them. 🙁 She won’t tell me the secret because she wants to make sure that I will always be her friend.

  17. Sheauen

    my grandma’s cha gio filling is pork, crab, carrot, scallion, and black wood fungus.

  18. scrapper al

    Sounds like you had a great chat with Ms. Nguyen. I think I need to take a trip to Australia now.

    As for spring roll fillings? I’m not picky; I like ’em all…shrimp, vegetarian, pork, crab…I’ve never had beef which some people have mentioned, but I’ll bet I’d like those too.

  19. madalyn

    My mom’s cha gio recipe is top secret. But, without giving too much away, I can safely say that I always love a good pork-filled cha gio. Although recently I’ve been making mine with ground chicken, which has gotten rave reviews, as well.

    Now I’m craving my mom’s cha gio and nuoc mam cham…

  20. Barbara

    Just learning to make spring rolls, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed for the book.I am sure it has wonderful recipes. I like shrimp, cabbage , carrots, and noodles. I Was looking for recipe for Vietnamese soup and found your website. Loved it and can’t wait to try recipes.

  21. Carrie Oliver

    Surprised the recipe doesn’t have any herbs! I like just about anything in a spring roll, but I’d have to vote for shrimp if forced to make a choice. Okay, now I’m craving spring rolls.

  22. Stephanie

    I’ve never made spring rolls and have eaten them at restaurants. I like shrimp and pork and chicken.Would love to win the book and give a try to making them at home.I just found your blog again, after losing my blog list when my old computer died. So glad to read you again!

  23. YannMay

    Mine will be a combination of shrimp, pork, carrots, cabbage, onions and shallots, served with a dash of light chili sauce. Spring rolls always make good appetizers, food-finger or snacks.

  24. katswan

    I love chocolate….spring rolls? Oh yeah….bananas, chocolate maybe a little peanut butter or better yet some chopped nuts! roll, fry, yum! drizzle with chocolate or caramel and serve with a dollop of whipped cream!

  25. Tammie

    I love my spring roll with shrimps, lettuce, carrots, mango, bean sprout, spring onions dipped in sweet sauce. So it’s a combination of sweet n salty. Love is always sweet and salty at times… and there maybe some sour and bitter. I believe that’s the journey of love.

  26. jules

    Oh Jaden, I’m so glad you’re featuring this book! It’s my favourite Viet cooking book (along with Into The Vietnamese Kitchen, so it’s not just me being biased cos I’m an Aussie too); the food and recipes are so accessible and incredibly delicious, with the emphasis on fresh and raw herbs and salady stuff, local ingredients and contrasting textures – perfect for the Australian climate. A must-have for the book shelf.

    Pauline Nguyen’s story is absolutely riveting if heartbreaking at times. I remember this period in Australian history very well and her descriptions of the time and place and culture are so evocative. The immigrants who have come into this country have done so much for the culture and food (just for starters) – we’d still all be eating meat & 2 (mushy) veg and salads only ever composed of iceberg lettuce and tinned beetroot. And thinking that slapdash Spag Bol was the epitome of chic international cuisine …

    (sorry for the long post! I’m just enthusiastic and you are SO LUCKY getting to meet / talk to these amazing people – but then you’re pretty amazing yourself so I can’t hate you for it ::grin::)

  27. Velda

    Ground pork, carrots, cabbage, bean thread noodles very yummy and of course any seafood especiallt shrimp!!

  28. Carmen Carlton

    noodles, pork, carrots and ‘shrooms and cabbage. Would add shrimp but found out late in life I am allergic to shellfish. 🙁

  29. Kim

    My sister can cook up some great home style vietanmese food. I would love to cook like her but she cook from memory. I have got to get her to write these recipes down.

    She made me this awesome cha goi with taro root and tofu filling, um, um, good!!!

    Great site!

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