These Vegan Vietnamese spring rolls are the plant-based version of a family party classic!
People have been asking me to make spring rolls for the longest time, and I think I’ve been reluctant to make intricate dishes like these because of my eczema. Lately (especially because it’s summer), I’ve been learning to better manage my stress and wear protective gloves so that my skin doesn’t get as mad at me for the excessive hand-washing when it comes to recipe development.
Lately I’ve been energized with cooking and finding it deeply satisfying to re-create so many childhood recipes (like the eggplant dish, thit kho dish, and hot pot), so naturally sharing these Vietnamese party favourites was definitely at the top of my list.
Vietnamese spring rolls are unique from a lot of other fried egg rolls or spring rolls from other cultures because I consistently see clear bean thread noodles and wood ear fungus in them to add a bit of extra texture and moisture into the spring rolls.
In a lot of other cultures, I find the spring rolls studded with onions, cabbage, carrot, and pork, but in my experience, I’ve only seen taro, fungus, and noodles in the Vietnamese ones.
My family would always have a platter of these fried on the table during one of our long-weekend family gatherings. I have so many memories of my grandparents plucking one to snack on while they were off entertaining their friends, and my mom would wrap hot-fried ones in a paper towel for the tots to snack.
My brother was one of those tots who I recall blowing gingerly over the spring roll to cool it down, taking a quick bite and immediately regretting it and tearily returning to me or my mom, telling us it was too hot to eat.
These days he is a lanky, broody teenager who would much rather retreat to solitude to play games on his phone than follow me or my mom around anymore. It’s been a few months since I’ve seen either of them and I have to say, I miss them a lot.
The recipe I’m sharing uses the medium sized spring roll wrappers, but if you prefer the smaller spring rolls, feel free to use the smaller size of these wrappers. EDIT: It’s come to my attention that these wrappers are NOT vegan, as they have undeclared milk products in them (RE: Canada Inspection Agency). I don’t have another recommendation that is totally vegan, aside from using two layers of rice paper wrappers (hydrated) and then rolling those.
My mom would buy a few packs of these from the Asian markets in Toronto, then we’d drive our 2 hours back home and store them in the freezer. On the off chance she decided to make spring rolls that week, she’d thaw them and we’d get to work making spring rolls on the weekend as a project and fill our freezer full of repurposed Styrofoam trays (like the ones meat is packed on), and wrapped in many layers of cling film.
With heaps of them at the ready in the freezer, any time my school or my mom’s work would have a potluck, everyone would volunteer us to bring spring rolls. When the day came, my mom would get to work in the garage, deep-frying a tall pot of these frozen spring rolls, yielding a beautiful stacked pyramid of golden spring rolls.
As far as I know, she still does this for her co-workers and my brother’s school potlucks (obviously those aren’t happening in these days of quarantine), but she’s vegetarian now and even still, they are highly requested and devoured despite being meat-free.
So if you want to make my version of vegan Vietnamese spring rolls, please tag me on Instagram and show me your creations! I love seeing my recipes out in the wild and it’s so cool to be able to share my culture and my favourite foods with you.
- 1 loose cup (20 g) dried wood ear fungus (buy sliced if you can, if not, sliced into thin strips about ½ inch or 1 cm long)
- 1 bundle (40 g) of mung bean thread (sometimes labelled vermicelli)
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 medium onion (170 g), very finely minced
- 2 medium carrots (150 g), peeled and minced
- 1 heaping cup (~180 g) taro root, peeled and minced
- 24 oz (680 g) veggie ground crumble (two packages of ground round, or about 3 cups of frozen beefless crumble)
- ½ tsp (2 g) ground black pepper
- 3 tbsp (45 mL) vegan fish sauce OR soy sauce
- 1 package of 6 x 6 inch vegan spring roll wrappers**
- 1 tbsp (7 g) cornstarch
- 2 tbsp (15 ml) water
- Oil for frying
To Make the Filling
- Soak the wood ear fungus and mung bean thread by submerging them
in two bowls with warm water. Let reconstitute for about 5-10 minutes.
- In a large wok or pan over medium heat, combine minced onion, carrots and
taro root, the veggie ground crumble, pepper, and vegan fish sauce (or soy
sauce). Cook until vegetables have started to soften.
- Drain the mung bean thread and wood ear fungus and chop to about ¼
inch-1/2 inch (1/2 cm to 1 cm) long pieces. Add the chopped mung bean thread
and wood ear fungus to the mixing bowl and mix well until everything is evenly
distributed, and cook to heat through. You'll see the noodles start to absorb some moisture and make the mixture thicken. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Separate the layers of spring roll wrappers and arrange for easy
access on a plate. Cover with foil or a clean, damp tea towel so they don’t dry
- Prepare your cornstarch mixture (water + cornstarch) in a small bowl to
seal the spring rolls.
- To fill the spring rolls, arrange a wrapper like a diamond with a
point facing you. Add about 2.5 tbsp of filling to the bottom third of the
diamond, and centre it as a horizontal log. Take the bottom corner and start to
roll, tucking it tightly around the filling, rolling it up about halfway up the
wrapper. Tuck in the left and right sides tightly, and continue to roll
tightly, sealing the top tip with a dab of water and then completing the roll.
It takes a bit of practice, but you’ll find the balance between rolling tight
enough that everything is in place but not so tight that you tear the wrapper. Use
a finger to stir through the cornstarch mixture and apply a slight layer to the
outside corner of the spring roll to seal the spring roll.
- Repeat until all the filling is used up, and arrange the spring
rolls in a single layer on plate or a freezer safe container. Separate each
layer with parchment paper for ease of use. Freeze while the oil is heating up
so that the spring rolls stay intact better while frying.
- To fry, heat up about 2 inches of oil in a medium-large pot until
about 375F (190C). Carefully fry the spring rolls, about 4-6 at a time
(depending on the size of your pot) flipping occasionally until golden all
around. Remove once you get a nice golden brown (the ends will get a bit of a
dark brown). Drain on paper towel or on a wire rack over a sheet pan. Enjoy on
their own, dipping in Nước Mắm Chấm Chay, sriracha sauce, or over a classic bowl of bún!
- These freeze well for 4-6 weeks, and you can fry from frozen. If
freezing for storage, be sure to store in an airtight container to prevent
I've been informed that there is a mislabelling of the spring roll wrappers I used in this recipe and that they are in fact, not vegan. I suggest using hydrated thick rice paper (or two layers of the regular thin ones) to roll a spring roll instead.