Vietnamese Fried Spring Rolls, Nem, is a traditional family dish as opposed to street food. Even though it doesn’t have a myth as sacred as Banh Chung, (to me) the ingredients used to cook Nem represent Vietnamese’s wishes about abundant land, water, food, family value and love. Some facts about Nem:
1. Nem is made for special traditional events that no Vietnamese family forgets: Tet (Lunar New Year), July full-moon Day, wedding, death anniversary etc. In the hard times after the war and Bao Cap period when people dreamt of Nem, they saved money and ingredients to cook it only on special days in the year, which brought this tradition.
2. Nowadays, when people can eat Nem whenever they want because it is easy to cook, we can see Nem at weekend meals when the family members gather, or when friends go out for lunch.
3. In general, Nem is made by wrapping rice paper over meat, egg, thin bean thread noodles, mushrooms, shrimp and many kinds of herbs. To making wrapping easier, a little water or oil should be spread on the rice paper to make it softer. Too many eggs can make the mixed materials wet and hard to be wrapped by rice paper. Adding enough meat prevents Nem from becoming too dry when it is fried.
4. The rice paper of Nem is easy to be singed if the fire is kept too hot. Because it contains eggs, the fried Nem will look nice in the pan if the fire is small enough.
5. The mystery of traditional restaurants about Nem is its sauce.
6. Nem is the best taste as eating with fresh vegetables and herbs.
7. Nem is the dish that mothers usually teach their daughters. When a girl goes to see a boy’s parents and show them how well she cooks – she often chooses to make Nem!
I love wrapping Nem with my mum and other girls when the big family gathers in the weekends or at the Lunar New Year. When I was a little girl, I had so much fun in making my own shapes of Nem, big or tiny, long or short, and happy to see my own wrapped Nem fried in the pan. And the taste of first Nem, oh…