This is one of the most enduring recipes that my grandmother Nanay left us. I loved these spring rolls so much that when I was in grade school I used to pack them for lunch. When I came to the United States, I reconstructed the recipe from memory, and it has been on our restaurant menu from the day we opened.
- ½ pound pork loin, with a little fat
- ½ small onion
- 1 celery stalk, cut into 3-inch pieces
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ pound large, whole shrimp, unshelled
- 6 tablespoons canola oil
- One 8-ounce package firm tofu, pressed (see Note)
- ½ cup finely chopped onion
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- ½ cup shredded green cabbage
- ½ cup julienned carrot
- ½ cup trimmed and julienned string beans
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce
- ½ cup julienned jicama
- About thirty (8-inch) square spring roll wrappers
- 2 large egg yolks, beaten
- Canola oil, for frying
- 1 cup rice vinegar
- 2-3 minced garlic cloves
- 1-2 thinly sliced fresh chiles, to taste
1. The day before you want to assemble the spring rolls, make the filling: In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Add the pork, onion half, celery, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Simmer until the pork is just cooked through, about 20 minutes. Transfer the pork to a plate and let cool. Pour the broth through a strainer set over a bowl and reserve the liquid. When the pork has cooled completely, slice it into cubes.
2. Cut the heads off the shrimp and peel off the shells. Place the heads and shells in a food processor with ½ cup water. Process until the heads and shells have broken down. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer, pressing down on the solids to remove all the juice. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Devein and julienne the shrimp bodies and set aside.
3. Heat 4 tablespoons of the oil in a deep skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the pork and cook, stirring often, until browned and crisp, about 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the pork to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
4. Heat the oil in which you cooked the pork over medium-high heat, add the block of tofu, and sear until all sides are lightly browned and crisp, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Drain the tofu and pat dry with paper towels. Let cool, then slice the tofu into small cubes. Wipe the skillet with paper towels.
5. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in the skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Add the cabbage, carrot, and string beans, and sauté until slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Season with the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
6. Pour in the reserved shrimp juice and pork broth and bring to a simmer. Add the fish sauce, pork, shrimp, tofu, and jicama. Cook about 3 more minutes, or until the shrimp are cooked through. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary, and transfer to a bowl to cool. The filling will be very moist.
7. Once the filling has cooled, transfer it to a container and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
8. The next day, to assemble the spring rolls, remove the filling from the refrigerator and drain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer, pressing on the solids to remove as much moisture as possible.
9. Place all of the spring roll wrappers on a baking sheet and cover with a damp dish towel to prevent drying as you work. Transfer a stack of 6 wrappers to a clean work surface, and cut into equal quarters, making 24 squares. Return the squares to the baking sheet and cover with the towel.
10. Place one whole wrapper in front of you with a corner pointed toward you, like a diamond. Place one of the smaller squares in the middle of the wrapper and put 3 tablespoons of filling onto the center of the small square. Lifting the corner pointing toward you, fold the wrapper over the filling, tucking the end underneath the edge of the smaller square. Fold the right and left sides over the filling. Use a pastry brush to dab the edges of the rolls with beaten egg yolk to seal, then finish rolling. Transfer the completed spring rolls to the baking sheet and keep covered.
11. Fill a wide sauté pan over medium-high heat with at least 1 inch of oil and heat until hot but not smoking. The oil should register 365°F on a cooking thermometer. (If you don’t have a frying or candy thermometer, sprinkle a few drops of water into the oil. When the water has sizzled away, the oil is ready.)
12. Fry the rolls in batches, to avoid overcrowding the pan. Cook, turning once, until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer the rolls to a paper towel–lined plate to drain. Fry all the batches, letting the oil come back up to temperature between batches.
13. In a bowl, combine the vinegar, garlic, and chiles and serve this dipping sauce with the hot rolls.
Serving size is 1 spring roll.