How to cook nem rán (Vietnamese spring rolls)

I can eat nem rán (pronounced /nem zan/) at breakfast, lunch, and dinner straight for one week without ever getting sick of it. This Vietnamese dish, very popular in the entire of Vietnam, is best eaten with Nước mắm, a special sauce which can be bought in any big grocery in Manila.

Last night, after a long day at work, and after having made a promise to cook this dish to somebody very dear to me, I and this person very dear to me cooked our version of this quintessential Vietnamese dish. I passed by SM Makati after my work at AIM to hurriedly buy the ingredients. I already had a Plan B, that is, to cook a simple pasta dish in case majority of the ingredients are not found, but I did find almost everything, except for Nước mắm, which, if my understanding is correct, is the Viets’ version of patis or fish sauce.

I also found rice plates which were excessively thick and brittle for the nem rán I had in mind. Good thing, this person very dear to me suggested to dip the plates in water before rolling them with the filling inside. The idea worked.

Here’s how we made our nem rán (actual picture posted above):

Ingredients (as any decent recipe will commence with this boring one-word cliche):

1/2 kg ground pork (I used the one with lots of fats, which is several pesos cheaper than the leaner one, but many times tastier, if not deadlier)

1/4 kg shrimp, diced (no need to buy big, expensive tiger prawns)

1 cup bean sprout (the shorter the stems the better as longer stems mean bitter-tasting sprouts)

75 g vermicelli (this is the transparent rice noodle Filipinos call sotanghon)

1 big carrot, diced finely

1 cup mushrooms (or any type of edible [yes, many are inedible e.g. fungi that cause athlete’s foot {lame attempt at humor}] fungus)

1 big egg (this will serve as binder; although the temptation to use many eggs is strong, resist, as you’ll end up having an omelet instead of austere spring rolls)

2 tbsp  Nước mắm (patis will do)

salt, pepper, and sugar (to taste)

Maggi magic sarap (this is my super-duper secret ingredient)

20 rice plates cut in half


1. Combine all the ingredients together, except the rice plates, in one bowl and mix them well. (The picture that follows may look gross but this is the cheapest and the best, if not the only, way the ingredients can be integrated into a fine mixture, without the cooking falling into the danger of becoming grossly pretentious.)

2. Wrap a spoonful of the mixture with the rice plate. (This may sound deceptively easy, but as we both found out, this is the most challenging phase of the procedure. We have much to learn in the area of quality control.)

3. Deep fry for 4-5 minutes or until brown. You may have to make holes in the casing using a fork to allow steam to escape.

4. Serve hot. Makes 40 nem.

It is best to use Nước mắm pha or an odd admixture of nước mắm, sugar, lime, and salt. Now if you do not want to bother yourself with concocting this sauce, your good, dependable ketchup will do just fine.

Nem is best eaten with sticky rice and outrageously cold beer. And love, lots of it.

In all fairness, our nem tasted…nice*.

*(My apologies for the use of the very erudite ellipsis).


8 thoughts on “How to cook nem rán (Vietnamese spring rolls)”

    1. hi baba. i’m glad you tried making nems, and even gladder that you found them delicious!

      thanks for passing by.

    1. it’s simple to do, try it!

      life’s treating me well, nuelene. thank you for asking.

      do well at school. best!

  1. wow! bigla kong namiss ang asian fud!!! parang i have eaten something like this sa isang resto called banana leaf at Alabang years back!…masarap sya…

    craving for pinoy fud! i have pasta everyday here in italy for quite some time..kakasawa na rin ang pizza at pasta…

    1. haha. ah, it must be malay or indonesian cuisine…

      i hope you’re enjoying your stay there. i know there is a sizable filipino population there, so i think it is just fine because you will find filipino food wherever there are filipinos.

      all the best, and thanks for dropping by my site.

  2. the intern, hahaha. i am asking this question myself. but i guess, it’s only a matter of getting used to.

    and yes, love they call it. it makes us realize potentials in us we never thought existing.

    thanks for dropping by. good luck with your training. i may have to ask you to check my eyes in the future. best!

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