Local Flavor knows what makes a great party guest: good manners, a fun attitude and never coming over empty-handed.
That’s why Sarah Cremer is one of the greatest party guests of all. Invite the Clarks Green resident to your cookout, and she won’t show up with another macaroni salad. She’ll come with Cha Gio, aka Vietnamese Spring Rolls.
“The first question they’ll ask is, ‘You’re bringing the rolls, right?’” Cremer said during a recent afternoon inside the home she shares with her mother, Minh, and daughter, Sophia, 14.
Local Flavor couldn’t resist a taste of the traditional southeast Asian dish, which earned Cremer a $50 grocery gift card from Riccardo’s Market, 1219 Wheeler Ave., Scranton.
Cremer learned how to make the family recipe from her mom when she was growing up. It’s a staple in the family’s home, and Cremer called it a straight-forward recipe.
The difference between a Chinese egg roll and a spring roll is that the latter uses rice paper. Cooks should make the filling in a food processor, and the rolls should be rolled up like burritos, Cremer said.
Most of the ingredients can be found at any grocery store, with the most integral being nuoc cham, or Vietnamese fish sauce, used as a marinade and to dip.
“In Vietnam, they put nuoc cham on everything,” Cremer said. “It’s a great marinade. I’ll use it on meat, and it just gives this amazing flavor.”
The spring rolls had a perfectly browned texture with a crispy crunch on the outside and a flavorful filling inside. The pork felt super tender and carried a great taste, with a nice accent from the veggies. The nuoc cham gave an acidic, distinct flavor and made for the ideal dipping sauce for the rolls.
Cremer also made another kind of spring roll, which consisted of pork, fresh veggies, herbs and shrimp wrapped up in rice paper, though not fried, paired with a peanut dip. Both types of rolls hit it out of the park.
While Cremer and her mother make traditional recipes, such as Pho — a Vietnamese soup made from broth, rice noodles, spices and meat — Cremer also makes other kinds of cuisine. The co-owner of Bluestone Realty Group, Cremer looks for hearty dinners for the family, with favorites including Chicken Marsala, Chicken Parmesan, Lasagna and Enchiladas.
One thing’s for certain, though — if Cremer’s cooking, you won’t be disappointed.
“I just love to do it,” she said. “It’s relaxing, and it’s fun.”
Sarah Cremer’s Cha Gio (Vietnamese Spring Rolls)
1 pound ground pork, cooked
1/4 pound shrimp, chopped and cooked
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 teaspoon chopped ginger
2 garlic cloves
2 large dried shiitake mushrooms
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce, plus more for dipping
Salt and pepper
Canola or vegetable oil for frying
Soak mushrooms in water for 10 minutes until soft.
Place ground pork in a large bowl and set aside.
In a food processor, combine onion, carrots, ginger and garlic. Pulsate in food processor until finely chopped. Add in shrimp and pulse again.
Add all to ground pork. Add fish sauce, soy sauce, egg, salt and pepper. Mix it all up.
Dip rice paper in water for a few seconds. Lay down on clean countertop and wait for them to soften before filling.
Add heaping tablespoon of filling to center of rice paper. Fold bottom corner over filling, then fold in side corners to enclose filling. Continue rolling to seal. Make additional egg rolls in the same manner.
Fry each in about 1 inch of oil, about 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Dry on paper towel. Serve with fish sauce.
Gia Mazur is an award-winning staff writer and beauty obsessive who joined The Times-Tribune’s Lifestyles department in 2015. She’s a product enthusiast who can’t live without an eyelash curler. A proud Virgo, Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillow Talk is her go-to. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9127; @gmazurTT