Food & Drink

Vietnamese-Style Imperial Rolls Recipe

Makes 48 rolls

Kentucky chef Michael Ton’s recipe works as an appetizer or a main dish

Cha gio are a traditional Vietnamese dish often served as an appetizer or as a main dish with cellophane noodles. In Michael Ton’s version, the mushrooms in the mixture provide a richly dark flavor, while the taro root slices provide lightness.

Michael includes these rolls on Basa’s menu as an authentic Vietnamese offering. “Using taro root is very traditional in the imperial roll. Making it most traditional is using rice paper instead of wonton wrappers. One of the things I was afraid of when using rice paper was that it’s a little bit chewy. It’s crispy, but it’s a little chewy.”

Photo: Copyright © 2012 by Paul and Angela Knipple

Chef Michael Ton.

While it’s tempting to eat the imperial rolls as soon as they are cool enough to handle, Michael says that they’re best if you eat them the right way. “The traditional way of eating it is to take the imperial roll and put it in the lettuce. Pick the mint and put that in there. You have to have the mint. That kind of goes along with it. Roll it, dip it, eat it like a wrap. That’s how you’re supposed to eat it.”



    • Peanut or soy oil

    • 1 pound ground pork

    • 1/2 cup wood ear or shiitake mushrooms, minced (about 2 oz.)

    • 1/2 lb. shrimp, minced

    • 1/2 cup red onion, minced (about 1/2 an onion)

    • 4 tbsp. mushroom seasoning

    • 2 cups carrots, shredded (about 3 medium carrots)

    • 2 cups cooked cellophane noodles

    • 48 8-inch rice paper wrappers

    • 1/2 cup taro root, peeled and sliced thin

  • To serve

    • Leafy green lettuce or butter lettuce

    • Fresh mint

    • Vietnamese fish sauce

    • Soy sauce


  1. Using a deep pot or a deep-fat fryer, heat at least 3 inches of oil to 350 degrees.

  2. In a large bowl, combine the ground pork, mushrooms, shrimp, onion, mushroom seasoning, carrots, and cellophane noodles. Using your hands, work the ingredients until they are combined.


  3. Prepare a large, shallow bowl of water. Take a rice paper wrapper and drag it through the water, keeping it  submerged for 15 seconds. Lay the soaked wrapper out flat on a plastic or bamboo cutting board. Do not use a glass plate or cutting board as the rice paper will stick to glass.


  4. Place a slice of taro root in the center of the wrapper. Spread a rounded tablespoon of meat filling in a line over the taro slice.


  5. Fold one end of the wrapper from the bottom over one end of the filling. Fold one side over the filling, pulling it tight. Fold the other end over and roll, keeping the rice paper wrapper tight against the filling. Repeat until all of the fillings are used.


  6. Allow the rolls to rest for 15 minutes.


  7. Working in batches, carefully lower the rolls into the hot oil. For best results, use wooden utensils to prevent sticking. Do not overcrowd the fryer; the rolls will stick to one another and will not cook properly. Let the rolls cook for 3 to 4 minutes, turning over after 2 minutes. Transfer the rolls to a paper- towel- lined plate to drain and cool.

  8. To serve:

    Place washed leaves of lettuce and mint on a plate. Give individual dishes to each diner to prepare a mixture of fish sauce and soy sauce as desired. Each person should take a leaf of lettuce and place several leaves of mint inside it. Then wrap the lettuce around an imperial roll and dip in the fish sauce and soy sauce mixture.

Chef's Tip:

The pork in the rolls can be replaced easily with ground chicken, and fish sauce or light soy sauce can substitute for the mushroom seasoning. Add fresh mint or basil to the meat filling. If you don’t like the texture of the rice paper wrappers, try spring roll wrappers instead.

Recipe from chef Michael Ton of Basa in Louisville, Kentucky, excerpted with permission from World in a Skillet: A Food-Lover’s Tour of the New American South.