When you find a spring roll that's more crisp than greasy and actually full of flavor, it's cause for celebration. So break out the party hats and head down to Cong Ly in Chinatown, a Vietnamese joint with friendly staff and a good command of the fryer.
The spring roll ("Cha Gio"; $4 for 4 and $7 for 8) wrappers are flaky and deeply crisp, with blistered layers that make for a hefty crunch. There's just a little grease, enough to make the wrapper glisten but still feel light. Inside is a ground pork filling mixed with mushrooms and vermicelli noodles—a little sweet, a lot porky, and plenty savory. The texture is compact but a little loose, like a freshly stuffed sausage.
The wrapper stays crisp and hot even after dousing in nuoc cham (diluted fish sauce with sugar), so you may want to consider ordering the Bun Cha Gio ($5) for a full meal. Chopped spring rolls come in a bowl of thin rice noodles, bean sprouts, scallions, peanuts, and some fresh herbs. Toss on the sauce, and maybe some chili paste, and you have yourself a full meal that balances fried excess with cool, clean flavors. Like a salad—almost.
124 Hester Street, New York, NY 10002 (map)