The story behind Mama Hong’s Spring Rolls

In the section “Bite Rotterdam” we examine the well-known Rotterdam dishes. How did they grow up? How is the dish made and what is the secret ingredient? This time in the spotlight: Mama Hong’s famous spring rolls.

While shopping, eat a spring roll at Mama Hong: every Rotterdam does it once in a while. There is always a line in front of the stalls in HEMA and in Lijnbaan. Did you know that Spring Rolls are not made on site but at Berkele-on-Rodnrijs? We visited the large production kitchen in search of the story behind this popular snack.

From the kitchen table to a small factory

The Mama Hong building is located in an industrial area in Berkel en Rodenrijs. Thuan Nguyen excitedly opens the door of his miniature spring roll factory, which is currently busy. “We need more space, so we’re doing the renovation.” When we walk into the production area, a lot of fresh bread rolls come out of the oven. “These are ours that m. We make everything ourselves here.”

The most important question comes first: Who is Mama Hong? “This is my mom,” Thawan says. “Hong is her first name.” Although the Vietnamese seller is now a big business, it remains a family business. “My brother and sister run a booth and I am in charge of the production. When I was a kid, we would sit at my mom’s kitchen table taking off the spring roll wrappers.”

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Vietnamese refugees

There is a long history behind selling spring roll. Thuan’s parents fled during the Vietnam War and ended up in the Netherlands via the Philippines. “I was a year old at the time, and now that I have children, I realize how difficult it is to escape. My parents went to sea with a baby on a homemade wooden boat. The chance that you will not survive such a journey is very high.”

You can also hear that Thuan’s father had tenacity and strength at the start of the company. “He had to learn Dutch for half a day, but he also wanted to do something else. So he started selling spring rolls in the horse markets.” It turned out that it was not so easy, because the Dutch had never heard of the Vietnamese snack forty years ago. “My dad always said, ‘These farmers really don’t eat those spring rolls! “.But he manages to do that by letting him taste the pieces all the time.”

Find the perfect edge

Toan’s father’s goal was to get the Dutch on the spring roll menu and build a new life here with his family. Thuan himself also has a life mission that he talks about passionately: developing the perfect spring roll wrap. Or flange as he calls it. When Thuan took over Mama Hong with his brothers, he wanted to start making all the ingredients himself.

The spring roll dough contains only flour, water and salt, but the perfect batter was no easy task. Thuan visited other entrepreneurs, such as bakers, and began a collaboration with the university in Wageningen. “It took 15 years, but it worked. Spring roll should be crunchy. But when you fry the batter, the moisture wants to come out. This makes the edge soft and that’s not nice. With too much Trial and error I figured out the trick, but this is still a big secret! ”

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Mama Hong Spring Roll Ingredients

Once a week, Thuan has a spring roll production day in Mama Hong’s kitchen. “Then I start between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. and make about a thousand liters of a flange mixture. This goes through a cylinder that turns it into a long roll sleeve, and we cut it into squares again.”

On this day, 400 kilograms of stuffing is also made, which is different in Holland than in Vietnam itself. “Some of the ingredients have not been on sale here for 40 years, so we started working with alternatives. Those other raw materials were also more popular with the Dutch.”

Mama Hong Spring Rolls contain chicken, white cabbage, carrots, onions, vermicelli and spices (such as pepper, salt, and sugar). For the vegetarian version, chicken is replaced with potatoes. “After all, we are in Holland!” After the spring roll casings are filled with mixtures, they are immediately frozen. Boxes full of pies go to two stalls in Rotterdam, where they are fried to order. After a few minutes, the spring roll is ready to eat. In both variants there are pumps with sauces: sweet and sour and sambal. Enjoy your meal and don’t burn your mouth!

success factor

According to Tuan, what is the success factor of the Vietnamese Mama Hong spring roll? “That’s crunchy,” he laughs. “And the sweet and sour sauce, which we also make ourselves. Some customers eat more sauce than their spring roll.”

The family will continue their spring roll business with passion for the foreseeable future. “We love making spring rolls and you love our snacks.”

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