Call Me By Your Nem

While a new South Asian culinary wave washes over Paris, we’re tempted to go back to basics for a moment, to the essentials, the origins of it all – the mighty springroll (otherwise known as a nem in French)! After several rolls of rice paper and a few liters of nước chấm sauce had been wolfed down everywhere from Chinatown to Belleville, we’ve put together our supreme list of the best egg rolls in Paris, just for you.

Our criteria:
- Fait maison – everything is homemade and handmade, it’s the only way to do it!
- Vietnamese only– you won’t find any Aveyron egg rolls on our list!
- Irreproachable crispiness – extreme amounts of care have been given to the crunch-temperature ratio!
- Tasty stuffing – whether it be pork, chicken, shrimp or vegetables.
- Good company – salad, fresh mint, and nước chấm dipping sauce made with fish sauce, water, sugar, fresh garlic and chilies.

The most cinematographic
La Dalle des Olympiades and its surprising 1970s cityscape hides a little gem under its pagoda roof: DNJ Café. With its neon lights, French signage and plastic sunflowers, the almost Tarantio-esque décor harbors one of the best springroll shops in the neighborhood. There’s a perfectly balanced four-piecer on the menu that’s incredibly crispy, with melt-in-your-mouth stuffing and pickles galore – even if the nước chấm sauce could have packed a little more punch. Watch out for house tricks when it comes time to pay though!
DNJ Café – Dalle des Olypiades – 24 rue du Javelot, 75013 Paris

The most nem dropping
On the walls of his restaurant, chef Te Ve Pin proudly displays photos of his success, his bright smile and his recognition by Ducasse. But beyond this little ego trip, Te is a veritable ambassador of Vietnam, putting a gourmet twist on the recipes of the country he left in 1968. His wife Aline prides herself on selling the neighborhood’s most expensive springrolls at Pho Tai – perfectly grilled, deliciously stuffed with cabbage, soy beans and chives, they deserve a prize for the best vegetarian springrolls, … So yes, Aline, you’re right, they’re expensive but they’re so good!
Pho Tai – 13 rue Philibert-Lucot – 75013 Paris

The most authentic
At the heart of the bustling rue de Belleville, there’s no respite for this 15 m2 spot whose lively energy will really remind you of Vietnam, its damp heat, seductive scents and colorful discussions. On the menu printed in Comic Sans MS with lines corrected with Wite-Out, we opt for a portion of four chicken springrolls, then let ourselves get carried away by the delicately tasty and perfectly golden fried goods – even if they were a tad greasy. But with the salad, generous amount of mint and very delicate garlicky nước chấm sauce, everything goes down easy.
Paris-Belleville – 43 bis rue de Belleville –75019 Paris

The craziest spot
The latest addition to the neighborhood, everything at Phở Bờm is dressed in green (from the neon lights to the fake plants), is quite eye-catching and teases you with the promise of hand-crafted springrolls. And they’re almost entirely perfect: properly imperfect rolls that reassure you that they’re homemade, crispiness without greasiness, pork, glass noodle and carrot stuffing, and best of all, a nước chấm sauce that’s worthy of a golden medal at the Salon de l’Asie – mild, garlicky, spicy, sweet, colorful… in a word, subtle – so much so that we almost wanted to sip it straight from the dipping bowl! In short, this imperial eggroll is something of Proustian madele-nem.
Phở Bờm – 71 avenue de Choisy – 75013 Paris

The most original
For four generations, Minh Chau (pictured here) has been drawing in an eclectic crowd in the Marais neighborhood with its bathroom-less 25 m2 space, all thanks to the power of its springrolls. Made with pork – but also available as a vegetarian version – they are flamboyantly foolproof and measure a good 15 cm long, which makes them quite unique. The dough, which sticks gently to your teeth, combines unrivaled crispiness and texture. The fine black mushroom stuffing is comforting and the nước chấm sauce – with just the right amount of sweetness – wins you over completely. Certainly, it’s a lone springroll and its sides beg for more, but we’d like to solemnly take this opportunity to ask that a monument be built to the Doung family, in honor of the best and oldest springroll recipe in Paris.
Minh Chau – 10 rue de la Verrerie – 75004 Paris

François Phan
PIcture © Agathe Hernandez