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These five-spice pork and shrimp rolls are a fragrant and festive Singaporean dish

(Scott Suchman for The Washington Post/food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post)
Ngo Hiang (Five-Spice Pork and Shrimp Rolls)
Active time:1 hour 50 mins
Total time:2 hours 50 mins, including cooling time
Servings:16; makes sixteen 8-inch rolls
Active time:1 hour 50 mins
Total time:2 hours 50 mins, including cooling time
Servings:16; makes sixteen 8-inch rolls

Ngo hiang was one of cookbook author Sharon Wee’s mother’s specialties. Her sister Angela Lee takes pride in making the shrimp-and-pork rolls now, especially for Lunar New Year celebrations. The family eats ngo hiang with chili chuka (chile-garlic sauce) or sambal belacan (shrimp paste with chile and lime).

Ngo hiang means “five fragrances” and relates to the five-spice powder that gives the meat rolls their signature aroma. The five spices frequently used are cassia bark, Sichuan peppercorns, fennel seeds, star anise and cloves. In Singapore, the freshest five-spice powder typically comes from Chinese medicinal shops, where it can be ground to order. Ground five-spice powder, however, is available in well-stocked supermarkets.

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Wee’s mother would chop and mince the individual ingredients first, and then mixed them together by hand, which gave the rolls texture and crunch. To shorten the frying time, she would first steam the rolls, and then cook them until the bean curd skin turned golden brown.

This is a generous recipe because celebratory meals usually accommodate large groups. If you’re serving a smaller group, the rolls can be steamed and then frozen (see Storage).

Wee also provides an alternative method for baking the rolls rather than frying (see Variation).

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Make Ahead: The meat mixture must be made at least 20 minutes and up to 1 day in advance.

Storage: Steamed rolls can be placed in an airtight, resealable bag or container and frozen for up to 3 months. To reheat the rolls, defrost in the refrigerator overnight, then fry or bake according to the instructions below.

Where to Buy: Bean curd skins or sheets, such as Wei-Chuan brand, also called “doufu pi” in Mandarin, can be found in the freezer or refrigerated section or in the noodle section at Asian markets and online. The frozen sheets should be defrosted overnight in the refrigerator before preparation (see NOTES for details). Dark soy sauce can be found at Asian markets or online.

NOTES: Thin, moist, pliable bean curd skins or sheets, such as the ones from Wei-Chuan, can be found in the refrigerated or freezer section of Asian grocery stores or online. The sheets come in many sizes, shapes and thicknesses. This recipe requires paper-thin sheets about 8 inches square. Do not use the ones similar to lasagna-noodle thickness. If you find larger ones or ones in different shapes, you can cut them with scissors to suit this recipe. If you use unrefrigerated dried bean curd skin, you must rehydrate them in tepid water for about 5 minutes, or until they are pliable, before making the rolls. Any scraps from trimming the bean curd sheets can be fried and then dipped in chili sauce as a cook’s treat.

Peanut oil, which has a high smoke point and is especially suitable for deep-frying, imparts a nice flavor to the rolls. Another option is canola oil for those with peanut allergies.


  • 2 pounds ground pork
  • 1 pound shrimp, shelled, deveined and minced
  • One (8-ounce) can water chestnuts, diced into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1 medium yellow onion (about 8 ounces), finely diced
  • 3 ounces shallots, finely diced
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 bunch scallions, upper light and dark green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons five-spice powder
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons untoasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Sixteen (8-inch) bean curd skins or sheets, such as Wei-Chuan brand (see NOTES)
  • Neutral oil suitable for frying, preferably peanut or canola (see NOTES)
  • Cucumber slices, for serving (optional)
  • Tomato slices, for serving (optional)
  • Chili Chuka, for serving (see related recipe)
  • Sambal Belacan, for serving (see related recipe)

Step 1

In a large bowl, combine the pork, shrimp, water chestnuts, onion, shallots, eggs, scallions, five-spice powder, sugar, flour, sesame oil, soy sauce, salt, coriander and white pepper and mix well with your hands or a large spoon to thoroughly combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes and up to 1 day.

Step 2

In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water to form a slurry.

Working with 1 bean curd sheet at a time, place it flat on your work space. If the sheet is slightly stiff, moisten it with a damp cloth to make it more pliable. Scoop 1/2 cup of the pork-shrimp filling and shape it into a line about 1 1/2-inches-thick, a third of the way from the baseline of the skin and about 1 1/2 inches away from either side of the sheet.

Step 3

Fold the baseline flap over the filling, roll one turn, fold in the left and right sides to seal the edges of the roll. Continue to tightly roll and dab the cornstarch slurry along the last edge of the skin to seal tightly. (This will help to prevent the roll from unfurling when fried.) Continue to roll tightly into a log so that the skin is doubled up around most of the roll. Repeat with the remaining bean curd sheets, filling and slurry.

Step 4

Place a metal steamer rack or trivet in a wok or large Dutch oven and fill with enough water to reach the base of the rack. Cover and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat so the water is gently simmering.

Step 5

Working in batches, arrange the rolls in a single layer in a shallow, heatproof dish. Lift the lid off the wok, place the dish over the wire rack and re-cover. Reduce the heat to low and steam gently until the bean curd skin looks opaque and the pork is firm, 5 to 10 minutes. When lifting the pot lid, do not let the condensation drip onto the rolls. Do not oversteam, as the rolls will turn soggy.

Step 6

Transfer the steamed rolls to a platter and let cool completely, about 45 minutes. At this point, you can freeze the rolls, if desired (see Storage).

Step 7

If making all the rolls, position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 250 degrees. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Step 8

Discard the water from the wok or Dutch oven. Wipe it clean and dry, and fill with enough oil that it comes 2 to 3 inches up the side. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until it registers 350 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, or until a drop of bean curd dropped in the oil sizzles vigorously.

Step 9

Working in batches, fry a few rolls at a time, turning occasionally for even browning, until the skin is golden brown and crisp, about 10 minutes total, adjusting the heat as needed. (If your roll unfurls a bit, don’t panic. You can trim away that part of the skin after it has fried.) Using tongs or a spider, transfer the rolls to the lined baking sheet and place in the preheated oven. Repeat with the remaining rolls.

Step 10

Just before serving, transfer the rolls to a cutting board and slice each roll into 1-inch pieces with a serrated knife before plating. Serve with sliced cucumber and tomato, accompanied by chili chuka, sambal belacan or your favorite chili-garlic sauce.

VARIATION: If you prefer to bake, rather than deep-fry, the rolls, position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees. Cool the rolls for about 15 minutes after steaming. Oil a large, rimmed baking sheet and arrange the steamed rolls in a single layer, spacing them 1 inch apart. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, turning them over midway, or until golden and crisp. Line a platter with a tea towel or absorbent paper, and transfer the baked rolls to the prepared platter to cool for a few minutes before serving.

Nutrition Information

Per serving (1 baked roll), based on 16

Calories: 239; Total Fat: 15 g; Saturated Fat: 5 g; Cholesterol: 100 mg; Sodium: 571 mg; Carbohydrates: 8 g; Dietary Fiber: 1 g; Sugar: 3 g; Protein: 17 g

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.

Adapted from Polly Wee, mother of cookbook author Sharon Wee.

Tested by Ann Maloney; email questions to

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