Chef Notes: Homemade Egg Rolls

Chef Notes: Homemade Egg Rolls

It’s become something of an annual tradition to have a homemade egg or spring roll night. The kids really get into it. It’s a fun way to bring the family together around the table and have a really interactive meal. Before you know it, everyone is talking about their favorite YouTube video or what their reading or how school is going without the sometimes awkward question and answer session that you can get into with teenagers.

photo by Maya Visnyei

I usually spread this over two days.  One day to prep and the other to enjoy.  Let’s talk wrappers first.  Do you want fried egg rolls or fresh spring rolls?  Both are easy and fun, one is simply healthier than the other.  Given that this is something you’re probably only going to do occasionally I wouldn’t feel too guilty about choosing the fried eggs rolls.  But to be honest, I love them equally.  The egg roll wrappers are very thin, soft, and found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store.  The spring roll (rice paper) wrappers are found in the Asian food section.

Next decide on your fillings. A protein or two like:  firm tofu, egg, ground pork, or shrimp are traditional choices.  If you chose tofu, dry it a bit, chop into fine cubes, and sauté in a bit of sesame oil until lightly browned. If you chose egg, scramble then pour into a large skillet, cook like you would a crepe, then slice thinly into strips. The pork should be browned. I buy the pre-cooked salad sized shrimp and coarsely chop. Start putting all of your fillings into separate small bowls or a lazy susan, if you have one.

Other great fillings are soaked rice noodles cut into 2 inch sections, shredded cabbage, thinly sliced snow peas, shredded carrots, sliced scallions, thinly sliced shitake mushrooms, bean sprouts, pea shoots, thinly sliced Holland peppers, crushed peanuts or cashews, thinly sliced radishes, the options are really endless. The trick is to slice your veggies very thinly. This becomes very important when you’re wrapping.  Also, if you’re using the rice wrappers, you may want to very briefly blanche your veggies.  They’ll have better color and will be a little easier to eat when wrapped.

To use the wrappers, just check out the back of the package the directions are very simple. They show you how to roll and seal. Be sure to keep them damp and work quickly. I put a little bowl of water at each place setting. For the spring rolls you can just fill, wrap, dip and eat.  For the egg rolls, I have a little deep fryer that I can move to the table. I use canola oil and fry at 335. I don’t want them to cook too quickly because the veggies need to steam a bit. You’ll need a set of tongs or two as well. Just fill, wrap, fry until very golden brown on each side, dip, and eat. They tend to be hot in the middle so give them a minute or two to cool.

Oh right, the dip. The real reason we eat either of them. They’re a great vehicle for a homemade Asian dipping sauce.  Use your creative juices here and combine a few Asian sauces like soy sauce, sriracha sauce, mirin, sesame oil, hoisin sauce, honey, sweet and sour sauce, ground ginger, fish sauce, oyster sauce, etc, etc, etc….  You can even whisk in peanut or cashew butter.

This is a great party idea too.  Just set it up buffet style and let everyone go to town.

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