I had a half-Vietnamese roommate in college, and his mom’s specialty (as far as we were concerned) was rice paper-wrapped egg rolls. They were amazing!
These were the first eggrolls I’d ever seen wrapped in rice papers instead of wontons. They were crispy and flaky and light.
His mom only made them at Christmastime, when the whole family was around to help with the chopping and wrapping, but when she did make them she would make hundreds of them all at once. They froze beautifully and he would bring gallon Ziplocs full of these tasty treats back to us after Christmas break!
An aside about unhealthy food
I wrote somewhere that RoamingParkers.com was going to be about travel, adventure, conservation, and food (especially healthy food) but it seems that I am frequently posting about delicious but decidedly unhealthy things like fried fish, cast iron king cake, and now fried eggrolls.
Basically, I figure I can justify my dietary idiosyncracies by claiming adherence to Michael Pollan’s flexitarian Food Rules, one of which is, “Eat all the junk food you want so long as you cook it yourself!”
Most junk food is so highly processed with special 12-syllable chemical ingredients that if you only eat what you prepare yourself then you’ll be cutting back significantly and you’ll be much better off. Plus, you’ll understand more about the process of preparing junk food and you’re likely to be able to find some healthier substitutes for some of the 12-syllable chemicals.
Back to the Spring rolls
To make the filling, I used my Salad King grinder to make a fine slaw out of a small head of cabbage and mixed in a bag of shredded carrots and a can of bean sprouts (drained). In hindsight, I think I should have chopped a small onion into it as well.
To that, I added a couple of pinches of Chinese 5-seasoning, a couple of tablespoons of soy sauce, and a big glop of oyster sauce. I simmered this until the carrots were starting to soften a little bit then stirred in a heaping teaspoon of cornstarch. When I tasted it, it seemed like it needed something so I added a touch of Tony Chachere’s Creole seasoning to kick it up a notch.
At the end, while the veggies were still piping hot, I added in a package of 250-count shrimp and turned off the heat.
It is important to let the filling cool and drain because hot filling makes steam which will screw up the wrappers and ruin the frying. You want cool, dry filling to stuff your wrappers.
I used round rice pancake wrappers because it’s all I could find locally. They come hard and crackery, and to use them you take one and soak it in water for 10-20 seconds and lay it on a wet towel. Then you spoon 1-2 teaspoons of the filling onto one edge of the wrapper and roll it just like a burrito, making sure to make a tight roll with the ends nicely filled-out.
Once you have a bunch of these you can choose any one of several ways of finishing them –
- Eat them without frying them.
- Spray them with cooking oil and bake them directly on the oven rack.
- Pan-fry them in about a quarter inch of oil, turning them several times until they are golden brown, then drain them.
- Deep fry them, then drain them.
Obviously, I pan-fried them, but even with the draining, they ended up a little too oily to my taste – so next time (and there will definitely be a next time) I’ll probably spray them with oil and bake them.
What to try differently next time
- I bet broccoli and beef would be a sublime eggroll filling!
- Chop an onion into the filling
- Use rice papers instead of rice wontons.
- Spray them with oil and bake them instead of frying them.
Partly because of the excess oil, these eggrolls became soggy as they cooled – so they were best eaten almost directly out of the oil.
But they reheat wonderfully in a toaster oven and turn right back crispy!
I didn’t know it was even possible to resurrect a soggy eggroll, but these were even better drained until soggy and then toasted until crispy again!