Friday, June 15, 2007
Spring rolls at home
The spring rolls (egg rolls, harumaki) that one gets at Asian restaurants can be really awful: tired, greasy, limp and old.
But you can make them yourself. It really is not very hard. One tends to become intimidated by the long list of ingredients and the prospect of deep frying, but in reality, it’s not such a long list and the deep frying involves maybe two cups of oil and a small saucepan. The frying is over in five minutes, at most.
The most tedious aspect of making homemade spring rolls is the chopping of the ingredients, but again, a lazy afternoon in front of the kitchen TV or conversation with a friend can take care of this.
You can put pretty much anything you want in a spring roll. The only thing you have to remember is that you want a nice crunch of fresh vegetables to contrast the crispiness of the wrapper and the softness of the other fillings.
Here’s a recipe for chicken spring rolls, but you can substitute pork or shrimp or even leave it vegetarian.
A couple of things I consider essential to a good spring roll are:
Green onions (scallions)
All the rest is just gravy.
So, let’s assemble the ingredients:
Bean sprouts, washed
Carrots, julienned as finely as you can make them
Garlic, diced very finely
Grated ginger (freeze and then Microplane)
Green onions (scallions) sliced in thin rings
Snow peas/mangetouts, washed, with spine thread and both ends removed, then julienned
Red serrano chiles, julienned (optional)
Shredded cabbage (optional)
Shiitake or other non-supermarket mushroom, julienned
Boneless skinless chicken
Salt to taste
Spring roll wrappers
The reason I haven’t given quantities is because it’s totally up to you — it’s like making a pizza. You can omit or add as you like.
In a nonstick frying pan, sauté ingredients in sesame or peanut oil in a rough order of which takes longest to cook, ie. chilies, carrots first, followed by mushrooms and snow peas. You basically just want them to fry for about 4-5 minutes total. The bean sprouts, green onions, cabbage and ginger can literally be thrown in last for about a minute just to warm them over. They’ll get cooked further during the deep fry.
Sauté the meat in sesame or peanut oil, if you’re using, separately until done. With chicken, brown all over and cook through. Same with pork. Cook shrimp (completely shelled) all the way through. Then fine-chop all.
Mix all the ingredients together and let cool to room temperature.
Your spring roll wrappers (they should be about 6” square) will be frozen. Bring the whole package up to room temperature. It will take about 30 minutes.
Put on the oil. To save oil, use a smallish pot, not a wok or a saucepan. I suggest a two-quart pot. Use enough oil to cover one spring roll, and preheat to upper medium-low — about 7 o’clock on your stove dial. It will take about ten minutes to get up to temperature, so now get to work making the rolls.
In a small bowl, mix a teaspoon of flour with about a couple of tablespoons of water. You want to make a runny paste. Have a pastry brush at hand. You can also use an egg, beaten slightly.
Peel off a spring roll wrapper. They will be quite sticky and hard to peel off, but if you have the right wrappers, they will be remarkably resilient and won’t tear, provided you do it very slowly.
Arrange the wrapper so it’s a diamond. Place some filling, perhaps half a cup to 3/4 cup, in the rough middle. Now fold the bottom corner over the filling and slightly tuck it in on the other side. Now fold in the sides as if you’re making an envelope. When they’re folded in, brush the top of the wrapper triangle with some flour-water, and roll the whole package like a cigar over the top.
You just made a spring roll.
With tongs, drop the roll into the oil. Chances are that the first one will cook very quickly — maybe only 30 seconds. But then the oil temperature will come down and the others will be easier to control.
If you want, cook them partially and then refrigerate. They’ll reheat well in a toaster oven. Serve with soy or garlic-chili sauce. They’ll be the best spring rolls you ever tasted — and you made them yourself.
Things you can add to a spring roll:
Bamboo shoots (thanks for reminding me, Naoko)
Asian noodles (glass or rice)