Some cooking activities are more fun when done with a group of friends. One of these activities is making egg rolls. The process of chopping the vegetables and forming the egg rolls can be tedious if done alone. With company though, it can be leisurely time spent in the kitchen catching up with news of each other, and yielding a rewarding outcome.
Believe it or not this was my first time making this Asian fried concoction. I was impartial to them until I tried my friend’s egg rolls. Dang, those things were good! Great proportion of meat to cabbage, unlike the ones you get at restaurants that are thick-skinned and filled with just cabbage and a sliver or two of tasteless shrimp.
I usually get her to make me 50 at a time and freeze them in batches of three, so I can just take them out and reheat in a toaster oven when I’m in the middle of a baking run with no opportunity to cook.
This time though, I was wondering if she could just teach me.
There are two ingredients I want to point out here. Wood ear mushrooms are a type of fungus that grows on trees. They have no taste and their purpose is to add crunch and texture within your egg rolls.
The second is sotanghon noodles, also called mung bean threads. These are not to be confused with rice noodles. Sotanghon noodles are sometimes called glass or cellophane noodles because they are translucent when cooked. They usually come in dried form and need to be soaked in water before use.
The wood ear mushrooms were kind of uneven in shape and had to be chopped by hand and that took me a while to slice thinly. My friend processed the carrots and cabbage in a mandoline which did short time on those ingredients.
Don’t hesitate to adjust the seasoning to your taste or increase/decrease the meat, cabbage, carrots etc. The taste may vary according to the moisture in your chopped ingredients. It is ideal to shred your carrots at least four hours in advance so they can dry. This also reduces the black by-product of frying, as these are the sugars that escape and get burned. I was not too happy about using a Wanton soup base to season the egg roll mix and it has nothing to do with MSG either because I believe most of its effect is a myth anyway. I’m of the everything from scratch mentality, but sometimes some seasoning mixes cannot be replicated in taste so I do have my exceptions.
My friend said you can also use taro to substitute for the pork. I guess this would make for a vegetarian option.
I did a murderous number to a couple of egg rolls as I was shaping them. When you are an egg roll virgin, your tendency is to roll them like a burrito – flat. The advice is to get them tightly wound from the get-go. It took me a couple of tries, but I think by my 20th I kinda got the hang of it. :p.
Pictures of my friend shaping the egg rolls are at the end of this post. She makes a better hand model as my hands look like they belong to a child.
I cut the recipe in half if some of you want to attempt these on your own. We made 75 egg rolls but I felt it wouldn’t have been any worse to make a hundred since there was two of us and my friend was rolling them twice as fast as I was. She said her daughter was the expert and she can nimbly get them in pristine round shape with not much effort at all. I guess she got her rolling them when she was 5 yrs. old (just kidding).
We fried them outdoors. I might like the smell of fried food but I have a feeling I wouldn’t like the odor of fried egg rolls lingering in the house for days.
They freeze wonderfully. See storage suggestions at the end of the recipe.
Pork Egg Rolls
Makes around 35-38
1.5 lbs. of ground pork (fatty is good)
1/2 head of cabbage (12 oz.)
1 large carrot
1 medium red onions, diced
3 oz. dry wood ear mushrooms
1 fistful of sotanghon noodles soaked till malleable, 10 minutes (this weighed 2 oz. after hydrated)
1 packet wonton soup base (I used Dynasty brand, .28 oz each)
1 tablespoon of oyster sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. fish sauce
1 1/2 packages of spring roll wrappers (Wei-chun brand, 25 pieces each)
Peanut or canola oil for deep frying
Mix rice vinegar and soy to taste.
You can also use bottled sweet and sour sauce.
Place the ground pork in a large bowl.
Using a mandoline, shred the cabbage and carrots into thin strips (cabbage around 1/8 inch by 1 inch, carrots 1/4 inch by 1/2 inch). Thinly slice the wood ear mushrooms (about 1/8 inch by 3/4 inch). Dice the onions. Cut the sotanghon noodles into 1-inch lengths. Add to the pork.
Add the wonton soup base, oyster sauce, salt, black pepper and fish sauce. Mix the ingredients together in the bowl with your hand, evenly distributing everything (Yes, it is really better to use your hands.) Microwave 1/4 tsp of the raw filling for 40 seconds. It’ll probably be overcooked and dry, but at least it will give you an idea of the taste. Adjust seasoning as needed.
Prepare a flour and water slurry (mixture) for sealing the egg rolls. Instructions are usually at the back of the spring roll wrapper package.
To fill the egg rolls, arrange the spring roll wrapper on a diagonal on a cutting board or countertop. Place 1.5 tbs. of filling on the bottom end of the wrapper and start rolling it tightly into a cylinder. You may have to unroll and re-roll to tighten it again. Midway through rolling, pinch both ends where the meat filling ends to further tighten the roll. Fold the tip on either side over, and roll over before finally moistening the area about 2 inches from the very tip (the one on the top) with the flour slurry to seal the roll.
Fill a deep, wide-mouthed pot with about 2 inches of oil. Heat to 350˚F and fry a batch, adding the egg rolls, one at a time until the rolls float, then turn each one over and fry for another 5 minutes or until they become golden brown. Using tongs, carefully fish the rolls out of the oil and arrange them vertically in a wire basket or a pan lined with paper towels to let the oil drip out. They remain crunchy this way.
Wait for the oil to come back to temperature before adding the next batch.
Storage: If you want to freeze them without frying them. Lay them out on a baking sheet and freeze.When they are hard you can group them as needed. Take them out two hours before frying. If you want to freeze them already cooked, wait for the egg rolls to cool completely. I like wrapping them in foil in groups of three. I can toast them directly in a 350F toaster oven for about 12 to 15 minutes.
How to shape Egg rolls
Here are additional pictures of the midpoint fold:
And I thought I’d show a measure of the cuts, CSI style