If you’ve sampled the vast selection of Asian restaurants in the Twin Cities, you’ve probably eaten an egg roll or two — and you’ve probably found a few hits or misses. Different dipping sauces, thinner wrappers, meatier interiors — all of these things make the basic fried, filled wrapper rather versatile. Growing up in a town with hardly more than a greasy spoon diner, Perkins, and a Chinese buffet, I once thought the egg roll status quo was wrapped pork and cabbage, deep-fried and dripping with grease, and left on a hot plate for hours until stale. Not until I grew older did I realize that these sodden rolls with their gelatinous, bright red sauce were (at least in theory) one and the same as the delightfully flavorful, noodle-filled variety my Great-Aunt Lek made for weddings and family reunions.
As you’ve probably found, egg rolls can take many forms, whether they’re given a light fish sauce-flavored dressing or a treatment of sweet and sour. Regardless of the filling, wrapper, or sauce, one factor is imperative: They must be fresh. Most nights, takeout from a trusted vendor or a quick stop on Eat Street is enough to sate an egg roll fix… but, if you find yourself especially motivated, try making them yourself — you can’t get fresher than that.
What follows are two different recipes: The first approximates the beloved egg rolls of my childhood, made by the Thai woman who introduced spice to an otherwise down-home Scandinavian American family. The other is a simpler, meatier recipe — great if you’re in a pinch for time — from her daughter, representing a fusion of the traditional Thai cuisine on which she was raised and the many variations available elsewhere.
From left to right: bean thread noodles, soaking the noodles, oyster sauce, cutting the noodles, adding the oyster sauce (for Jean’s Egg Roll recipe), mixing the filling.
Jerry’s Egg Rolls
Makes approximately 40 rolls
½ small cabbage, shredded (about 6 cups)
1 tsp salt
10-15 oz bean thread noodles
2 large carrots, peeled and shredded
1 (10-oz) bag bean sprouts
2 lb ground pork
4 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp water
4 scallions, finely chopped
4 tsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
40 (approximately) egg roll wrappers (such as TYJ Spring Roll Pastry, available in Asian grocery stores)
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp water
Preparing the Filling
1. Put shredded cabbage in bowl. Sprinkle with salt. Mix and let sit for an hour or so to draw out liquid. Then pick up by the handful, squeeze out liquid, and place in colander to drain. When all the cabbage is in the colander, spray with water to remove salt. Leave to drain. Then place cabbage in a very large mixing bowl.
2. Soak bean thread noodles in water for about 2 hours until they are nearly transparent. Drain.
3. Cut noodles into 2- to 3-inch lengths with kitchen scissors.
4. Add the noodles, carrots, and bean sprouts to the cabbage; mix.
5. Mix ground pork, soy sauce, 4 tbsp water, scallions, and fresh ginger. Mix well and add to the cabbage mixture, mixing with your hands.
From left to right: separating the wrappers, shaping the filling (not shown — folding the bottom corner of the wrapper over the filling), folding one end into the middle, folding the opposite corner in like an envelope, brushing the edge of the wrapper with the egg-water mixture, and a comparison of a standard rolled egg roll to a longer “party” egg roll which can be cut crosswise into bite-sized pieces for a crowd.
Rolling the Egg Rolls
1. Combine the beaten egg and 1 tbsp of water.
2. Place the egg roll wrappers on a plate and cover with a damp dish towel to keep moist.
3. Place one wrapper in front of you in a diamond shape with one of the corners pointing toward your body.
4. Shape about ¼-⅓ c of the filling mixture into a 4-inch by 1 ¼-inch “sausage” (as shown) and place, 1 ½-2 inches from the corner nearest you (make sure the length of the “sausage” stretches from left to right).
5. Fold the corner nearest you over the filling and roll the filling once.
6. Fold the left and right sides into the middle to create an “envelope” shape; continue to roll until 1 ½-inch or so of the point of the “envelope” remains.
7. Brush the edges of this point with the egg and water mixture to seal the wrapper closed; finish rolling.
8. Repeat until all filling is gone.
From left to right: the rolled egg rolls as they begin to fry, the fully cooked product, draining (upright) in a colander.
1. In a large pan, heat 1 inch of canola oil over medium heat until approximately 375˚F (hot but not smoking — if you drop a splash of water in the pan, the oil should sizzle).
2. Fry the completed, raw egg rolls until golden brown; turn over and fry the other side until golden brown.
3. Remove the cooked egg rolls with a slotted spoon and stand them up in a colander to drain (don’t stack them horizontally, since the grease will be absorbed by the bottom ones!). Continue to fry until all rolls are cooked.
4. Serve with your choice of sauce (i.e. sweet chili sauce, hot mustard, or a combination of the two).
Jean’s Egg Rolls
Makes approximately 60 rolls
80 g bean thread noodles
3 lbs ground pork
2 cloves garlic, grated
4 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
6 tbsp oyster sauce
10 oz shredded cabbage (to cut time, you can use the pre-shredded variety)
1 egg, beaten
1. Soak bean thread noodles in water for about 2 hours until they are nearly transparent. Drain.
2. Cut noodles into 2- to 3-inch lengths with kitchen scissors.
3. Mix the noodles, pork, garlic, 2 eggs, salt, pepper, oyster sauce, and cabbage together using your hands.
See above for assembly and frying instructions.