Ever since I was a kid, egg rolls have been one of my favorite things about Chinese food. We’d eat Chinese takout regularly and I was always quite content to try and make a meal out of just egg rolls ( I was never allowed to succeed though, which is why I still to this day make a meal out of hot & sour soup and eggrolls). When my mother discovered egg roll wrappers at the grocery store, complete with a recipe on back, home made egg rolls became a regular in the dinner rotation and I finally was able to realize the dream of nothing but egg rolls for dinner. Over the years, I’ve made them myself now and again, but I seem to forget about them as a regular dinner option. I suppose I had it in my mind you need a bunch of special ingredients and that they are a ton of work, but after teaching them last spring to my PB&J classes, I realized most of the work is just chopping – which is perfect for a kid’s cooking class. Everyone chops! The downside of egg rolls is that once you put the filling in the wrapper and fold them, they need to be cooked ASAP, as the skins as they are called don’t hold up well. Thankfully, folding eggrolls is as easy as making burritos, so you can make the filling ahead of time and then just make your eggrolls to order.
The recipe I teach the kids – based on this one – bakes them. There is a healthy component to the program I work for, but there’s also a level of chaos to be avoided. A kitchen full of kids with knives is one thing, but kids and a frying pan of hot oil spattering everywhere? Yeah, no. So when I teach this to kids, we bake the egg rolls and they turn out okay. However, I prefer them fried, so that’s how I make them at home, but if you want to try them baked, go for it.
I find doing all my chopping – known as mise en place in professional culinary circles – up front is key, as is chopping everything finely. I simply have all my prepped ingredients in small bowls, lined up ready to go. I will also combine ingredients that go in at the same time in the same bowl (less dishes in the end), although I did recently forget I’d put the minced garlic on top of the bowl of chopped broccoli florets and then attempted to nibble on some broccoli while cooking. I had fresh breath for days I tell you. Speaking of broccoli, I use the stalks as well, but as they take longer to cook, I keep them separate from the florets and toss them in my pan sooner than the florets. I tend to use either tofu (even better if you use marinated tofu) or shrimp, cut into bite size pieces, but the original recipe suggests shredded chicken or turkey can be used (and I think shredded pork could be nice too, but then I prefer pork to any other meat). Lastly, I serve these with mustard and homemade duck sauce (of course I do) – my preferred duck sauce is from Put ’em Up! Fruit and is made of peaches, but the Original Moosewood cookbook also has a nice duck sauce recipe using peaches, apples, pears and plums that doesn’t require you to can it (it can be frozen nicely AND I’ve made it using whatever fruit I had on hand and still had it turn out delightfully.)
One advantage homemade eggrolls have over takeout ones is that they are filled with more than just cabbage and mystery bits of meat. Come on, you know you’ve had those. Homemade eggrolls like these are a complete meal in a fried skin – you can round out the meal with some egg drop or hot and sour soup, but it’s not entirely necessary.
1/2 onion, chopped finely
1 carrot, julienned
small stem of broccoli, chopped finely, keeping the stalks separate from the florets if applicable
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4-1/2 head of cabbage, shredded finely
about a cup of shrimp and/or tofu, diced (or shredded cooked chicken, beef or pork)
1 package egg roll ‘skins’
Combine and set aside for sauce:
1 tbsn water
1 1/2 tbsn soy sauce
1 tsn vegetable oil
1 tsn brown sugar
1 tbsn + 1 tsn corn starch
Heat 1 tbsn oil (veg, sesame, olive, whatever you have) in pan. Saute onions for 2 minutes over medium heat. Add carrots and if using, broccoli stems. Cook until carrots soften (around 3-5 minutes). Add broccoli florets and garlic. Cook about 2 minutes. Add cabbage and cook until cabbage color brightens (about 2 minutes). Add shrimp and tofu (or meat) and cook until shrimp begins to turn pink. Stir in the sauce until combined and remove from heat.
Lay egg roll wrapper so it looks like a diamond. Place 1/4 cup of filling mix just below center of wrap. Tightly roll up, folding ends in (there are pictures on the wrapper package illustrating how to) and moisten top corner with a drop of water to seal. Drop in hot oil and fry until golden or bake on greased cookie sheet at 400° for 18-20 minutes. Serve with your choice of sauce.