Egg rolls are almost an obsession for me. I can remember when the egg rolls served by Chinese restaurants were plump with an assortment of tasty bits of assorted veggies, bean sprouts, roast pork, and tiny shrimp wrapped in a crisp shell that crackled and shattered when bitten into. Somewhere along the way, the tasty egg roll fillings of my childhood were replaced by non-descript, mushy, foul-tasting commercial egg roll filling mixes sold by food distributors.
Really good eggrolls may be elusive in Chinese restaurants these days, but not to worry. They are easy enough to make at home and will be far better than the rolls that most Chinese restaurants are tossing into take-out bags. They may take a bit of time to put together, but the result is well worth the time.
A good eggroll, in my opinion, should have a nice variety of finely shredded and stir fried vegetables. I like to add a small amount of pork or shrimp as well, but if your assortment of veggies is interesting enough and nicely seasoned, they can be totally vegetarian and still be superior to bland take-out eggrolls. As you can see in my photograph, the filling I prefer is really a meal in itself. In fact, I often make a large batch and just serve eggrolls for Saturday dinner all by themselves. They are that good.
After choosing the ingredients for your eggroll filling, there really is only one important tip…the filling must be cooled and drained well before rolling up in the eggroll wrapper prior to frying. Eliminating excess moisture in the filling will cut down on the spattering when the rolls are fried.
Egg roll wrappers have been available in every supermarket I have shopped in for the past 20 years and are nothing more than squares of thin pasta dough. They can actually be used for Italian lasagna and manicotti. There are usually around two dozen wrappers in a package so when I decide I’m in the mood for eggrolls, I make a big batch. Once filled and rolled up, uncooked, filled eggrolls freeze beautifully.
Just about anything can be rolled up inside an eggroll wrapper, but I prefer the familiar version that starts with very finely shredded cabbage, either regular or Chinese cabbage work equally well. I have found that with the addition of whatever optional ingredients I’m in the mood for, starting with one good sized head of either regular or Chinese cabbage, I will have enough filling for about two dozen eggrolls, the number of wrappers in most packages.
I season and stir fry each ingredient separately and drain well either in a colander or on paper towels until cool. Squeezing lightly between a few layers of paper towels is helpful in getting the filling as dry as possible. I combine everything after completely cooled and well-drained, then follow the easy wrapping instructions found on the back of every package of eggroll wrappers.
Once rolled, the eggrolls can be fried right away, or refrigerated for a few hours until needed. I freeze uncooked eggrolls on a cookie sheet and place in freezer bags when completely frozen for future use. They may also be frozen after frying, but I prefer to freeze them uncooked and fry them when ready to serve.
About the frying…they can be deep fried, but I prefer to shallow fry them a few at a time in a pan with high sides in enough preheated hot canola oil to come up to a little over half the height of the eggrolls over medium high heat. Drain well on paper towels and serve with hot Chinese mustard, sweet & sour sauce or a good brand of soy sauce (Kikkoman or Kimlan are my favorites).
These are the ingredients I prefer. I always start with cabbage and carrot and add whatever else I happen to have on hand. Don’t try to use everything on this list at the same time, just choose a few items that suit you. Slice, shred, season and cook each item separately, drain or squeeze to remove excess moisture and cool well before filling and rolling them.
Carrots…grated on the large holes of a food grater
Green onions…finely minced
Chinese Mushrooms…soaked, squeezed dry and minced
Celery…very finely sliced
Green beans…finely sliced into rounds
Fine rice noodles…soaked, drained well and snipped with scissors into smaller lengths
Roast Pork…leftover American or Chinese BBQ style, and finely diced
Ground pork…1/4 lb lean ground pork, well browned and drained
Small shrimp…cooked or uncooked, but sautéed and cooled
Chinese sausage…finely diced, sautéed and drained well
Garlic…just a small amount, finely minced or mashed
Sesame oil…just a few drops to finish at the end
Sherry…for browning ground pork
Sugar…just a pinch