As promised, here’s our recipe for spring rolls.
We’ve been buying them from the Hmong grocery story in Walnut Grove but Daryl brought home some of the wrappers and I thought I’d try making them myself. I basically just used the ingredients we had on hand that seemed to fit and were vegetarian. The market mixes in ground beef, if you want to add meat. Ground pork would also work, but these are really good as is (and vegan if it matters to anybody you’re feeding!).
Heat a splash of canola oil in a sturdy pan or wok on medium heat. Meanwhile, thinly slice a small onion and roughly chop it a bit to make small, thin pieces. Add onion to the hot pan and cook, stirring often. Thinly slice and chop a chunk of cabbage (about half a head to feed 4-6) and grate a few carrots. Toss the cabbage and carrots in the pan, sprinkle with garlic powder (or add real garlic) and pepper, splash with a generous guzzle of soy sauce, cover and cook till all is translucent, stirring often.
Meanwhile, put a pan of water on to boil and smash up 2 packages of ramen noodles with a wooden mallet or whatever to break into smaller pieces (don’t open them first). Toss out the seasoning packet, it’s junk! 🙂
When the water is boiling, toss the noodles in and cook for 2 minutes.
Meanwhile, chop a couple of handfuls of mushrooms (or open a can!) and toss them into the pan. Add water as needed to keep it all from sticking.
When the noodles are cooked, drain them and stir them in with your veggies. Add more soy sauce to taste (you don’t need tons, as your dipping sauce will be a big flavor).
If your wrappers need soaking, follow the package instructions and soak for a few seconds in hot water. Mine didn’t. Remove them and get a towel wet to cover them as you work.
Set up a working station of the hot filling, the wrappers, a flat surface, a small bowl of water and a plate to put the finished spring rolls.
Lay a wrapper out in a diamond shape and put a generous scoop of filling in the middle of the lower half. Fold in from either side and then fold the bottom part up, like you’re folding a burrito. Roll tightly up and when you get to the end, moisten your finger to “seal” the edges (they become gluey when you wet them).
Grab your favorite dipping sauce (we MUST have our special sweet chili dipping sauce but you can use soy sauce, make a sweet mustard sauce, use another recipe, whatever) and you’re done! You can fry these but it’s totally unneccessary and it just adds extra time and calories. We tried it both ways in the interest of science and decided they really were better unfried (and we are a fried kinda family!).
We also sprinkled the insides of a few of them with a little of this salty seaweed stuff that the girls’ Japanese teacher had given them from Japan last year. The package is all in Japanese so I have no idea what it’s called! The kids liked them better without it though, since it’s got a very strong taste.
You can tinker with the recipe and add whatever suits your family’s tastes or whatever you happen to have in your fridge. The wrappers are quite cheap (about $1.50 for a bunch) and the ingredients we used were also super cheap, so it’s a really economic meal and soooooooo easy. Look for the dipping sauce in the Asian section of your supermarket. It’s about $2 for a big bottle and is general all natural. Our two favorites are labeled “Sweet Chili Sauce” (sugar, water, chili, garlic, vinegar, salt, stabilizer) and “Spring Roll Sauce” (water, sugar, red chili, turnip, carrot, salt, vinegar, garlic). The first is a litle hotter than the second, so the kids prefer the spring roll sauce. I imagine you could make it yourself too, of course.
We added some frozen peas towards the end of the cooking but I think I’ll leave them out next time. They weren’t needed.
You could also put out little dishes at the table and have each person customize his or hers with add-ins like shrimp, bamboo, bean sprouts, water chestnuts, whatever, if you wanted to make it fancy.
We’re planning on making these again in a day or two and making twice as much as we did the first time since everybody gobbled them up so fast (the recipe above is already doubled). It’s rare that everybody in our family loves the same meal and this was definitely one of those meals. They’re also low calorie, super fast to make, all natural and full of good-for-you veggies.
Behold, a small boy gobbling healthy food… 😉
PS What’s the difference between egg rolls and spring rolls?
I asked Daryl to look it up when I was making these and he found that the terms were used interchangeably much of the time. Sometimes spring rolls are unfried and egg rolls are fried, sometimes it has to do with the ingredients (the former are more likely to have carrots and bamboo, while the latter are more likely to have meat and bean sprouts). The “spring rolls” we get from the Hmong market are fried and have meat inside, which makes them more like egg rolls, but are made with the rice wrappers, which makes them more like spring rolls.
Another difference? Egg rolls are mostly likely an American invention. Food historians say they were created by American restaurants catering to both Chinese railroad workers and their white coworkers, which led to the creation of many “fusion” dishes that fused the tastes of both cultures. From a great Mental Floss article:
Besides the legendary roll, there are many staples of American Chinese food you’ll rarely if ever see in China: fried rice, crab Rangoon, chow mein, sweet and sour pork, and General Tso’s chicken. Also, fortune cookies (see sidebar). What do all these meals have in common? Frying, which is a staple of American Chinese food but somewhat less important in authentic Chinese cuisine.
So there you have it, a recipe and a social studies lesson! 😉