I’m about to make a bold statement. Are you ready?
There is no reason on earth why you shouldn’t be able to eat egg rolls whenever you please, even if it’s 2 o’clock in the morning, and you’re sitting in your underwear playing Skyrim and can’t find your wallet or your cell phone because they fell between the cracks in the couch and have fused into one-ness with half-chewed Cheetos, pennies, and life-sized balls of dog fur.
And, furthermore, there is no reason why those egg rolls have to be those Godawful LingLing ones that you get at Costco and that smell like a cross between stale cabbage and nutsack.
This entry in the series of “Asian Takeout for White People” is the basic vegetable egg roll.
With just a little bit of advanced preparation, you can be knocking out restaurant quality egg rolls, freezing them, and frying them to order for yourself whenever the whim hits you. The cost to make them is about 35 cents per egg roll, which is also significantly cheaper than either takeout or LingLing, and they taste so much better. Plus, you know what’s in them, so there aren’t any nasty surprises (“Oh BARF! What the fuck are these little pink nuggets? Shrimps?? WHAT???”)
These are HELLA cheater egg rolls, too, so there isn’t even much work involved, an, in a pinch, these can be made solely from ingredients that you can find at your local supermarket. No, I’m not lying to you. The variations are pretty endless, but this is a good “basic” model that will stand up to the taste buds of even the most discriminating takeout connoisseur.
1 small package bean threads*
Scant 1/4 C dried black fungus, shredded preferably**
1 bag “coleslaw mix” from the grocery store, or 3 C freshly, finely shredded cabbage and carrots
2 T dark soy sauce
1/2 t black pepper, freshly ground
1/2 T rice vinegar
1 t sugar
1 T vegetable oil
1/4 t fresh ginger, finely minced or microplaned
1 clove fresh garlic, minced
1 package of egg roll skins
1 egg, beaten (egg wash)
Oil for frying/frying rig
*Bean threads are just very fine, clear noodles made from mung beans. They’re cheap, don’t require cooking (just soaking), and are sometimes called “vermicelli” in the store.
**Black fungus sounds disgusting, but they’re really these lovely, chewy, omnipresent ribbons found in most Chinese food. The texture is more assertive than the flavor, but I’d miss them quite a bit if they weren’t there. They aren’t mushroomy at all.
-In a large bowl, soak bean threads in lukewarm water until al dente (about 15 minutes), drain, and chop into 2 inch pieces.
-In a separate bowl, soak black fungus in hot water until reconstituted. Rinse, drain and chop into 1 inch pieces.
-In a small bowl, combine vinegar, black pepper, soy sauce, and sugar
-In a large saute pan, heat vegetable oil until almost smoking, then add garlic and ginger. Quickly toss until aromatic.
-Add coleslaw mix and saute until tender but not soggy.
-Pour in soy sauce mixture and black fungus pieces and saute for another minute.
-Remove from heat, and scrape into a bowl to cool (you can reuse the black fungus bowl)
-When cool, set out your egg roll skins, covered with a damp towel to keep from drying out, a pastry brush, and your egg wash.
-Drain any excess liquid off of your cabbage filling, then toss with your bean threads.
-Place an egg roll skin with a point toward you, like a diamond.
-Add about 3T filling to the bottom corner of the egg roll skin, leaving about an inch below.
-Roll tightly, as shown, until you have the egg roll with a triangle of egg roll skin left at the top, like an envelope. Make sure that your ends have been tucked all the way in so there aren’t any places for filling to leak out or oil to leak in when frying.
-Brush the triangle of the “envelope” with egg wash, then finish rolling and set aside. Repeat.
When all of your egg rolls have been rolled, you can put them in a freezer bag, keeping out the ones you want to eat immediately.
-Heat 3-4 inches oil to 375 F. Make sure your fryer or frying rig is set up safely, and that you’re not going to set your house on fire. I recommend a real fryer, about which you’ve read the instruction manual.
-When hot, place 3-4 egg rolls in the oil and cook on all sides until golden brown.
-Drain on paper towels or a paper bag, then serve immediately with sweet and sour sauce or sweet chili sauce.
Spring rolls can be done similarly, but I prefer the chewy interior of the egg roll skin (you can see the layers of chewy dough inside the crispy outer layer). If you use the spring roll wrappers, these will become vegan. Either way, they’re pure comfort food, and a good way to get vegetables into picky eaters. Also, they’re vegetarian. And SO DELICIOUS. Anytime you’re feeling saucy, just grab a few out of the freezer, fry them up, and get down to eating business. I try to keep a reasonable stash, because egg rolls are one of my favorite foods for when I’m feelings sick (hungover) or sleepy (hungover) or craving Chinese food (all the time).