When we talk about Chinese food, the first thing that comes in our minds are spring rolls, widely appreciated appetizers which can be filled with meat or vegetables (or a mix of them two). Why is this exotic dish called spring rolls? This delicate but filling appetizer has its origins in the annual Chinese Spring Festival and initially featured fresh vegetables from the harvest, whereas meat was added later. There are many possible variations to this recipe, which can be prepared with a filling of meat, vegetables, shrimps or chicken, according to your personal taste. If instead you are looking for completely vegetarian or even vegan spring rolls, you could fill them with veggies and then use vegetarian oyster sauce (made with mushrooms).
20 spring rolls wrappers 2 cups mung bean sprouts 1 carrot 6 dried black mushrooms 1/2 red bell pepper 2 ounces canned bamboo shoots, optional 2 1/2 tablespoons oyster sauce 1 tablespoon chicken broth or water 2 teaspoons light soy sauce 1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and/or freshly ground pepper, optional
1 egg, lightly beaten 2 tablespoons olive oil
4 to 5 cups sunflower oil for deep-frying
Start preparing the filling: about 30 minutes ahead of time, rinse and drain the mung bean sprouts, then soak the Chinese dried mushrooms in warm water for 20-25 minutes. Squeeze any excess water out of the mushrooms and thinly slice, dice the red bell pepper, slice the bamboo shoots and grate the carrot. Take a small bowel and combine water, soy sauce, sugar and the oyster sauce, then set aside. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan and when the oil is hot, stir-fry the vegetables, starting with the dried mushrooms and then the bamboo shoots, bell pepper, mung bean sprouts and grated carrot. Stir in the sauce ingredients as well, taste and eventually adjust with salt or pepper, then remove from the heat.
To make the spring rolls, lay a wrapper in front of you so that it forms a diamond shape. Brush the edges of the wrapper with the lightly beaten egg. Place 2 tablespoons of filling in the bottom half, spreading it out sideways to form a rectangle shape, without touching the edges. Lift the bottom corner of the wrapper and tuck it in under the filling. Fold over the left and right sides of the spring roll wrapper. Continue rolling up the wrapper. When you are almost finished, lightly brush the edges of the top corner of the diamond with the beaten egg mixture, fold over and seal.
Heat the sunflower oil for deep-frying to 360°F. When the oil is extremely hot, carefully add the spring rolls, a couple at a time, cooking until they are golden brown and crispy (it should take 3 to 4 minutes). Remove and drain on paper towels. Serve spring rolls with soy sauce or sweet and sour sauce.
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