November 21, 2012

How to Make Real Spring Rolls

When I say "real" spring rolls. I mean the legit kind, the kind your Asian friends go home and make. Not the kind you get at Mandarin or order at Manchu Wok. Nope, this is the good stuff. 
Like learning to ride a bike, learning to roll the perfect spring roll was a huge milestone for me as a child. It meant my mom could finally have the child labour boot camp she's always wanted. I'm not just talking about rolling a few dozen here and there, oh no, not in my house. In my house, it was always by the hundreds, but on the bright side, mass production also equals mass consumption! 

So, when my mom woke me up to grate carrots one Saturday morning, I knew I was in for a few hours of rolling.



  
Here's a rough recipe of what you'll need:
  • 2lb lean ground pork 
  • generous handful  of dried shredded black fungus mushrooms (rehydrate in cold water, drain when soft to the touch)
  • one bundle of thin angel hair vermicelli noodles (soak in cold water for about 10min, drain and dice into 2 inch pieces)
  • one small to medium white onion diced into bite size pieces
  • TYJ spring roll pastry (50 pack) - this is my favourite brand, and can be frozen if you don't plan on using them right away. do not use wonton wrappers
  • 5-7 carrots grated - I like a 1:1 ratio of carrots & pork
  • 1 teaspoon of butter (helps make the filling moist)
  • 6 tablespoons of oyster sauce 
  • 3 tablespoons of course black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar 
  • 1-2 eggs
Combine all the ingredients together and mix well. 

Feel free to pan fry a tablespoon of the filling to check for flavour. I tend to make my spring rolls on the sweeter side because the dipping sauce I use is spicy. This is a very loose recipe and can be easily adjusted for vegetarians. Most Vietnamese restaurants also add grated taro but it's not a favourite of mine. You can also add grated cabbage, jicama, and substitute the ground pork for chicken. 

For the binding agent, I find tapioca flour and water works the best. You only need a teaspoon with a quarter cup of water, zapped in the microwave for about a minute to cook the flour. You're looking for something translucent and sticky. The tapioca mix does a great job of binding the spring roll and doesn't burn when it's deep fried. You can also use milk, which does an okay job of binding but not so good when deep fried, or you can use a beaten egg which binds well but turns brown when it's deep fried. 
The spring roll wrappers can dry out so only peel a dozen at a time and keep them covered or in the bag while you roll. If you don't plan on frying the spring rolls right away they can be frozen and kept in the freezer for at least a month. Once frozen, try to fry them still partially frozen. Do not wait till they are fully thawed. I find frying them when they've fully thawed makes a huge mess of the spring roll and it doesn't hold shape. The meat mixture on the other hand does not freeze well and should be used right away once mixed but can keep in the fridge for at most, a day. 
If Teddy had thumbs, my mom would have him put to work as well. He is very excited for spring rolls. Below is an easy step by step of how to roll the spring rolls. I like to make small two bite springs rolls so we use the smaller sized wrap and about a tablespoon and a bit of filling in each roll. 
  1. place a tablespoon of mixture at the bottom corner closes to you
  2. fold over the bottom corner and shape the roll so the meat is evenly distributed
  3. roll once
  4. roll once more - always make sure to have two full rolls
  5. fold over the ends
  6. add a small dab of the binding mixture to just the tip and roll it shut. only use enough tapioca mixture to bind the tip and wipe off any excess that spills

You roll the mixture twice to make sure there is an equal amount of pastry all around the spring roll. This helps it cook evenly and when you bite into it, there are even layers surrounding the meat instead of one side pastry, and one side meat. 
When you're all done rolling, deep fry on medium high heat till golden brown. They usually don't tend to stick but keep an eye on them. I like to use a spicy sweet fish sauce to dip the rolls in but you can easily use a Thai sweet chilli sauce as well.  Enjoy! 

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