Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Roll one up, Homie.

I am not one to go crazy for egg rolls. Actually, I don't care for most rolled things... burritos are okay...but I'd rather eat everything separately...sushi rolls are cool....but I'd rather have nigiri...and a roulade is nice looking... but I don't think it's the optimal way to prepare the ingredients. Yes, I am not a roll fanatic.

However, every rule has its exception. And this egg roll is it. It's my mom's "recipe" (I use that loosely because there is not actual recipe but rather a...philosophy of egg rollingology). And I could say how this recipe has been passed down from generation to generation of Vietnamese families, how my mom fled the country with $20 and this recipe written on a banana leaf, how we have killed many to keep this recipe safe. But I would be lying. Truth is, this recipe has been constantly modified and tweaked since my mom started making them (I like to think I had some input, but I can never be sure of these things). This "recipe" is a constantly evolving animal seeking change and innovation.

Its always about the philosophy. I propose the perfect egg roll. Not mushy or wet like cheap Chinese takeout. Nor so hard and crunchy that they tear up your tonsils. There should be a perfect layer of fried outside to moist inside. Not too big, not too small. These are rules we can all live by.

So let's assemble the ingredients. You got your veggies, and you got your protein. This time we used about 6 cups julienne taro, 1-2 cups woodear mushrooms (an asian variety, found dried) and 3 cups green cabbage. The protein consists of 2.5 lbs ground pork, 2 lbs shrimp, and 4 cups cubed tofu. These measurements are approximate. This recipe makes a lot but they keep well in the freezer. But if you want to scale the recipe down, its about 50/50 veggies to protein (these are great made with just tofu for a vegetarian alternative).

Bind everything together with 2 whole eggs and season with salt, pepper, fish sauce, and garlic powder. Mix until incorporated.

Now to roll. We tend to use Menlo brand wrappers, but your favorite wrapper (or better yet, the one that is on sale) will work. We seal the wrappers with milk or egg or a mix of both (depending on mood really...).
Start with a wrapper.

Put about...this much filling.

Roll 1/3 the way up, fold in the left and right corners and then fold all the way, seal the edge with the milk/egg mixture.

Stack up a bunch to make a cool picture.

Wrap the rolls in pyramid shapes. Egg rolls freeze amazingly. In fact, most of the time we don't eat the egg rolls right away. Rather we are anticipating that there might be some uncontrollable midnight craving for egg rolls one night...and we want to be prepared. This recipe makes about 90 rolls. What to do with a freezer full of egg rolls? Bring them to parties (people will love you). Make dinner for your family/friends/roommates by frying them up and serving with some rice noodles, cucumbers, chopped peanuts, bean sprouts, lettuce, and fish sauce vinaigrette. with a freezer full of egg rolls.

My favorite sauce for this is fish sauce vinaigrette (Nước mắm pha) is basically one part lime juice, one part fish sauce, one part sugar, and two parts water (we like to add minced garlic and thai chilies). This ubiquitous Vietnamese sauce is served on everything from rice noodles, to grilled pork. If you have a jar of this on hand... you will never go hungry.

BUT, we got lazy. And our provisions of Nước mắm pha were all used up. So we used sweet chili sauce (GASP! A premade product!?). Yes, its premade. Not it taste good. Really. We mix it with some vinegar to give it some acidic bite. But really, any egg roll sauce will do (or plain, that's good too).

This recipe is a lesson on change. My mom's egg rolls were good before, and we just could have easily stuck to them. But we didn't. And here we are. With the BEST egg rolls. Ever.

Thanks for reading.

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