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Are egg rolls your favorite part of your Chinese takeout order? Then it might be time to try making them yourself!

Egg rolls are a classic American-Chinese dish with tons of options for customization once you get the hang of the basics. They’re also a delicious weeknight meal served alongside rice or noodles and some quick stir-fried veggies.

Learning how to cook Chinese food at home opens up the door to enjoying restaurant-worthy food right from your own kitchen, as well as experimenting and bringing your own flavors and creativity to the mix. And as one of the most versatile of all Chinese dishes, fried egg rolls are an excellent recipe to start with.

So, how do you make an egg roll? Here’s how to cook, roll, and fry them, plus a quick look at the origin of those crunchy, savory delicacies.

deep fried egg rolls
Source:Unsplash
Deep-fried are a staple of American-Chinese cooking. 

What Are Egg Rolls?

Egg rolls are a popular appetizer at American-Chinese restaurants and feature a vegetable or meat filling inside of a deep-fried egg and flour wrapper.

There is no single “correct” egg roll recipe. Instead, many restaurants do their own take on the filling, using a blend of vegetables, protein, and aromatics to achieve a balance of flavor and texture. 

Some common ingredients you’ll find in an egg roll filling include cabbage, carrot, scallions, and garlic, as well as proteins like ground chicken, pork, or tofu. As a home cook, once you make sure that the main components of your egg roll are there, you can get as creative as you want with the ingredients.

Origins

Unlike traditional Chinese dishes like congee, mapo tofu, and fried rice, there’s some disagreement over when egg rolls originated—and if they’re even authentically Chinese to begin with.

Depending on who you ask, you might hear that fried egg rolls date back to ancient Cantonese cuisine or that they are an alternate take on spring rolls. A perhaps more popular take, however, is one that appears in Andrew Coe’s 2009 book Chop Suey: A Cultural History of Chinese Food in the United States, which is that the first egg roll was actually created by New York chef Henry Low in the 1930s. (Low’s original egg roll recipe can be found in Cook at Home in Chinese, a cookbook he published in 1938.)

Most likely, they are more like General Tso’s chicken than they are authentic Chinese cuisine in that they were created to appeal to Western diners at North American-Chinese restaurants. However, that doesn’t make them any less a part of the Chinese food culture you likely know and love—nor any less tasty.

What is the Difference Between a Spring Roll and an Egg Roll?

Even if egg rolls aren’t a direct descendant of spring rolls, they’re still considered to be inspired by them, at least in part.

The difference between these two Chinese food appetizers can be found in their filling, wrapper, and cooking methods. Egg rolls have a hearty, cooked filling inside of a thick, eggy wrapper and are typically deep fried before serving. Spring rolls, on the other hand, tend to have a lighter filling in a thin flour wrapper or rice paper wrapper. They can be baked, fried, or left uncooked before eating.

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How to Make Egg Rolls

spring roll
Source:Pixabay
Rule #1 of enjoying: Don’t forget the dipping sauce!

We can talk about egg rolls all day, but we know why you’re really here: to find out how to make them. We’ve broken them down into their separate components for a quick crash course on making egg rolls at home, with some helpful tips for how to wrap egg rolls and fry egg rolls to perfection. Let’s get to it.

Egg Roll Wrappers

A traditional egg roll wrapper is made from a combination of egg and wheat flour, though you can find variations—including eggless egg roll wrappers for vegans.

Because they’re made using only a handful of basic ingredients, it’s pretty easy to make your own wrappers at home. You can skip this step and buy pre-made egg roll wrappers, just make sure they’re uncooked, since you’ll want to deep fry them later on. Check the label carefully, too, to ensure that you buy egg roll-specific wrappers and not wonton wrappers. Though the dough is the same, wonton wrappers are smaller and can’t hold the same amount of filling.

Homemade Egg Roll Wrappers

Why not challenge yourself to make homemade wrappers with your egg rolls? It’s a simple process that even beginners should be able to pull off with a bit of guidance. Here’s how to do it.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup ice cold water
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Instructions 

  • Add all of the ingredients into a stand mixer. 
  • Mix on low with a dough hook attachment for two to three minutes, or until well combined. (You could also do this in a bowl with a wooden spoon if you don’t have a stand mixer.) 
  • Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. 
  • Once dough is mixed and rested, remove from mixer or bowl and knead for five minutes on a lightly floured surface. 
  • Divide dough into 16 evenly sized balls and flatten each ball with a rolling pin to 1/8-inch thickness.

Egg Roll Filling

A good filling is essential to a good egg roll. You have so many options here, including pretty much any veggie and protein combination that you can think of (or all veggies or all protein, if that’s the way you like it). Don’t forget the aromatics, since those will deepen your flavors and create a truly savory bite.  

Egg roll filling is cooked, so break out the wok and vegetable or sesame oil to get everything nice and tender. And when you’re ready to fill your wrappers, you’ll want to put about two to three tablespoons of filling in each before you roll them.

Here are some filling ideas that you can start with.

Traditional American-Chinese Egg Rolls

  • Ground pork or chicken (can easily sub tofu)
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Shredded cabbage
  • Scallions
  • Minced carrot
  • Soy sauce

Mushroom Egg Rolls

  • Sliced fresh mushrooms
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Leeks
  • Shredded cabbage
  • Sliced water chestnuts
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Soy sauce

Crab Egg Rolls

  • Lump crabmeat
  • Ginger
  • Scallions
  • Minced carrot
  • Fresh lime juice
  • Soy sauce

Veggie-Filled Egg Rolls

  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Shredded cabbage
  • Minced carrot
  • Diced red pepper
  • Scallions
  • Glass noodles
  • Soy sauce

How to Roll Egg Rolls

The process for how to roll egg rolls is easy once you get the hang of it. Most important is ensuring that all of your edges are completely sealed up so that when you start to fry them, your filling stays put and no oil seeps inside. That might take some practice, so go slow as you learn so that you don’t inadvertently leave any gaps behind.

How to Wrap an Egg Roll in 5 Steps

Step 1: Place a wrapper on a flat surface in front of you with pointed edges on bottom and top so it looks like a diamond.

Step 2: Place two to three tablespoons of filling on the bottom third portion of the diamond.

Step 3: Roll the bottom corner up and tuck it in under the filling. Flatten the wrapper on either side of the filling to remove air pockets.

Step 4: Fold the left side of the wrapper in toward the filling, followed by the right side of the wrapper.

Step 5: Lightly beat an egg to make an egg wash. Brush a thin layer of egg wash onto the top, unfolded part of the wrapper to make it slightly sticky, then start to roll the wrapped portion with the filling up toward the top. Roll tightly, but use a gentle touch so as to not tear the wrapper as you go. Place wrapped egg roll seam-side down on a baking sheet and move on to your next one.

How to Fry Egg Rolls

Whether you bake egg rolls or fry egg rolls is up to you, but we like frying for that extra crunch. To do it, fill up a pot with two inches of peanut oil and heat until it reaches 370℉. Place a few egg rolls in at a time and fry for one to two minutes, turning as needed until both sides are a golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel-lined plate.

Rather bake your egg rolls? If baking is more your style, you can bake your egg rolls in an oven at 425℉ for 10 to 15 minutes or until browned.

Making Vegan Egg Rolls

Vegans can enjoy egg rolls, too!

Keep your them animal-friendly by buying vegan egg roll wrappers at the store or making them yourself by following the egg roll wrapper recipe above but leaving out the egg. Make your vegan filling as desired, then use warm water when wrapping your egg rolls instead of an egg wash. You can get just as much umami flavor and crunch with a vegan egg roll as with a non-vegan one, and we bet nobody will even be able to tell the difference.

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