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Thursday, March 25, 2010


About a year ago we realized one of Bob's lifelong dreams: to become proficient in the making of eggrolls. It was actually easier than we had imagined, especially with numerous children to help roll them up. We invited a friend of ours to teach us how to make them; her parents are from the Phillippines, and her eggroll-making prowess is legendary in our neighborhood. We've been making them ever since.

The possible variations with eggrolls are endless. On the night we learned how to make them, we used simple hamburger as the filling. Because Bob wanted to make more of a Vietnamese-style eggroll, we've since settled on using a combination of shrimp and ground pork most of the time. You can also use ground turkey or chicken (or any other type of ground meat) or make them completely vegetarian. If you want to speed up the process, you can buy coleslaw mix and shredded carrots at the grocery store in the produce section.

Eggrolls freeze well before they're cooked. In fact, we've often been surprised that they seemed to taste even better when we take them straight from the freezer to the frying pan (better than when we cook them fresh, that is). This recipe makes quite a large batch, even for our large tribe. We usually freeze at least half of them and serve them for a second meal.

Cooked eggrolls can also be rewarmed for a tasty snack, although I'm warning you: don't heat them in the microwave. They'll turn into a droopy mess and won't really taste good. Try putting them in the regular oven for a few minutes at 350 degrees.

There are also a variety of possible dipping sauces for eggrolls. Some of us like hot mustard (you can buy it in powdered form either at the Asian market or sometimes in the Asian section at the grocery store; mix it with water and drip it on the eggroll. Believe me, you'll only need a few drops). We also like sweet chili sauce, which can also be found at the Asian store. A favorite way of eating them is to wrap an eggroll in a leaf of iceberg lettuce and dip it in nuoc cham sauce (scroll down to the bottom of the bahn mi recipe to find it.

(Makes about 50 eggrolls)

1 lb. ground meat (beef, pork, turkey or any combination of the three. We usually use about a pound of ground pork and add some finely chopped shrimp sautéed in butter and garlic).
½ + head cabbage, finely shredded
2+ large carrots, finely shredded
1 bunch green onions, finely chopped
1 T. garlic, finely minced (or garlic powder)
1 ½ teaspoons ginger, finely minced (or powdered ginger)
1 bunch cellophane (bean thread) noodles, available at Asian markets. Cook according to package directions. Chop cooked noodles into thirds or fourths.
Salt and pepper to taste
Oil for frying
Two packages spring roll wrappers (use the kind from better Asian stores rather than the grocery store brand. They stretch a little more and are a little more durable. They also don't bubble as much during frying.)

Brown the meat in a large skillet. Drain off the fat. Add the carrots and cabbage. Gently stir fry until the vegetables are softened. Add the onions, cook for an additional 1-2 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, salt and pepper. Mix gently to distribute seasonings. Add bean thread and mix lightly. Let cool.

Put wrapper on a flat surface. Starting at the bottom corner, put about 1 generous tablespoon of filling. Roll upwards until you reach the middle of the wrapper. Fold in the two side corners and continue rolling upwards. Once you have about 1-2 inches of wrapper left, moisten the top sides of the wrapper with water to seal the eggroll. Here is a guided tour of how to fold up an eggroll:

1. Put the tablespoon of filling toward the bottom corner of the wrapper.

2. Fold the wrapper over to cover the filling, and pull it tight with your fingers (this is where having a flexible wrapper comes in handy).

3. Fold the sides of the wrapper in so that they form two parallel lines (much as you would fold a burrito).

4. Roll the wrapper up the rest of the way, keeping it tight. Then seal the remaining open corner with a bit of water, pressing it until it stays closed (believe me, you don't want it coming open while it's frying).

Heat oil (about 1-inch in depth) in a frying pan. Fry eggrolls in small batches until golden brown (about 3-5 minutes). You are frying them until they look the way you want them to; the filling is already cooked, so you don't have to worry about food safety issues.

Serve with sweet and sour sauce.

Other ingredients that you can add to the filling are water chestnuts, mushrooms, diced potatoes, or any other vegetables that you like.

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