Monday, February 20, 2012

Cantonese Char Siu Pork and Vegetable Spring Rolls (aka Egg Rolls)

Really good. REALLY good. Egg rolls from your neighborhood Chinese restaurant have got nothing on these babies! They have so much going on. Whereas the cheapo egg rolls we're all sadly used to are stuffed with bland cabbage and questionable crumbles of pork, the filling for these rolls is at the opposite end of the spectrum. Although they contain the obligatory shredded Napa (or Chinese) cabbage, they're also filled with bright orange shreds of carrot, and small chunks of crisp celery, along with delicious Char Siu (Chinese BBQ) pork matchsticks (homemade in my case... booyah!).

A delicious flavoring sauce enhanced with soy and oyster sauces brings everything together. Not only is the filling more colorful than most, but it tastes out of this world. A homemade sweet and sour sauce is the perfect dipping sauce for these crunchy morsels. I guarantee that once you make these egg rolls from scratch you will never want to go back to eating the bland and greasy ones prevalent throughout neighborhoods far and wide. They have the Mission: Food stamp of approval, and that's money in the bank, y'all...

Cantonese Char Siu Pork and Vegetable Spring Rolls (aka Egg Rolls) with Homemade Sweet and Sour Sauce
12 to 14 rolls
(Adapted from Asian Dumplings)

1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
3 tsp. soy sauce (preferably low-sodium)
2 T. oyster sauce
3 T. water
3 T. canola oil
3 scallions (white and green parts), sliced
3 cups lightly packed finely shredded/sliced Napa/Chinese cabbage (omit thick center spines)
1 1/2 cups finely chopped celery
1 1/2 cups shredded carrot (about 1 to 2 carrots depending on size)
3/4 lb. Char Siu (Chinese BBQ) pork, homemade or store-bought, cut into 1 1/2-inch-long thin matchsticks
1 1/2 T. cornstarch dissolved in 2 T. water

Sweet and Sour Sauce:
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 T. ketchup
1 T. soy sauce (preferably low-sodium)
3 T. unseasoned rice vinegar or cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 tsp. cornstarch dissolved in 2 T. water

12 to 14 egg roll wrappers
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Canola or peanut oil, for deep-frying

To make the filling, combine the sugar, salt, pepper, soy sauce, oyster sauce, and water in a small bowl. Stir this flavoring sauce well and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the scallions and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds until soft and aromatic. Add the cabbage, celery, and carrot, stirring well to combine. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 1 minute until the vegetables have collapsed slightly. Add the flavoring sauce and continue cooking for about 2 minutes, until most of the liquid has disappeared and the vegetables have just cooked through. Add the pork and continue cooking, stirring to combine the flavors and heat through, about 1 minute. Give the cornstarch a final stir, and pour over the filling. Cook for about 30 seconds to bind the mixture nicely. Transfer to a platter and spread out to cool completely. Feel free to prepare the filling up to 2 days in advance.

Make the sweet and sour sauce by combining the sugar, salt, ketchup, soy sauce, vinegar, and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a near boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Give the cornstarch a final stir and then add it to the pan. Continue cooking for about 15 seconds, or until the sauce comes to a full boil and thickens.

Remove from the heat, transfer to a serving bowl and set aside for 10 minutes to cool and concentrate in flavor. Taste and add extra salt, if needed. Serve warm or at room temperature. Feel free to prepare the sauce a day in advance.

Before assembling the rolls, lightly dust a small baking sheet with cornstarch. Place an egg roll wrapper on a work surface with the points facing 12, 3, 6, and 9 o'clock. Place a scant 1/2 cup of filling just below the center of the wrapper in a horizontal log shape going from 9 o'clock to 3 o'clock, but leaving about 1 1/2 inches on either side for folding over. Fold in the sides of the wrapper, brush the upper edges with egg wash, and then roll tightly from the bottom up to seal and finish, forming a cigar shape. Set the finished rolls, seam side up, on the prepared baking sheet and cover with a kitchen towel or lightly damp paper towel to prevent drying.

Heat 1 inch of oil in a wok, saucepan, or deep skillet over medium-high heat to about 350 degrees F on a deep-fry thermometer. Slide in a few rolls and fry, turning as needed, until golden brown and crisp. Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels. Repeat with the other rolls. Be sure not to add too many rolls at once since it will lower the oil temperature suddenly. Try to keep it at or around 350 degrees F throughout the cooking process by adjusting the heat as necessary.

Serve hot, whole or cut in half diagonally with the sweet and sour sauce.


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