The smell of deep fried grease. An oversized fish tank. Dim lighting and loud chatter. It's the stereotypical, cheap chinese joint. The fast-food equivalent of Chinese food. It is the only thing I can think of when someone mentions Chinese food. I know, just as much as the next person, that there are cheap, fast-food-like restaurants in every culture. I also know some people love these restaurants. Fine by me, just not my choice. As you can imagine, I tend to stray from the overly greasy Chinese food, something I frequented one too many times as teenager on "date night" with my high school boyfriend (now husband). Unfortunately, this means I don't venture into the world of Chinese cooking. I should, I know I should. Yet when I think about stir-frying veggies, attempting Kung Pao chicken or beef and broccoli, my stomach recoils and I back away. One of my 2012 Goals is to cook (or learn to cook) food from various cultures; Chinese food being one of them. At the grocery store the other day, I grabbed a pack of egg roll wrappers, some bean sprouts, carrots and a few other vegetables and thought I would give egg rolls a try. You have to start somewhere, right? Baby steps, folks, baby steps. Completely underestimating myself, I set out to make an egg roll of sorts. Recalling the crunchiness of egg rolls and the taste of rice wine vinegar and soy sauce meshed together, this is the recipe I came up with. There is no ground pork. Instead, I used leftover roasted chicken that I ground finely in the food processor. The vegetables are pureed instead of shredded using a mandolin. The crunchiness doesn't stem from a deep fried roll, but rather from the carrots which are just lightly sauteed. I substituted regular romaine lettuce for cabbage, because that's what I had on hand. The result? Well the result was unexpectedly delicious. These rolls were the antithesis of what I hate about Chinese food. Oh, and the dipping sauce? That was just the cherry on top. I sat, watching Ides of March on TV, savoring the remnant flavors of these Baked Egg Rolls, with a twist, for hours to come. My first foray into Chinese food was filled with unexpected pleasure, delight, and an incredibly tasty (and really healthy) dinner. I guess this teaches me a lesson readers: don't judge a cuisine by its fast food equivalent, that is, until it has been cooked in my own kitchen.
Baked Egg Rolls, With a Twist
Servings: 25 egg rolls
- 25 egg roll wrappers, I prefer Nasoya
- 4 large carrots, peeled
- 1 Romaine Heart, approximately 4 ounces
- 1/2 yellow onion
- 1 cup bean sprouts (typically these are on the shelf next to the egg roll wrappers)
- 2 cups ground chicken, see below for instructions on how to grind chicken
- 2.5 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp sugar
- 4 cloves garlic
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 3 tbsp cold water
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- If you are using chicken that is not already ground (cooked or uncooked), go ahead and roughly chop it and place it in the food processor. Puree it until it is finely ground.
- In a wok (or large pot), add 1 tbsp oil and let heat. Add chicken, along with 1 tbsp soy sauce and 1/4 tsp sugar. If cooked, saute the chicken for 2-3 minutes or until it has soaked up the flavors. If uncooked, saute the chicken for 4-5 minutes or until it is no longer pink. Place chicken in a fine mesh strainer and let the juices seep out while the vegetables are cooking.
- Roughly chop carrots, lettuce, garlic, and onion. Place in the food processor (after washing it from the chicken) and puree until vegetables are fully diced. You should have a very colorful mixture of finely ground vegetables.
- Add another 1 tbsp of vegetable oil to the pot or wok. Add the vegetables to the pot, sauteeing for 2 minutes. Add 2tbsp rice wine vinegar, 1.5 tbsp soy sauce, 1/2 tsp sugar and 1 tsp of salt to the vegetables. Sautee for another 2 minutes.
- Place the drained chicken into a bowl and set aside. Add the vegetables to a fine mesh strainer and again, let them drain. The juices will result in soggy egg rolls so you want to let them drain out as much as possible. The vegetables will have already soaked up the flavor of the sauces.
- Add the drained vegetables and the uncooked bean sprouts to the bowl with the chicken. Mix everything together.
- Spray a baking sheet with no-stick cooking spray and set aside.
- Mix the cornstarch and water in a small bowl. You will use this to close the seams of the egg rolls.
- On a clean, flat surface, place egg roll wrapper. Using a tablespoon measuring cup, place a heaping tablespoon of the mixture in the corner of the wrapper. Tightly roll the wrapper half way. Fold the ends over and continue to tightly roll, tucking the corners in as you go. See photos for instructions.
- Use the cornstarch mixture to close the seams on the egg rolls, lightly brushing the ends of the wrapper with it.
- Place the egg roll on the baking sheet and start over.
- Repeat steps 9-11 until all egg roll wrappers are finished.
- Lightly brush the tops of the egg rolls with olive oil.
- Bake the egg rolls for 10 minutes. Using tongs, flip them over and bake the other side for 5 minutes. Serve hot with the dipping sauce below.
Egg Roll Dipping Sauce
- 3 tbsp rice vinegar
- 3 tbsp fish sauce
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 1/2-1 tbsp sirachi sauce, depending on your preference for spicy
- 2 tbsp lime juice, fresh or bottled
- Whisk together all ingredients and serve on the side of Baked Egg Rolls, With a Twist.