This is a traditional Shanghai-style egg roll. It has a perfect airy crust and a velvety filling. These contrasting textures create such an interesting mouthfeel and make your Egg Rolls irresistible. In today’s post, I will be revealing the secrets behind the perfect Egg Rolls.
INGREDIENTS (Enough to make 40-50 egg rolls)
To marinate the pork
- 1 lb (454 grams) of pork loin
- 1 tsp of salt
- 1/3 tsp of baking soda
- 1.5 tbsp of cornstarch + 2 tbsp of aromatic water
- White pepper to taste
- 1/2 tbsp of Chinese cooking wine
For the aromatic water
- 1 cup + 1/3 cup of water, or mushroom soaking liquid
- 2 scallions, diced
- 1.5 tbsp of ginger, diced
- 1.5 tbsp of garlic, diced
- 1/2 tbsp of Sichuan peppercorn
To complete the filling
- 3-4 tbsp of cooking oil
- 8 dried shitake mushrooms, soaked for 2 hours
- 350 grams Garlic chive
- 120 grams of Bean sprout
- 1.5 tbsp of soy sauce
- 1.5 tbsp of oyster sauce
- 1 tbsp of sesame oil
- 5 tbsp of cornstarch + the remaining aromatic water
- 1 pack of egg roll wrapper
- 2 tbsp of all-purpose flour +3 tbsp of water (to glue the egg roll)
Secret Number one: Cornstarch water; it will make your pork nice and tender and it will also create a smooth, creamy, and velvety texture for your filling.
The way I like to do this is to infuse the water with some aromatics first instead of simply mixing the cornstarch and water. In a blender cup, add 1/4 cup of diced scallions, 2 tbsp of minced ginger, 2 tbsp of minced garlic, 1.5 tsp of Sichuan peppercorns and 1 cup +1/3 cup of shitake mushroom soaking liquid. If you don’t have it, regular water is fine as well. Blend everything into a puree, then let it go through a sieve.
Take 2 tbsp of the aromatic water and mix with 1.5 tbsp of cornstarch; we will reserve this to marinade the pork later.
Mix the remaining aromatic water with 5 tbsp of cornstarch; we will use it to bind the filling together to create that classic texture.
Cut the pork loin into 1/4 of an inch thick strips. Don’t go too thick, otherwise, it will be harder to wrap into the egg roll. You can also use chicken breast if you want.
Marinade the pork with 1 tsp of salt, 1/3 tsp of baking soda, 1/2 tbsp of Chinese cooking wine, some black pepper to taste, and the first cornstarch aromatic water. Mix thoroughly. Add a drizzle of vegetable oil and mix again. This will prevent the meat from sticking to each other while cooking. Set it aside for 15 minutes.
Souped Up Note: Coating the meat with a thin layer of starch batter is called “shangjiang (上浆)” in Chinese, which helps to preserve the moisture of the meat while cooking so your pork will come out succulent.
Roughly dice the stem part of the garlic chive. Cut the leafy part into 1 inch long pieces. The scientific name of garlic chives is Allium Tuberosum: it looks like chives but the leaves are flat. It has a strong garlic flavor; that is how it got the name. Most Asian markets will carry it and I don’t know any replacement for it because nothing tastes similar, but you can still make this recipe with other vegetables such as julienned cabbage, carrot, zucchini.
I soaked 8 shitake mushrooms with water 2 hours ahead. Then used the soaking liquid to make the aromatic water in the beginning. Now we just slice the mushrooms thinly. You can also use fresh mushrooms instead.
Besides that, you will also need 120 grams of bean sprouts.
Ok, I think we have everything ready – let’s pre-cook the filling first. Turn the heat to high and heat your wok until it is smoking hot. Add some cooking oil. Swirl it around to create a nonstick layer. Loosen up the pork strips before adding them to the wok so they don’t stick together. Stir this for few minutes or until most of the meat has changed color. It is ok if the meat is not completely cooked through because we will deep fry the egg rolls later. Take the pork out and set it aside
The wok looks a bit dry so I will drizzle in another tsp of oil and toss in the mushroom. Stir over medium heat for a couple of minutes to activate the mushroom flavor. Add the bean sprout along with the seasonings: 1.5 tbsp of soy sauce, 1.5 tbsp of oyster sauce. Stir for about 10 seconds then add the garlic chives. Introduce the pork back to the wok. Continue to mix until the flavor is well mixed. Drizzle some sesame oil for the nutty taste.
Right now, the filling is very loose, which is not easy to wrap into egg rolls. Therefore, we will pour in the cornstarch aromatic water. Once it thickens up, all the ingredients will bind together. This is the secret that I was talking about – it makes the filling incredibly delicious. Mix thoroughly, and remove everything from the wok.
Quickly mix 2 tbsp of all-purpose flour with 3 tbsp of water; we will use it as the glue to seal the egg rolls.
Now let’s wrap the egg rolls. I am using store-bought wrappers which are widely available in any Asian market – even Publix and Walmart will carry it. Just check the frozen sections in your local grocery stores, or you can also check out this video and learn how to make your own.
I have already put it out 40 minutes ahead at room temperature to defrost. The store-bought wrappers always like to stick together, so I like to peel them ahead of the time. Put them in a container so they don’t get dry.
Take one piece of the wrapper and put some filling – about 2-3 tbsp. Arrange it so it is almost like a rectangle. Watch the folding carefully because this is my second secret. Lift up one corner and fold that over. Pull it back tightly to compact the filling. Give a solid press of each side. Fold both sides to the middle. Apply some slurry at the last corner. When you roll over the rest of the wrapper, you roll it loosely; this will create a small airy space between the layers. With that, it will be harder for the moisture inside the filling to reach to the outer layer. So, your egg roll stays crispy for a longer time. This is like the small little thing that chefs just won’t tell you.
A fun fact is that egg rolls are called Zha Chun Juan (炸春卷) in Chinese, which means deep-fried spring rolls. The prototype of the spring roll is a vegetable platter that comes with wrappers. Spring is the best season to collect all kinds of veggies as they are tender and fresh – that’s how it got the name. Some other areas in China will even call it Yao Chun, which means a bite of spring – such a poetic name. Nowadays, thanks to technology, you can get any vegetables all year round so the season will no longer limit your desire. However, the egg is not required in this recipe. I have done a lot of research and I could not find out how the word “egg” appeared in the English name. If you know, please leave a comment below so we can all learn.
This recipe is enough to make 40-50 egg rolls, which is about 8 servings.
Next, we will deep fry the egg rolls. Heat your frying oil to 370°F. Add the egg rolls from the side of the wok so you don’t splash the oil. Do not crowd the wok – only fry 10-12 pieces each time. The frying will take less than 5 minutes because the filling is cooked so you can just go by the color. Once you see the egg rolls are nice and golden, you can turn off the heat and take them out.
I can’t way to give it a try. The crispy skin and the silky filling always amaze me. The garlic chives provide a really nice aroma. I know some of you are probably looking for dipping sauce. I am actually serving my egg rolls with Worcestershire sauce, which does not sound authentic at all – let me explain why. In Shang Hai, egg rolls are usually dipped with something called “spicy soy sauce”. The bottle looks like this. Even though it says soy sauce on the package, it is actually a variant of Worcestershire sauce which was brought from England in the 19th century. As it gets more and more popular, the locals start producing their own. Because the color looks dark like soy sauce and it is slightly peppery, they name it 辣酱油，which means spicy soy sauce in Chinese. I couldn’t find it anywhere in the USA, that’s why I am using the Worcestershire sauce today. To be honest, they taste almost the same.