Sunday, April 15, 2012

Better Late Than Never: Egg Rolls!

April Stock-up: Egg Rolls!

I know I've missed a couple of weeks. This was due to a combination of not getting a photo of a cooked egg roll (the horror!) and wanting to wait for that, and just plain forgetting. Also, Zoey learned how to climb out of her crib and we had to transition to a toddler bed, which meant that none of us got much sleep for a week or so. And I got lazy – probably due to eating way too many egg rolls!  Here it is, better late than never (and here I am, vowing to not skip posting any more because it's too easy to get out of the habit!)

We've only done a couple of intentional stock-ups so far – turkey bratwursts and peirogis – but we're already seeing some savings in our grocery bill. Last month, we only used about 2/3 of the meat we bought because we filled in some gaps with food from our stock. That meant that this month, we could get a London broil, cheap steaks, the materials for egg rolls and a turkey for future bratwurst-making in addition to our usual meat selections and still come in on budget for our shopping trip. Also, it saved us from ordering pizza during conference week (admittedly, I'm conflicted about this as a benefit; yes, it was cheaper and healthier to eat brats and peirogis, but I love pizza and we have a fantastic pizza place less than a mile away).

However, anything gets old if you have it too often, so in the interest of building variety in our stockpile, so we are sticking with our decision to try and stock up on a different item each month. This month, it's egg rolls. Since childhood, I've loved egg rolls. I thought I had a perfect opportunity to learn how to make them in college – my best friend is Korean and her mom agreed to teach me. Unfortunately, when I got to her house, she had already made the filling and had it all set up to wrap. When I asked how to make the filling, she said “it's meat, vegetables, and seasonings”. Not the most helpful answer, but accurate.

A couple of summers ago, I came upon this recipe and decided to go for it, but with different wrappers – we had white people problems figuring out the wrappers we first bought. The wrappers I use are smaller, but easier to find at a general grocery store; every major chain seems to carry them. The benefit to this is it makes more egg rolls. The downside to this is also that it makes more egg rolls.

To give you a perspective, here's the pile of filling from our first egg roll experience, with Zoey (four months old at the time) for a size comparison.

As you can see, this is not a project you want to undertake on your own, unless you have a 10-year-old's level of energy and a strong love for repetitive tasks. The prep work is pretty easy, but rolling a trillion and a half egg rolls gets old in a hurry.

Too big is better than too small - trust me!
Before you start, make sure you have a large container for the filling – or a nice flat surface area that you can mix all the filling on. We started by using our biggest bowl, but it didn't quite do the trick. Luckily, Randy has a 10-gallon fermenter, which was large enough and then some. A large stock pot would probably do the trick, but isn't as fun as overkill. You will also want an old pillowcase to wring out the veggies after they sit in salt to draw the moisture out. You can do this step without a pillowcase, but it takes longer.

Before you begin to roll, make sure you have a nice assembly area prepared – the process will take long enough as it is, and your hands will be goopy, so you don't want to have to go looking for things. You'll want 2-3 large platters or cookie sheets to stack the finished rolls on, your packs of wrappers, a small bowl of water for each person to use to seal the rolls, and your container/mound of egg rolls. Plus a beverage in a container you don't mind getting gooped.
Our assembly station - we stood on opposite sides of the counter
and it went much more quickly than we anticipated!

Time-wise, plan about 20-30 minutes for prep, an hour to let the veggies sit and salt , and 30-60 minutes or so to roll, depending on how many people you have and how quickly you can roll. Then you can cook some and put the rest in the freezer for a few hours before packaging.

After learning my lesson from the peirogis (some of them weren't quite frozen when I packaged them, and stuck together during cooking – the flavor still rocked, but they looked like a science experiment gone wrong and a couple of them popped open in the water when I tried to separate them), I made sure to leave the egg rolls in the freezer until they were thoroughly frozen to prevent them from sticking together. In the past, we have also used waxed paper/tin foil to separate them, which worked just fine.

You can freeze these either cooked or uncooked; this time I opted for uncooked because it lessens the time commitment considerably if you don't have to wrap AND fry ten billion egg rolls. Also, I prefer these freshly fried, so freezing them uncooked makes more sense. To cook, just put in the hot oil frozen – I found this works best both for maximum crispiness and because the egg rolls have a tendency to adhere to the packaging as they thaw, which opens holes. If you want to cook then freeze, I find that baking them works well to re-crisp the wrappers without adding more oil.

The final product!  These were fried after being frozen and cooperated
quite nicely - they didn't splatter overly much and still got crisp, just took a little longer to cook
This made about 100 egg rolls. We froze them in packs of five, so we have enough egg rolls to last for many, many meals. Because I can't fathom the thought of egg rolls without sweet and sour sauce, but ALSO can't justify buying bottle after bottle of the stuff, I made my own using this recipe.  It turned out decently, although a little less tangy than the store-bought brand. For the savings, its' definitely a worthy substitute.

As far as costs go, these aren't ridiculously cheap like peirogis, but the cost-per-meal is low. We spent just under $40 on ingredients, including sweet and sour sauce to eat them with, with the largest costs coming from the wrappers ($10 for six packages) and the beef (around $10). Per-meal, this turned out to be about $2 – not so bad! Add some fried rice and there's no need to order Chinese food!

2.5-3 lbs of ground beef, cooked through and drained off all fat.
12 oz salad shrimp, thawed and drained. You can omit or use larger shrimp chopped coarsely.
1 medium head white cabbage, shredded
2 medium napa cabbages shredded
5-6 carrots julienned
3 medium onions julienned
1lb Korean sweet potato starch noodles or rice noodles, prepared according to package instructions, drained and cut into 2 inch lengths with kitchen shears
1 cup or more of oyster sauce
3 eggs beaten lightly
1 cup or more of plain breadcrumbs

90-100 egg roll wrappers, thawed if frozen - this equals 6 packs of the square wrappers found in most grocery stores

In a very large mixing bowl combine cabbages, carrots and onions and sprinkle with a couple of teaspoons of plain table salt.

Let sit for 30-60 minutes to allow the salt to penetrate the vegetables to release excess liquid. Rinse thoroughly and drain.

While veggies are salting, brown the beef and cook/chop noodles

Wring out all possible moisture (important for preserving the quality of the final product) by putting 1/3 of the vegetables at a time in an old pillowcase or (in smaller batches in a kitchen towel and twisting it until tight.

Add remaining ingredients and mix until well-combined.

Add approximately 1/4 cup of filling to each wrapper and wrap according to package directions.

To cook, heat about half an inch of vegetable oil in a skillet over a medium hot burner (6 or 7 on the dial). When the oil is hot (I test by throwing a drop of water in and seeing if it pops quickly - so scientific!) put 5-6 egg rolls in seam side down and fry until golden brown and then flip and fry the other side. Drain well on paper towels.

Serve hot

To Freeze, flash freeze by layering on a cookie sheet (separate layers with parchment paper or wax paper) with egg rolls NOT TOUCHING each other for a couple of hours, or until rolls are frozen hard, then package in ziplocs or food saver bags.   You can skip flash freezing if you separate the rolls with wax or parchment paper prior to freezing them, but I find the flash-freeze method easier and more reliable.

To cook from frozen, add frozen rolls to hot oil.  Follow cooking directions above.

1 small can pineapple juice (or juice from a 15-1/4 oz. can pineapple chunks, drained)
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup vinegar
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (or less)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Make a thin slurry with the cornstarch and a small amount of the pineapple juice (1/4 cup or so).  You want the cornstarch to be fully dissolved before you add it to the rest of the ingredients.

Add the cornstarch slurry to the rest of the ingredients in a small saucepan.

Heat over medium heat until sauce is desired thickness.

Next week: decorating a nursery on the cheap! 

Linked to This Week's Cravings at The Daily Dish


  1. 1: It would be cooler if you posted the recipes in addition to the link.

    2: Sounds like there will be lots for grandparents to eat while we wait for Parker ...

    1. 1. Your wish is my command - I fixed it just for you!

      2. For sure! Even with how we inhale them (we ate a dinner of egg rolls, egg rolls, and more egg rolls the first night we made them), there's still a canvas shopping bag full of them in the freezer.

  2. You should open a restruant. Your food sounds so good and I'm so lazy. I love your enthusiasm!

    1. Thanks! I'm only inspired in bursts, though - that's why I have to make so much at once! In between times, it's long stretches of "this AGAIN?" lol.