The spring rolls are a typical dish of Chinese cuisine , among the most famous. They are composed of a fried crispy pastry wrap, which contains a julienne vegetable filling, sauteed and flavored with soy sauce . But there are many variations of this traditional Chinese specialty : the rolls can be fried or fresh, that is, eaten without cooking , they can be prepared with wonton pasta, rice paper sheets or phyllo dough , while the filling can only include vegetables or even the addition of mince , or, again, be based on fish or shellfish, such as shrimp.
Spring rolls: what they are
In China, traditionally, spring rolls were prepared for Chinese New Year celebrations , which typically falls between late January and mid February and coincides with the spring festival: hence the name .
They can be consumed as an appetizer , but also as a “dim sum”, or to break hunger : this term, which literally means “to touch the heart”, identifies a series of small preparations, appetizing-looking morsels to be enjoyed during a break, sipping a cup of tea, without weighing it down . A practice that was once the preserve only of the emperors of the Han dynasty, but which then spread to the tea rooms of the ancient Silk Road and which is now a tradition in China, where each region has its typical dim specialties sum.
There is also a sweet variant of spring rolls, stuffed with red beans , ideal for breakfast.
But this dish is not only present in the Chinese culinary tradition, it is widespread, with various reinterpretations, also in the Asian ones of Vietnam, Indonesia and Cambodia , as well as being one of the most known and appreciated oriental dishes all over the world.
Spring rolls: the original recipe
The original recipe of the spring rolls includes a wonton pasta wrap and a vegetable-based filling, cut into julienne strips and stewed in a pan with peanut oil and soy sauce . Usually cabbage, carrots, spring onions and bean sprouts are used , to which mushrooms and bamboo can also be added . The rolls, stuffed with this filling, are fried and served with a sweet and sour sauce based on tomato, rice vinegar, salt and sugar.
What is wonton pasta ? It is a mixture based on flour, salt and water, the same that is used to make Chinese ravioli . You can find it ready and frozen in Chinese supermarkets, or in well-stocked Italian hypermarkets. Or you can easily prepare it at home and, after spreading it in a thin sheet, use it to compose your rolls.
However, it is also very common to prepare the spring rolls by wrapping them with rice paper sheets or phyllo dough , much easier to find in any supermarket or in stores specializing in natural and organic food.
Pasta wonton: the recipe for making it at home
Ingredients for 24 sheets of wonton paste :
- 250 g of 00 flour
- an egg
- 100 ml of water
- 1 tablespoon of corn starch
Pour the sifted flour with the egg and cornstarch in the center.
Start kneading, adding the water a little at a time.
Once ready, cover the wonton paste with a damp cloth and let it rest for 20 minutes.
Divide the dough into two parts and, with a kneader, make 1 mm thick sheets.
Arrange the sheets on a floured pastry board, cut them and use them to prepare your spring rolls.
The right technique to close the rolls
Whatever the base you choose to use as a “container” for your rolls, it is very important to compose, close and seal them in the right way , to prevent the filling from coming out. Here is the technique to use:
- take a rectangle of wonton pasta (or a sheet of rice paper or phyllo paste) and place it with an angle facing you.
- Spread a small amount of filling on the bottom half of the dough.
- Lift the bottom corner of the dough and fold it over the filling, so as to cover it almost entirely.
- Now also fold the two corners, left and right, towards the center.
- Roll up the roll from bottom to top.
- Seal the end well, wetting it with a little water, so that the filling remains tightly closed inside.
Spring rolls: the variations
There are many geographical variations of spring rolls , or linked to the ingredients used for the filling or for the dough , or, again, to the cooking method . Let’s see the main ones.
The most traditional variants are vegetarian spring rolls, stuffed only with vegetables, or those with vegetables and pork . Then there are the Italian spring rolls , in which, alongside or in place of the typically oriental vegetables , others are used, more “local”, such as courgettes, peppers and leeks .
Among the possible fillings, also that of fish and crustaceans, such as salmon and shrimps , possibly combined with vegetables.
The pasta wrap: wonton, phyllo or rice sheets
As an alternative to wonton pasta, spring rolls can also be prepared with rice paper sheets or phyllo dough. What’s the difference?
- The phyllo or filo pasta , which in Greek means “leaf”, is a very thin pastry made with water and flour . The advantage of using it for spring rolls is that, once cooked, they are particularly crunchy .
- The rice paper , prepared with water and rice flour, makes the rolls also suitable for coeliacs but has the drawback of breaking more easily . Usually, before using it, it is softened in hot water : it is sufficient to immerse the sheets one at a time and leave them to soak for 20/30 seconds each.
Traditionally, spring rolls are eaten fried in peanut oil, or fresh, i.e. without cooking : these rolls are prepared simply by wrapping the filling in rice paper sheets softened in water and are eaten raw, after a short passage in the refrigerator. An example of this are the crab rolls of Melarossa which we propose later
Then there are some light variants, which provide for a lighter cooking instead of frying : the most common are spring rolls baked or steamed .
Spring rolls around the world
In Chinese cuisine , spring rolls exist in both salty and sweet versions : the latter are stuffed with red beans.
In Taiwan , the main distinction concerns fried and fresh rolls: fried ones are generally smaller and more crunchy , both salty and sweet, while fresh ones are larger . In both variants, the wrapping is prepared with a mix of flours or with a batter similar to that for crêpes.
In Vietna, the term “spring rolls” identifies Vietnamese salad rolls , which have a filling made from pieces of boiled pork, fresh herbs, lettuce, cloves of fresh garlic and rice vermicelli , wrapped in moistened rice paper. They are served cold.
There are also European variations of spring rolls: in Belgium and the Netherlands , for example, they are called ” loempia ” and are filled with chopped omelettes, ham fillets and soybeans .
Spring rolls : recipe
Crab and vegetable rolls
Total calories: 680 kcal / Calories per person: 170 kcal
250 g of crab meat
8 sheets of rice paper
2 carrots cut into julienne strips
1 julienne cut cucumber
a chopped red chilli pepper
1 minced garlic clove
1 cm of grated fresh ginger
a bunch of chopped spring onions
1 teaspoon chopped coriander
a teaspoon of chopped fresh mint
1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil
a spoonful of fish sauce
Mix together the grated ginger, the chopped spring onions, the garlic, the chilli pepper, the mint, the coriander, the cucumber, the carrots, the oil and the fish sauce in a bowl.
Add the crab meat and work the dough well with your hands.
Soften the rice paper sheets in a container of hot water, dipping them one at a time and leaving them to soak for 20/30 seconds each.
Spread the rice paper sheets on a surface, put a spoonful of filling in the lower half of each sheet, cover the filling with paper, fold the left and right sides towards the center and roll up from the bottom up.
Seal the rolls, brush them with a little water, arrange them on a plate and leave them in the fridge for about 15 minutes.
Bring to the table.