What is a Chinese spring roll?
The Chinese spring roll, as found in Chinese restaurants around the world, is a large deep-fried roll made from a spring roll sheet, with a filling of ham or chicken pieces, omelette strips, bean sprouts and other vegetables. The name derives from the word lunpia and the dish originally comes from China. The Chinese spring roll has been around since the seventeenth century and, thanks to Chinese migrants, the dish is now a hit all over the world. Although the Chinese may have invented the spring roll, the dish is seldom eaten in China itself.
East vs. West
The Chinese did, however, inspire the rest of Southeast Asia with a passion for spring rolls and people are now fond of them in Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines. Each country has its own variations. In the Philippines, people like to eat a lumpiang Shanghai filled with minced meat. In Vietnam, the wraps are made from rice instead of wheat flour. European spring rolls, on the other hand, are gigantic compared to the Eastern variants. There are even sweet versions, such as the turon, a Filipino roll filled with banana and brown sugar.
How Spring Rolls are Prepared
Spring roll sheets are thin sheets of dough made from wheat flour and water, sometimes with egg added. They are usually bought ready-made, but in good restaurants, they are sometimes made in the old-fashioned way. Thin sheets of the dough are then cooked one by one on a baking sheet.
The vegetables for the filling – bean sprouts, leek, carrot and/or bamboo shoots – are blanched and drained well. They are seasoned with salt, pepper, sugar, ketjap manis (a type of soy sauce) and possibly some extra flavourings; these are the secret of the chef.
Then an omelette and some ham and/or chicken are prepared. All the elements for the filling are now ready. Each sheet receives a substantial amount of filling and is then folded up and the edges are firmly pressed together so that the filling does not escape. Finally, the spring roll is fried in moderately heated oil for about five minutes. Too high a temperature would brown the outside too quickly and the filling would not be heated through.