“Spring roll… An Asian-American appetizer made of crispdough wrapped around a filling of various ingredients such as vegetables, meat, shrimp, and seasonings. Sometimes synonymous with “egg roll,” it is considered somewhat more “authentic” and delicious than the latter. The name, which dates in English print to 1943, comes from the Chinese tradition of serving them on the first day of the Chinese New Year, which is also the first day of the lunar year’s spring.” –Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink
When asians get tired of accumulating copious amounts of vitamin B from rice and fish sauce, they turn to a very delectable treat that can only be described as, “the best invention since the chopstick.” Originally an invention of the Chinese, the Spring Roll, nowadays synonymous with the Egg Roll, is quite different from its distant cousin. Spring rolls are served fresh with thinner rice paper, while Egg Rolls are made with, you guessed it, egg-glazed rice paper. Since 1985, when America popularized it, this treat has gained so much precedence that I will, from this moment on, refer to is as “her Springness.”
Egg Roll (top) and Spring Roll (bottom)
Asians love this voluptuous woman for the following reasons:
Delectability: Her Springness is a mixture of the best boiled shrimp, steamed pork, vermicelli noodles, lettuce, and herbs wrapped by a soft or crunchy rice-paper shell (depending on preference). She is usually served as in hors d’oeuvres, along with chow mein and the infamous “flied lice.” No asian can resist her mixture of meat and herbs, as she has become paraded around during asian festivities more times than the Pope has walked the Vatican.
Portability: Her Springness may be larger than an oreo or fig bar, but she quite dynamic. Asians kidnap her from dinner parties, birthdays, graduations, even funerals. Much like her loyal servants, she is forced into suspended animation in the refrigerator until her new masters are hungry. When this occurs, she can either be thawed or re-fried, once again bringing her back to power over asian taste buds.
Versatility: Her filling can be meat or vegetarian, economical or rich. If she is Fujianese, she will have very exotic fillings such as carrots, shredded cabbage, or leeks. Her Shanghai-ese counterpart will have a diversity of fillings including bamboo shoots. Her Cantonese cousin, however, has traveled overseas and is now known in the West as “Egg Roll.” Some asians think of her as “the best of Spring Rolls” for her widespread popularity and deliciousness.
“Her Springness” has a vast amount of family around the world, each incorporating a bit of its country into its ingredients. The Chinese believe in the merit and charm of eating her “undressed.” The Vietnamese, on the other hand, love to wrap her with soft lettuce, basil and mint. They will also drench her in glorious fish sauce to enhance her appearance and taste.
“Like many Vietnamese dishes, eating it this way resonates with layers of flavors and textures – the crispy vegetables and fish sauce with the crunchy spring roll…”
Let’s get back to reality. Asians everywhere love the Spring Roll and Egg Roll for their delectability, portability, and versatility. They have become a staple commodity at all asian fast food stores and even some higher class restaurants. So much so, that Wolfgang Puck has incorporated and mutilated them in one of his “Asian Fusion” recipes. They are also portable, as asians everywhere bring them home to their friends and families. Lastly, they are quite versatile. Everywhere they go, Spring/Egg Rolls gain new and better qualities. Asians know that there is nothing better than rice, but the Spring/Egg Roll comes in at a close second.
Here’s a video tutorial on How to Make Spring Rolls: