Spring Rolls…who doesn’t love them! I’ve really been anxious to learn how to successfully prepare authentic spring rolls from beginning to end. The time came when a wonderful new friend from Cambodia offered to show me exactly how to make my version of the Vegan Chinese Spring Rolls!
Pov came to Switzerland over 20 years ago, and I was the first one who asked her to teach me. That shocked me. As, I’m pretty certain spring rolls are just about everyone’s favorite! None the less, Pov, and her daughter came over (ingredients in tow) to show us exactly how to do this. Yes, I had tried and failed a few times before, which is why I needed a tutorial. Pov informed me of the 2 basic types of spring rolls which are traditional in her country. Though she is Cambodian born, she is Chinese by heritage.
There is the standard spring roll, made with an egg-dough. This always has meat filling, with usually no exceptions. Then, there is the rice-paper spring roll, which is usually kept in raw form and filled with vegetables. The rice paper version is always what I’ve tried to make but always failed. My experience was having the entire roll disintegrate in the frying oil. Though the basic principles of spring rolls I was familiar with, I needed help with the nuances of frying it up. That’s what I was missing.
What we learned
The first bit of clarity came when Pov told me that if you fry spring rolls, it’s always with the egg-based dough. Since we are vegan, that wasn’t an option. She said that we “could” fry using the rice paper, but it wont be restaurant quality finish. Fine with me! Next, she stressed when doing the vegan version, always use potatoes, white cabbage, leek, onion and carrot. She really stressed the importance of using a lot of potatoes-double the amount of potatoes to veg. Next, when you saute the veg ahead of the roll, you must add equal parts of salt and sugar. After the saute, you let the liquid drain for about 10 minutes. When you begin the roll, the rice paper MUST be dipped in hot water, but very quickly, usually around 20 seconds or so, but before it gets too soft. The most important step she stressed was when you add the filling, give it 2 rolls, tuck in your sides, and finish the roll off nice and tight. Tight was the key word here. The tighter the better, and the better the fry.
Where I had failed
I recognized my errors immediately. In the past, I had skipped the pre-saute of the veg, and obviously the drain, the HOT water dip, and the extra tight roll. So, basically I was close, but yet so far! Yes, it takes a few tries until you get the right tightness, but you’ll find this step really is extremely important. As the paper is delicate-and when it enters the scalding hot oil, if it’s not tight, it will just open and fall apart.
Pov was a great teacher. I loved this afternoon with her. Learning the authentic version of a most-favored food is quite an honor. She passed down to my girls and I, lessons taught to her by her mother and grand mother. Pov came packing her secret weapon…her home-made (doctored version) fish sauce. She stressed that the fish sauce is a “must” and is used as a dipping sauce for the fried spring rolls. Again, being vegan, I made the exception, but I took her doctoring methods and made my own jar of vegan fish sauce-honestly not as authentic as her version, but in-line with my eating lifestyle.
Prepare for an army!
It was also shown to me how to prepare your spring rolls for the freezer-thus when you are ready, just take them out of the freezer, de-thaw and fry. We were able to make about 40 spring rolls to put in freezer storage. Something I’m planning to enjoy for a nice family meal.
Truly a delicious recipe-the vegan Chinese spring rolls are not at all difficult to make-you just need a little of authentic “know-how” to get the job done! Thank you Pov, and Kimberly for your time, effort and knowledge. It truly was a gift and much appreciated.
Vegan Chinese Spring Rolls
Spring Roll ingredients
- 1 pack rice paper about 30-40 sheets, depending
- 1 large bowl of hot water for dipping the paper
- 1 head white cabbage finly cut
- 2-3 medium carrots peeled and shredded
- 1 large leek sliced fine
- 2 medium onions fine diced
- 4-5 medium potatoes peeled and shredded
- 2 cups frying oil
- 2-3 tsp sugar in saute
- 1-2 tsp salt in saute
- 2 TBS soy sauce in saute
- fresh ground pepper in saute
- 2-3 TBS crushed peanuts after the drain
- 1/2 cup frying oil oil suitable for high-heat frying
Vegan Fish Sauce
- 2 cups vegan fish sauce as your base
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 cup vinegar
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1-2 hot spicy peppers
- 1 small onion diced fine
- 1-2 cloves garlic minced
- crushed peanuts to add when served
Vegan Spring Rolls
- get all your veg together and begin to shred, cut and dice.
- put it all together in a bowl
- now take your ingredients, and in a wok with a TBS or 2 of cooking oil, sautee until soft, about 5 minutes. While cooking, add your salt and sugar and a bit of soy sauce. cook it in.
- now, take the cooked veg and let it drain in a siev for a few minutes until no more visible liquid is draining-this important step ensures that the inside of the spring roll is not soggy, thus making it a difficult frying process. Don't skip this.
- add your crushed peanuts to the drained mixture right before you begin to roll
- begin your process of rolling. Ensuring the water is hot for the paper, take a TBS or so amount of cooked veg, and put at the top of the paper. Roll 2x, then fold your 2 sides in evenly. Finish the roll, keeping it nice and tight.
- rolls should be nice and right, and not too long.
- Get your oil in the wok nice and hot.
- When the oil is nice and hot, begin to put the finished spring rolls in.
- watch them closely and turn over after about 2-3 minutes, or when golden brown. Use chop-sticks to turn the rolls.
- take out, let drain on paper towel.
- serve with fish sauce, and enjoy!
Vegan Fish Sauce
- This one is very simple. Get yourself a large jelly jar, or old pickle jar. Add everything together, label it, and put it in the fridge. Shake it on occasion to be sure the sugar dissolves, and when you serve the spring rolls, put the sauce in a bowl, add spicy fresh or dried "birds-eye peppers", and enjoy.