Those crispy spring rolls

Make those crispy spring rolls. PHOTO/A. Kadumukasa Kironde II.

What you need to know:

  • The wrappers are the product of a special dough though you can make in your kitchen in order to give you a better understanding of core Chinese cooking. 

Do it yourself. Put your cuisine skills to purpose as you make crispy spring rolls, writes  A. Kadumukasa Kironde II.

These small classic fried fingers of dough are a symbolic food of the Chinese Lunar New Year and have become a culinary obsession of nearly every Chinese chef who will not hesitate to pack them with his or her current fancy.

There is no food, no flavouring, no garnish that doesn’t find its way into a spring roll. Neither has this iconic food travelled well over the years. In its migration to and translation by the West, this petite and delicate fodder has become transformed into the thick and cumbersome ubiquitous log and become famous the world over indubitably has become known as the egg roll. 

It is time to rescue the Cantonese chun geun “the roll of spring.” According to historians, this symbolic food----its shape, reminiscent of a gold bar, is a harbinger of good fortune---- is synonymous with New Year’s Day and is enjoyed throughout the ensuing half-month celebration of the beginning of spring. 

The wrappers are the product of a special dough though you can make in your kitchen in order to give you a better understanding of core Chinese cooking. 

On the other hand, feel free to buy good and decent well-made spring roll wrappers that can be bought from the burgeoning Chinese supermarkets that have sprung up in Kampala over the past few years. You will need 12 wrappers, each 6 inches in diameter. 

Assuming that you are the adventurous type and time is on your side, then why not make your very own wrappers in the tradition of the true Cantonese Chinese? 

1.    Sift the flour and salt and mix together in a large bowl and make a well in the center. Gradually, add the water to the well and use your fingers to combine it with the flour until it is absorbed and formed into a loose dough.

If the dough needs more water, and is too dry, by all means add a little more as needed. Knead the dough in the bowl for a good 20 minutes until it becomes elastic and cover with a damp cloth and set aside and let it rest for anywhere up to 3 to 4 hours.

2.    Wash and dry a griddle ensuring that it is completely bereft of any residues of grease. Heat the griddle over low heat and when it is hot, grab a handful of dough from the bowl, hold it up and rotate your wrist in a constant slow motion.

Keep the dough upward, working it with your fingers and palm and then quickly press the dough onto the center of the hot griddle, using a circular motion and then just as quickly pull back. This will result in yielding a thin, rough layer of dough about 6 inches in diameter on the griddle.

3.    You will notice that the dough will begin to become dry at its edges which means that the wrapper is ready. Carefully peel the wrapper from the griddle and remove it to a larger plate.

4.    Repeat this process until you have made at least 6 wrappers, stacking them as they are made and then wrap them in a damp cloth to prevent them from becoming dry. 
Continue until you have 12 wrappers in all, albeit in two batches of six each.

Leave each batch wrapped in its damp cloth and slide the batches into separate plastic bags and they can safely be sealed and kept in the fridge overnight or up to 4 – 5 days and by the way, they will freeze very well for a couple of months.

When you are ready to use wrappers, allow them to come to room temperature and it is important to note that spring roll rappers must be made at least a day in advance before their use due to the fact that they are much too dry and brittle to work with when they are freshly made with the secret to making them pliable being keeping them in the fridge prior to using them.

5.    When you are ready to make the fillings, place the shrimp and pork in separate small bowls and add a bit of salt and soy sauce in each bowl and mix well so as to marinate and set aside for a least a half hour.

Place the spring onions in a small bowl and heat a wok over high heat with a bit of oil for 30 seconds before adding the bean sprouts which you will stir fry for a couple of minutes.

Turn off the heat and remove them with a strainer and drain well over a bowl. Pat dry with paper towels and place in a small bowl and set aside. Wash and dry the wok ready for the next step.

6.    Place the wrappers and beaten eggs near the fillings ingredients and lay a wrapper on a large flat plate. Add together, one at a time, about 2 tablespoons of bean sprouts, large pinches each of the marinated shrimp and pork, some spring onions. 

Next is to arrange the ingredients in a line approximately 3 inches long and equal distance from the sides of the wrapper and about 2 inches from the edge nearest to you. Dip your fingers into the beaten egg, rub the egg all along the edge of the wrapper and begin rolling from the edge nearest to you.

As you roll, fold in the sides of the wrapper. Keep lightly dampening the edges of the wrapper with the beaten egg and press to seal. 

The spring roll should be tightly packed, rolled, and folded tightly and ought to be no more than 4 inches long. Repeat with the remaining filling and wrappers.

Please note that if you are using store bought rappers, position the wrapper in such a way that a corner is facing you and position the line of filling ingredients across the wrapper about 2 ½ inches from the corner that is nearest to you and then roll the same way. 

7.    When you are ready to deep fry your spring rolls proceed as follows, heat the wok over high heat for a minute or so before adding the cooking oil which should be heated to 350°F. Cook 4 or 5 spring rolls at a time, quickly sliding them into the oil one at a time.

Deep fry for 1 minute and then turn them over and continue to cook, moving them back and forth turning them for at least another 3 minutes or until they are nicely and evenly light brown. 
Adjust the heat as needed to prevent burning.

As they get done remove with a strainer and drain them well over a bowl. When the last batch is the same light brown as the first two batches, return the first eight spring rolls to the wok and deep fry, adjusting the heat as needed and moving them about in the oil. The idea is for them to all become a pleasing golden brownish hue.

8.    Turn off the heat and remove the spring rolls with the strainer and drain on kitchen paper and serve at once.

3 cups  wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups water (approximately) 
Oil for deep frying

120 g shrimps, cleaned and finely chopped
100 g finely shredded lean pork 
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon light soy sauce
3 – 4 spring onions, chopped 
1 ½ tablespoons cooking oil
½ kg beans sprout, ends removed. Incidentally, bean sprouts are also known as mung beans and are readily available at Nakasero market pretty much year round.
2 large eggs, lightly beaten