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Dec 10, 2006 04:49 PM

New York Egg Rolls [split from LA]

[ This discussion on the nature of New York style egg rolls was split from the LA board at: -- The Chowhound Team


Just a thought, but those giant egg rolls seem pretty easy to make. Sautee the cabbage until soft with rice vinegar, stock, and maybe some five spice (?), add the pork and cook through, add precooked shrimp. Wrap and deep fry in peanut or sesame oil. Asian markets are so much easier to come by here than at home, and much less intimidating.

Come to think of it, this may resolve one of my similar searches, the illusive chimichanga...

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  1. But like so many simple things, it's very difficult to get it just right. The bits of bbq pork in the eggroll, for example, have to have a very distinct sweet/salty flavor. The cabbage too has its own distinct flavor. Even the wrapper of those eggrolls has a specific aroma, texture and flavor. It's not a matter of just sauteeing some cabbage and adding some pork. Outside of the hands of those Chinese magicians in the tri-state area, it will taste wrong.

    What kills me is that virtually every Chinese place back east does it right, be it smack in the heart of Mott St. in Chinatown or amongst the Caribbean and African grocers on Flatbush Ave. in Brooklyn. Somehow they just all know how to do it.

    Is it genetic?? What is it about Chinese people in NYC versus those who ended up on the west coast? Where did the art of the eggroll change? Is it the Chinese equivalent of meatloaf, or chicken tortilla soup, where everyone's recipe is completely different, except for those guys in NY who seem to be all working off the same page?

    Those eggrolls are damn tasty.

    Mr Taster

    21 Replies
    1. re: Mr Taster

      Your description of the NY eggroll had me grinning ear to ear. Being Chinese, raised in L.A. and having lived in Manhattan for six years, I've never heard of a NY eggroll and always viewed eggrolls on the same level as chop suey--horrible American concoctions of faux Chinese food. Yet your meticulous detailing of the NY eggroll not only let loose a few salivary glands, but also reminded me of my first experience with pizza, which was at a Fedco department store. It was basically pizza sauce on a piece of doughy cardboard, but I still look for that taste today, even after NY pizza, Casa Bianca, and Zelo's!

      1. re: cfylong

        It's funny, never in my life before coming to LA had I referred to them as "New York eggrolls". They were just simply eggrolls, because that's the only way anyone made them.

        When I graduated from high school and left New Jersey for the wilds of Missouri (Mizzou-- go lions, or whatever the team was), it was then that I realized what vast swaths of middle Americans experience as Chinese food (and pizza for that matter) and it was enough to make one cry.

        Mr Taster

        1. re: Mr Taster

          You know, it occurs to me that it may be a language problem -- that perhaps "egg rolls" in New York have a different name in Chinese, and that it may suffice to send for a menu (from Mama Ubergeek) and show it to a Cantonese chef here... it may be, to use an absurd example, that egg rolls as we know them in New York are "meka leka hi meka hiney ho" and in California the thing they're calling egg roll is actually "meka leka hi meka shiney ho" (or something).

          1. re: Das Ubergeek

            Probably the same name. The otherwise skimpy Wikipedia article has the Chinese characters.

            I didn't know Pee Wee Herman spoke Chinese.

            1. re: Brian S

              Sorry. The first chinese character at wiki is 'egg' - and you guess it, the second is 'roll'. Technically speaking the thinner skin crispy ones are 'spring rolls', but I think egg roll and spring roll are becoming somewhat interchangeable in restaurants here.

              The problem is the NYC egg roll is American Chinese food. Most chinese will run away from a restaurant that serves that kind of food. If I see chop suey and chow mein (with the crispy noodle toppings instead of real noodles) I will definitely have a sinking feeling at the pit of my stomach.

              Speaking of which, there is an honest to goodness throwback of a 'chinese' restaurant on Whittier Blvd at La Habra. Made the mistake of dropping by many years ago. They served green tea pre-sweetened with sugar, crispy noodles with the sweet/sour dipping sauce while you wait, and food were served on the silvery pedestral dish. I was kind of surprised because I thought with all the authentic chinese food over the hill at Rowland Heights and Hacienda Heights I didn't think this type of american chinese restaurant will survive. Maybe you will have better luck at those type of restaurants finding the NYC eggroll. Honestly from the ingredient list it doesn't look too hard to make.

              1. re: notmartha

                My Encyclopedia of Chinese Food and Cooking (a fortuitous purchase years ago since I too no longer live in an area where I can get Chinese on a whim) lists three recipes for egg rolls, all with the Chinese name "Chwin Guen." They have varying amounts of shrimp and pork, but basically the same veggie mix: onion, water chestnuts, celery and shredded cabbage. One adds bamboo shoots, one mushrooms. Last time we made them (amazingly simple to do as long as you don't have a fear of frying) we went heavy on the shrimp and the result was to die for. It was all we had for dinner, one luscious NY style eggroll after another. Okay, jonesing now...

                1. re: clamscasino

                  "Chwin guen" (in your cookbook's bastardized Mandarin pin-yin) actually means spring roll, as opposed to egg roll. This could mean that you actually made spring rolls, or that you made the Americanoid egg roll, but the cookbook just chose to call it spring roll in Chinese. (And yes, I am Chinese, born and bred, not a drop of Taiwanese or Hong Kong blood in me, woohoo! Even got the 1980s smallpox scar from my baby days to prove it). Anyways, I'm pretty open-minded when it comes to food though. Yummy? Eat it. But if you want to argue that egg rolls are traditionally Chinese...uhh, good luck. I think Mr. Taster's description of "thick brown chewy skin" is a good indication that my Chinese folks' spring rolls morphed into something else.

                  1. re: yumyuminmytumtum

                    No one has said that it's traditionally Chinese, at least not that I can see. My point is that even an Americanised dish can have a Chinese name, even if it's something like "stupid western barbarian fried roll", and that the Chinese names for a spring roll and an egg roll might be different.

                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                      And MY point was, perhaps clamscasino actually made spring rolls instead of egg rolls. That might actually help determine which permutation he/she prefers when going to a Chinese restaurant.

                    2. re: yumyuminmytumtum

                      Actually the recipe is labeled "Egg Rolls" with "Spring Rolls" in parentheses next to it. Underneath it says "Chwin Guen: General. I won't tell Wonona and Irving Chang (who is from Kiang Si) that they used bastardized Mandarin pin-yin in their attempt to provide 1000 recipes (albeit adapted to the American kitchen)to english speaking cooks. Perhaps they included dishes not so much for their traditional Chineseness but because they thought their audience wanted to duplicate the dishes they commonly found in American Chinese restaurants.

                      Before this thread was split from the LA board, it included a comment from someone who said the difference between an eggroll and a spring roll was the wrapping, with the eggroll having a wheat flour skin and the spring roll a rice flour skin. BTW, what were your Chinese "folks" spring rolls like? What was inside/outside?

                      1. re: clamscasino

                        Well, it's not Pinyin, but that's neither here nor there. I'm still waiting for Mama Ubergeek to bring the menu from New Jersey, she'll be here at Christmas.

                        1. re: clamscasino

                          My family's Shanghai-nese, and we use a thin (well, thinner than won ton wrapping anyway) mostly rice flour-based wrapping. There might be a touch of egg in the dough, just to give it a little bit of chewiness and body, but definitely not to the extent that the original poster wrote of regarding the "egg rolls". It's thin, so after deep frying they're still pretty light. The filling is usually a combination of pork, napa cabbage, and carrots, where all ingredients are chopped into slivers. The filling gets a little soupy, so you gotta wrap it tightly it and the soup will be encased by the fried wrapper. Thus when you bite through the crispy crust of the wrapper, you are greeted with the hot soup and the filling. MMMM! Kinda like Shanghai soup dumplings...see a trend here? Every family will of course tweak a traditional recipe to make it their own, but this is generally what I've seen done by others from/in Shanghai.

                          I was being facetious about calling it language "bastardization". But truth be told, like Mr. Ubergeek said, that isn't pinyin at all, but the inconsistent phonetic spelling by Chinese people who probably left China before the 1950s, a lot from HK. That's why you'd be hard-pressed to ever find a Mr. Kwok, or a Mrs. Ng from Beijing or Xian. BTW, it's actually "chun juan" (first tone, third tone).

                          1. re: yumyuminmytumtum

                            Well, Kwok and Ng are Cantonese names, not Mandarin, so I agree with you :)

                            Knowing its Chinese name (is it 春捲?) helps.

                            1. re: Das Ubergeek

                              "Chwin Guen" actually sounds like an attempt to phoneticize the Cantonese pronounciation of "Spring Roll." There isn't a generally accepted way to romanize Cantonese, so there may be numerous spellings for the same word. FWIW, "Kwok" and "Ng" are British romanizations courtesy of their colonial period in Hong Kong.

                          2. re: clamscasino

                            I was looking for images for spring roll wrapper versus egg roll wrapper, and find this site.


                            The image they shown in rolling the eggroll uses the eggroll wrapper. Notice it is slightly yellow color (because of the egg), and the resultant eggroll has the blistery skins. The wrapper really looked like bigger versions of the normal wonton skins.

                            The spring roll wrapper is just flour and water (as far as I can remember), and white in appearance. It's ultra thin and the sheets are always very difficult to peel off from each other. This image is the best I can find. It's usually in the refridgerated section of a chinese supermarket, next to the wonton skins and gyoza skins.


                            The vietnamese spring rolls uses the dried rice paper that you need to moisten prior to use, but the result has a similar texture to the spring roll skin (the filling, size and application of vietnamese spring roll is completely different, however).

                            The shanghaiese spring roll my Mom makes, and whose recipe I inherited, calls for julienned pork, nappa, chinese shitake mushrooms, and shrimp and uses the spring roll skins. The mixture is stirfried, cooled, drained and then wrapped. If the filling has too much liquid, it tend to 'burst' during frying. The inside is more moist than say a vietnamese spring roll, but it's not juicy in the sense of juicy dumplings.

                            Lastly noticed they now have 2 types of eggrolls at Trader Joes - veggie and chicken. Nothing close to what you guys needed? Try frying those (after they are defrosted) instead of baking, and putting a ton of hot mustard/sweet & sour sauce?

                            The spro

                            1. re: notmartha

                              I think someone else mentioned that the Trader Joe's eggrolls have a similar skin to NY eggrolls. This is somewhat true-- the skins are certainly more like NY eggrolls than what passes for eggroll skin in LA. However it's still not right, and the fillings are totally off in terms of flavor and texture.

                              That's what I meant what I said that it's a simple thing that's hard to do right. There are so many individual components involved that if you just mess up one or two, the whole thing is thrown off.

                              Mr Taster

                              1. re: notmartha

                                I've looked at the photos now... the photo of the closeup domestically made wrapper looks the most like the eggroll I've been trying to pinpoint (however the filling is totally wrong...!)

                                Mr Taster

                                1. re: Mr Taster

                                  Well, the best bet is to experiment with the fillings. I don't think they use chinese (nappa) cabbage. Try regular cabbage and use roast pork instead, and season with some salt, sugar and soy sauce.

                                  Another poster posted a recipe that calls for steaming the egg rolls before deep frying them. I am guessing that's where the 'chewy' skin comes from (use of water bath of some sort is a common method to make crust chewy - ala bagel and pretzel).

                                  Sometimes the taste of the food that one remembers is better than it really was. I swear that potato knishes and hot dogs from NYC street vendors tasted great in my youth - until I try them again after years of absence and wonder why I ever likeed those.

                                  1. re: notmartha

                                    I have a feeling you're right about the cabbage. The first time I made these I used cabbage left over from St. Patrick's Day's traditional corned beef boiled dinner and the result was very "New York." (Can't get Napa cabbage at my local grocery anyway.)Also, you might try using some ham instead of roast pork. One of my recipes calls for Smithfield ham. The ham, used sparingly and cut into tiny squares, gives the eggroll a nice smokey, salty flavor.

                                    I also think that over the years, eggroll manufacturers have lessened the more costly ingredients in their recipes, such as the shrimp, pork and more exotic veggies, leaving the cheapo cabbage to take over.

                                    Those pictures from egullet are gorgeous. Look at all the shrimp! Hope they inspire some serious playing around in the kitchen.

                                    BTW, we have successfully frozen uncooked eggrolls and then just plopped them, still frozen into hot oil to fry. No problems there....

                                    1. re: clamscasino

                                      Like fried rice, I think the NY eggrolls uses leftover ingredients (BBQ roast pork, etc.) and cheap ingredients. Smithfield ham will taste good, but doesn't fall under the cheapo category.

                                      Actually I omit the shrimp from my eggrolls. I find them too rubbery after it's cooked twice (fist time in filling, 2nd time deep frying).

                                      I usually just deep fry the whole batch, and freeze 1/2 for later. The only thing with egg roll is that it can mess up the kitchen stove pretty good with all the oil splattering, so I only want to do it once. Plus I don't know what to do with all the leftover oil...

                                      I guess frying it up from the uncooked state probably tastes better.

              2. re: Mr Taster

                During my impoverished graduate school days in NYC, I've had my fair share of half-chicken with fried rice and eggroll for $2.95 at many of the takeout chinese places all over New York. And I came to the conclusion that those eggrolls are probably mass produced in some factory and shipped frozen to all those little chinese takeout joints (and other restaurants like Mee's, etc.) because they all tasted the same. The only variable that affected the flavor was the grease it was fried in. Yeah, there's something a little primal or infantile about them, much like a Big-Mac, and many times it tastes pretty good going down (I usually regret it later). When you think about it, all the roast pork at the little chinese places all taste the same too... makes you wonder where it comes from... just like those eggrolls.

              3. I'm from New York and as you can see from the following post I spend most of my time there in an Arthurian (and hopefully not Quixotic) quest for the holy grail of the perfect Chinese meal.


                But I have never eaten an egg roll in New York, nor did I ever want to -- until I read this discussion on the LA board. Now I do! But I don't know where to get one. I've never seen one in Chinatown. I used the search function to scour the Manhattan board. I found nothing. There was one post seeking a New York egg roll. It went unanswered.

                So I'm wondering... does that New York egg roll exist only in that fabulous, wonder-filled New York of the collective imagination, that mythical place mostly created by movie moguls where tough-talking guys looking like Bogart in fedoras sit around the Automat dropping quarters in the slots to get a glass of milk?

                9 Replies
                1. re: Brian S

                  Honestly, anyplace has them out there. There's a place for sure on St. George's Avenue in Rahway, NJ, right by the Galaxy Diner, that has them.

                  1. re: Brian S

                    You need to step off of the island, most likely.

                    Any commuter-town Chinese joint will have them- be it Westchester, Bergen, or Fairfield County.

                    1. re: julietg

                      Really, it's like Das Ubergeek says. In that area of the country, every single Chinese restaurant (every one... every one... every one!!) makes that type of eggroll and it will be automatically served with duck sauce and hot mustard, which will automatically be on the table next to the soy sauce when you sit down (usually with a bowl of crispy noodles to munch on).

                      Now as to which specific restaurants make the best "NY style" eggrolls, well that's an entirely separate debate best left to the NY board.

                      Mr Taster

                      1. re: julietg

                        I think I've seen them in Tulsa. Which could mean, in any city, you should seek out the least chowhoundish place and try their egg roll. For example, in Los Angeles, I've been doing websearches of Chinese fast food places in Tarzana. All I found was this:

                      2. re: Brian S

                        Try any of the mediocre Murray Hill chinese restaurants. Noodles on 28, Mee Noodle Shop, etc. Stop in for an egg roll and then continue on to a better restaurant. Actually, I have the theory that the crappier/gloopier the food, the better the egg roll and egg drop soup. You might have luck running into any of the take out shops outside of Chinatown with pictures on the wall.

                        1. re: Brian S

                          Golden Gate, on Johnson Ave in Riverdale (the Bronx) is an old-school Chinese-American restaurant, straight out of the 50's. Among other things, they have incredible spareribs (worth a detour) and big fat egg rolls.

                          1. re: Striver

                            This was my chinese restaurant growing up. I eventually moved on to more authentic Chinese food, but this place has good food regardless. It is very americanized but what they serve is excellent. It is alittle too greasy to have too often but man does it hit the spot. Stopping in for one of their egg rolls was always a treat when i was out shopping with my parents. A good egg roll is a ny experience. NYC has their own styles of food adapted from all of the different immigrants who arrived. Our pizza is different, our bagels are different and our native chinese food is different. The one thing they have in common is that they are simply good. Nyers strive to have good food and the Golden Gate eggroll is a part of this culture. 3inches long and maybe 2 around, with brown crisy skin the egg roll is a sight to behold. The inside is a steaming hot mix of crunchy/soft cabbage, roasted pork and occasionaly some shrimp. Topped off with a little hot mustard and you have one of the great walking food that NYC is famous for. We are always in a hurry but that doesnt mean you have to sacrifice deliciousness.

                            Golden gate also has one of my top five dishes ever, butterfly shrimp with bacon.

                            1. re: MVNYC

                              Glad to spark some memories! Occasionally, the retro mood will wash over us and when it does, we get a large order of spareribs and two eggrolls (and Golden Gate still provides a small tub of really hot mustard, not the junk in cellophane). It's simple, and it's totally satisfying.

                        2. Am starting to think that all those "NY" eggrolls just come from the same factory, and thus the sameness. (Anyone willing to go spy on a restaurant's delivery dock?) Have spent at least the past hour googling such things as "egg roll factory" which led to "Hmong traditional food," which led to "recipe for Hmong egg rolls." My culinary journey for the morning...and I learned that the Hmong were a nomadic tribe that long ago lived in southern China and then migrated to Laos and then (some) on to Wisconsin and Minnesota. They do consider "egg rolls" a traditional food, although the introduction to the recipe states you can put anything in an egg roll. (More fun for the home cook.) It doesn't appear though that the recipe would yield what the OP regards as a New York egg roll, although it does call for pork and cabbage, (no shrimp)the two ingredients that seem to be the common thread in most egg or spring rolls.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: clamscasino

                            Yes, the Hmong lived in Guizhou province, and I think it's because of them that Guizhou was one of the last places to come under central Chinese govt control. Even as late as 1750, they were setting ambushes for Chinese soldiers. The Chinese called them Miao. We called them Meo during the Vietnam war. They were US allies... which is why a lot came to the US.

                            1. re: Brian S

                              I student-taught in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and had lots of Hmong folks in my classes -- but I don't remember any actual Hmong restaurants in La Crosse, which is really a beer-and-brats kind of town.

                              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                There is actually a great Hmong restaurant in La Crosse, Hmong's Golden Egg Rolls. They are a pleasant surprise - absolutely delicious. The place makes all of it egg rolls on the spot and it shows. I normally steer clear of egg rolls, but I love these. Really friendly staff, family run. It's been open since 2000, I believe. Try it!

                                1. re: dmoutsop

                                  Sadly, I have only been to La Crosse once since I left in 1998, but if I get back there I'll definitely try it out.

                          2. I've made egg rolls before and most recipes I've seen use Napa cabbage(some call it Chinese cabbage).

                            One of the most important things is that you drain out as much liquid as you can after sauteeing your ingredients (its almost dry) before you wrap it in the skins or you're skins will fall apart before you deep fry them.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: monku

                              Traditional chinese one does, but the OP wanted the NY style, which is Chinese-American. I'm pretty sure it's not nappa cabbage. Nappa cabbage has more of a sweetness to it when it's cooked, and more mushier than the regular cabbage. The regular cabbage has more of a bite to it and definitely crunchier (comparatively speaking).

                            2. Are there eggroll making machines now? As I was growing up and working in my family's restaurant/catering service we would stand for HOURS (me and my cousins) rolling eggrolls and frying them. My dad's eggrolls did NOT have cabbage in them. I think that is why his were so good and different from any other eggrolls bought in the other restaurants or grocery stores.

                              Reading all of these postings has made me hungry for my dad's eggrolls. I guess I am going to have to go make some. It is a LOT of work making the filling and frying themm but so worth it.

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: kimocorb

                                Doubt that there's a machine for it. Good grief. How many do you make at a time?

                                I don't think they are any harder to make than wontons. It can be done in 2 days if needed be - filling one day, then wrapping/frying the next. The problem for me is all the oil splatter. Makes quite a mess!

                                1. re: notmartha

                                  Buy a spatter screen -- while I hesitated at first ("why should I spend the money?") once one was given to me I couldn't live without it.

                                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                    Thanks for the tip! I saw those but always wondered if that actually works?!

                                  2. re: notmartha

                                    We used to make hundreds of them. Little mini bite size ones and the large ones that you would get with a dinner. Like I said we had 2 restaurants and a catering service. Sometimes we would also sell them at outside festivals and fairs. Believe me, we always wished that an eggroll machine would be invented. It is A LOT of prep work.

                                    1. re: kimocorb

                                      Thanks - that explains it. Normal home cooking shouldn't be that bad. I don't think I've ever made more than 40 at a shot.

                                  3. re: kimocorb

                                    What ingredients are in your Dad eggrolls? I am trying to find a recipe that doesn't use cabbage but rather a bean sprout chow mein type filling. Any ideas? Also the Outside was almost like a batter. Unlike the original post, my memories are from the Seattle area about 30-40 years ago! It is amazing how those taste memories linger.

                                    1. re: Yvonne Ackley

                                      He would par boil chopped celery and then drain it really good in a callendar actually squeezing it with a flat pot lid. he would then stirfry ground pork, chopped onions, the celery and sometimes some chopped water chestnuts with soy sauce,salt, pepper, garlic powder. You have to drain off most of the liquid or let it evaporate and then add cornstarch to thicken. Let the mixture cool, putting it in the refrigerator is better. Before rolling the egg rolls add chopped green onion, chinese BBQ Pork minced and sesame oil to the filling. Roll the eggrolls and let cook in oil until lightly browned. Take them out and let them cool. They should be refried if you want the eggrolls to be crispy crunchy. If you stirfry with the bean sprouts there will be a lot of liquid that needs to be drained. It is important that the eggrolls become hot all the way through when frying them. If not they could spoil and there will be too much moisture that will make them soggy.
                                      I like eating them with Plum Sauce which can be found at the asian market. It is much better than regular sweet and sour sauce.