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End of the Great NY Eggroll Debate. And the winner is.......................

After all the eggroll mishigas we've been through over the past few days (see http://www.chowhound.com/topics/349884 ), I decided to give Genghis Cohen another shot.

I stopped in at an odd hour (around 4:45pm) and was greeted by a friendly Chinese woman (funny, I always figured Genghis Cohen was run by some LA hipsters). I got to talking with the lady about her eggrolls, and how strange it is that with all the NY transplants here in LA, why they are the only ones who make NY style eggrolls.

She said, "Of course we make NY eggrolls-- I'm from New York!"

AH HA! That explains a LOT. I wanted to probe more into her experiences coming from Hong Kong to NY and then finally to LA, and what she thinks about LA eggrolls, and why do they deep fry pork dumplings and call them eggrolls, and what's up with that ketchup here they try to pass off as sweet & sour sauce... but she was scurrying about and I didn't want to disrupt her flow.


I opened the takeaway bag and was greeted with 2 mini containers of........ you guessed it......... DUCK SAUCE and SINUS BLASTING HOT MUSTARD!!! Woo hoo!!!! Now listen up, all you LA guys, when I tell you that didn't even need to ask for it. It was simply there, in the bag, as it should be, for all eternity. Again (for emphasis).... I didn't even need to ask! Amazing.

I delved deeper inside the bag and discovered a little plastic container with a paper doily at the bottom were two visions of deep fried, golden brown loveliness.

EXTERIOR: The skin color, texture and size of the eggrolls were just perfect. Deep, golden brown, blistered and bubbly skin, with the crispy exterior and chewy interior that us NY transplants love.

THE FILLING: Of course the heart and soul of the eggroll is in the filling. Das Ubergeek and Professor Salt will be most happy to know that the eggroll filling does in fact contain BOTH shredded bbq pork and mini shrimp!

The shredded cabbage, however, was sort of green and leafy (in NY it's always white), and the wilting of the green leaf made the texture ever so slightly slimy-- whereas in a true NY eggroll, the cabbage should be entirely crunchy. Hmm, minus a few points for authenticity there.

In addition, the overall flavor of the interior was relatively bland. The best NY eggrolls have a wonderful harmony of flavors, which brings all the individual components together. The interior will stand up on its own, but this one sadly did not. The flavor really was 95% crunchy, salty, deep fried exterior skin and only 5% filling... it needs to be more balanced. For example, even though the filling did include the bbq pork and shrimp, they contributed to authenticity of texture, but not to flavor. Too bad.

The overall flavor of the eggroll is distinctly New Yorky in style, but I have to say that if I lived in Brooklyn and GC set up shop there among the masses of restaurants which prepare eggrolls better, I would not be going out of my way to eat GC's version. I *DEFINITELY* would not be paying $5.15 for two (price includes tax... in NYC they're generally 99 cents each.


However I don't live in Brooklyn... I live off Fairfax, and considering that it seems that this is the only eggroll of its kind for 3000 miles, it'll have to do.

In fact when you dip the eggroll into the HONEST TO GOODNESS DUCK SAUCE and SINUS BLASTING HOT MUSTARD (truly... I was incapacitated for 5 minutes on first gulp), it masks some of the inferiorities and if you close your eyes, you can pretty much convince yourself that you're eating the real deal. Almost.

SO......... after much debate, personal reflection and Chowhound research, I'm ready to declare the eggrolls at Genghis Cohen the closest to NY I've ever found outside of the tristate area... which, unfortunately, is not a claim of high praise! However, it is what it is, and overall it's an adequate approximation considering our geographic divergence (and non-existent selection)

Would love for other NY area transplants to try it out and chime in here.

Mr Taster

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  1. Congratulations. :-)

    Now, I hope you'll discover a food so LA, it'll be just as tough to find it in NY.

    6 Replies
          1. re: Das Ubergeek

            how would you describe a SF taco? I lived there for years, and ate plenty o' tacos there. I wonder if I was having the SF tacos?

            1. re: krushdnasty

              I just now saw this -- sorry! A San Fernando-style taco is meat, salsa, and cilantro. Sometimes a bit of chopped onions. On a very small tortilla (well, on two very small tortillas).

              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                Uh-oh, you better make that the San Fernando/Gardena-style taco as that is exactly how they are made at the taco truck on the corner of Vermont and 167th (evenings only) in Gardena.

                They are $1 each, is that equivalent to the pricing in the SFV?

      1. I'm glad you finally found what you were looking for Mr Taster! It was fun to read about the journey to the NY Egg Roll of your memories :) $5.15 for two egg rolls sounds like major rip off to me, but as long as you're happy, it's all good.

        7 Replies
        1. re: kingkong5

          Sadly, I didn't really find what I was looking for... merely the closest approximation. I'll still keep an open mind for others, but it seems pretty unlikely. How many Chinese people who settled in NY would then come to LA and open a Chinese restaurant here, carrying over the eggroll knowledge and traditions they gleaned there serving thousands of New Yorkers? I think it's highly unlikely.

          Mr Taster

          1. re: Mr Taster

            Well when I saw the title of this post, after following the thread that followed your personal quest, I was afraid, very afraid, that you were going to conclude that - And the winner is....................... DOESN'T EXIST!!! At least you found a reasonable approximation. Now I will be able to sleep tonight!

            1. re: Mr Taster

              It's been written that Genghis Cohen does not serve pork and that their egg rolls are made with chicken.

              That could be the difference.

              The difference could also be a matter of 2,500 miles, but that's another story.

              1. re: DanaB

                Hm, that sounds like my post, though I was talking about New Moon in Montrose -- their egg rolls are close, but too big and made with chicken.

                I've never been to Genghis Cohen. I tried to get people to go last night but was overridden by Mrs. Ubergeek who wanted to go have Ethiopian food.

                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                  No need to make a commitment, Das Ubergeek. Just do what I did and get some eggrolls to take away.

                  Mr Taster

                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                    Oops! Sorry! Getting my eggrolls confused!

                  2. re: DanaB

                    It was not chicken. The pork in the eggrolls was that distinctly red-tinged grey color that you see floating in bowls of wonton soup all over Manhattan.

                    Mr Taster

              2. Thanks for the extensive field work, Mr T. I'll head over to Genghis Cohen next time I'm up in that part of the world.

                The preemptive info before someone asks:
                740 N Fairfax Ave
                Los Angeles, CA 90046
                (323) 653-0640

                Can I talk you into posting photos on your blog next time you visit? :P

                1. I'm so pleased! I love Genghis...i was there last night and had:

                  Mai Tai

                  NY Eggrolls
                  No Name Duck
                  Crispy Beef Noodles
                  Honey fried banana with Vanilla ice cream

                  The total was $52. And our server, Hugo, was great

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: Dave and Stuff

                    FIFTY-TWO DOLLARS!!! Holy JESUS. Our whole dinner for four, with beer, at Nyala wasn't $52!

                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                        duck will always be more expensive than most of the ethiopian food found in this town.

                        1. re: westsidegal

                          Really? Duck is pretty cheap at the Cantonese restaurant near my house (BBQ Unlimited on Sherman Way, if you're interested).

                          1. re: Das Ubergeek

                            BBQ Unlimited is one of my favorite Chinese Restaurants in the valley, but really, can you compare their rent to Ghengis Cohen. Location and ambience have someting to be said for. What do you think that menu would have cost at Trader Vic's???????

                            1. re: Hughlipton

                              I hesitate even to think about it, Hugh. I really don't frequent higher-end places very often... I always start thinking about the great ethnic chow my money could be buying.

                              I'm not suggesting that Genghis Cohen is shmancy, just that the price tag gave me a bit of sticker shock.

                      2. re: Dave and Stuff

                        I bet the drinks were a lot of that price.

                      3. True Genghis has NY "style" eggrolls, but sorry, I don't think they're tasty. Still searching...never finding.

                        1. Still searching?
                          Just go to giang nan, have the SHANGHAI style spring rolls, enjoy them and then try to find the best one in town.

                          I think they're pretty good.

                          1. My husband is a native New Yorker and is continuously complaining about the Chinese food around here. One of his biggest complaints is the eggrolls, and another is duck sauce (which I would call sweet and sour sauce). We went to hear a friend sing at Genghis Cohen's a few years ago, and he looked like he was going to cry, he was so happy about the egg rolls. And he went on and on about them (and the duck sauce) for weeks. He did say they are not as good as genuine NY eggrolls, but for a transplant they are far better than just feeling deprived!

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: chazar

                              Duck sauce isn't the same as sweet-and-sour... duck sauce has apricot (or peach) jam in it.

                              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                New Yorkers got to have Saucy Susan duck sauce. That's duck sauce...good on duck too.


                                I've gotten it at Gelsons before.

                                1. re: monku

                                  Saucy Susan is a suburban version of Chinese Resto duck saude. It is in my fridge next to the 10 jars of various BBQ sauces that I put on my roated chicken and is a minor player in the Jfood power rotation.

                              2. re: chazar

                                I believe Vons Pavillions has actual duck sauce in stock, at least in some stores. I saw it, oddly enough, in one of their Passover ads. Or not so odd, I can see the logic of it, in a way.

                              3. I posted about this awhile back, but Plum Tree Inn in China Town that recently moved has what I consider to be killer new york style eggrolls. Has anyone tried them?

                                1. If you want authentic NYC Egg Rolls, I've searched for 17 years, the winner is Wings in Yorba Linda (Orange County) off 91 Freeway. This is a trip back in time to 50's and 60's NYC Chinese Restaurants (Crispy Noodles, Duck Sauce, Chow Mein with Bean Sprouts etc.) and I pick up a Dozen at a time every month. I consider myself an Egg Roll fanatic and on business trips to NY usually load up a dozen or so from a place in Queens near JFK.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: NYN8IVE

                                    I am pleased to report that on our way back from the LA Times Travel & Adventure show in Long Beach, my Lovely Tasting Assistant (LTA) and I took a rediculously long detour to Wing's in Yorba Linda. The place is exactly as NYN8IVE describes it-- a total time warp back to American Chinese restaurants of the 50s, 60s and 70s. All male, tuxedo-vested waiters. Chinese lamps hanging from the light fixtures. Forks and spoons only and not a chopstick in sight (and although the place was full, there were not any other Chinese people aside from the waitstaff and my Taiwanese LTA, who finds the uber-"Chineseyness" of American Chinese restaurants wildly surrealistic)

                                    First thing when we sat down was the waiter dropped a bowl of those crispy fried noodles, a staple of the kitschy 60's Ameri-Chinese restaurant. He also slapped down a little yin-yang dish of hot mustard and.... ketchup. Not duck sauce.... but ketchup. *sigh* That's okay though..... we're rolling with it.

                                    We started with the pork wonton soup (note to non-LA hounds-- this is not WOR wonton. This is the back-east style, similar to how they make it in Hong Kong-- clear broth, slivers of green onions, meaty wontons, and red-tinged bbq pork). Soup was fine. Wontons were overcooked and had a gummy/pasty mouthfeel. Pork was too thickly cut, tough and chewy.

                                    Next up-- bbq pork and vegetables. Not bad-- more of the same chewy, red-tinged, thick cut, not-flavorful-enough bbq pork, but the sauce was light (not syrupy sweet as I had feared) and the veggies for the most part were still crisp and not overcooked.

                                    Last up........ the piece de resistance. The eggrolls! (2 for $3.35) They arrived on their own little metal platter on a raised pedestal. They looked right-- deep brown in color, bubbly skin, stuffed with lots of white cabbage and little bits of red bbq pork. Oddly the two eggrolls had been pre-cut into eight pieces, allowing for bite-sized consumption. I had visions of dozens upon dozens of Wing's native Angeleno customers balking at these comparatively massive things, unable to reconcile their lifetime of spring roll experiences with these comparatively massive fried logs. Wing's manager: "Lao wai can't handle our eggrolls anymore. From now on we cut them up!"

                                    I bit into a piece. Despite the deep brown fried skin, it was surpringly soft and chewy-- it didn't deliver the satisfying crackle and crunch of a good NYC eggroll skin. Also the flavor was a little bland, and the bits of BBQ pork seemed that they were there just for show, contributing very little flavor to the party. When dipped in the hot mustard and *shudder* ketchup, it jacked up the flavor intensity somewhat.

                                    Now don't get me wrong-- it wasn't a bad eggroll. It was actually about as close as I've anything I've found in LA (without the restaurant explicitly coming out and saying "New York Style Eggroll" on the menu.) And at $3.35 for two, it certainly is a more reasonable deal than Genghis Cohen's $5.00 "New York style eggrolls". But overall, I still think that GC's, while still mediocre by any Brooklyn eggroll standard, still come out slightly above Wing's-- if for no other reason than they actually give you real duck sauce with their flavorless rolls.

                                    Wing's definitely gets an A+ for effort, however... and the trip in the wayback machine was a hoot.

                                    The quest continues, however.....

                                    Mr Taster
                                    Protect Chowhound
                                    Boycott Avatars!

                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                      Glad you had an opportunity to taste a Wings Egg Roll, I find that Duck Sauce is usually absent in most Chinese Restaurants here, we buy it at Vons in Kosher section. I usually just dip in Hot Mustard. Sorry you were disappointed but I've had Egg Rolls in at least a hundred different restaurants in So Cal and this is without a doubt the best but I will try Genghis Cohens next time I'm in LA. Where are they located?

                                      1. re: NYN8IVE

                                        It's on Fairfax just north of Melrose on the east side of the street.


                                        1. re: tony michaels

                                          Went to see the Jersey Boys in LA this summer and finally went to Genghis Cohen, Eggrolls were fine probably a tossup with Wings. I haven't been to Wings in past year so they may have changed something. My Mother in Law just came to visit from Brooklyn with 6 of NY's finest and now I need a good bowl of Wonton Soup to complement it. It's odd but Hot & Sour Soup is excellent in most places but Won Ton not so much, usually filling is laying in soup because skins are so thin.

                                  2. Huh... I grew up in the SF Bay Area and I remember eating those "New York" style egg rolls all the time... didn't know they were so hard to find around here!! Sorry I can't remember the specific restaurants up North I've had them in, though I do remember that they had them at my high school cafeteria!! That was back in the 80s/90s though, maybe the "spring roll" style eggroll has taken over up there too.

                                    1. I did not realize LA was an eggroll wasteland, so sad.

                                      Mr Taster, I loved reading your escapade (maybe in your Escalade) and would like to add/modify your reflection of NYC eggrolls.

                                      1 - The duck sauce usually came in the little packet like the inferno-mustard (FYI - my dad cut his eggroll in half and pured that stuff on. His forehead turned a beautiful shade of red, matched only my the whites of his eyes turning blood red. :-))). Only the higher end Chinese gave the duck sauce in the little Solo cup.
                                      2 - Your forgot to describe the greenish oil that MUST be left behind in the celophane baggie the eggroll came in when you take it out.
                                      3 - You forgot the first words said after biting into the eggroll, "Oh sh%t that's hot."
                                      4 - You forgot the second words said after biting into an eggroll, "Oh sh%t I got oil on my shirt."
                                      5 - I believe the cabbage is both green and white and is shredded
                                      6 - you forgot to describe the major discussion by the family about whether to cut in half or in thirds. We could never buy one per person, and no i do not understand why but still do it with my kids.

                                      How do they get the pork that color?

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: jfood

                                        I'm sure I don't want to know how they get the pork that colour.

                                        I would only add the following by way of correction:

                                        "Oh SH%T that's hot!!"

                                      2. NO !!! You guys are all missing the point -- true NY eggrolls are made by:

                                        1. WRAPPING an eggroll skin around a dildo-shaped form -- the ones out here aren't pre-formed, they are merely wrapped around some soggy shredded vegetables, so the skin winds a few times around and the eggroll takes mostly like fried bread.

                                        2. DICING fresh vegetables with diced BBQ pork and cooked mini shrimp. Here they want to shred the veggies instead of dicing ... and then they cook them to make them even more stringy and wimpy! Not so in NY where the veggies are inserted diced and fresh.

                                        3. PACKING the formed eggroll skin with the diced mixture -- which involves using an "eggroll press" (available in NY's Chinatown) so you completely fill the chamber. Again, here they just wrap a skin loosely around some soggy mess. WRONG!

                                        3. FRYING the tightly-packed eggroll quickly, so the diced veggies stay crisp. Too much time in the fryer leads to oily, soggy eggrolls.

                                        That's it - no shredding, no stir-fryng, no wrapping around soggy shredded cabbage.

                                        This was taught to me by the chef at the great, lamented KING DRAGON, which was a part of La Cienega's restaurant row for years (it's since become Wae Lee Oak).

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: lobe

                                          I don't know where in New York you've been getting your egg rolls but the cabbage is definitely shredded and stir-fried in all the NY egg rolls I've ever eaten. Agree about the stuffing full.

                                          1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                            I've given up on the hunt.

                                            I make my own.

                                            I can't get that perfectly stuffed shape, but the taste/texture is right. And yes, shredded.

                                            And every time I'm in Queens, I pick one up at the neighborhood Chinese joint for a buck.

                                        2. Uncle Chen in Encino has very good NY style egg rolls.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: LL1

                                            I wonder if chicago expats in Milan bitch about not being able to get numero-uno style pizza.

                                            glad that you finally found a place. What's with the hating on Ketchup. Ketchup is originally chinese (not with tomato- but the word -
                                            OED - app. ad. Chinese (Amoy dial.) kôechiap or kê-tsiap brine of pickled fish or shell-fish (Douglas Chinese Dict. 46/1, 242/1).
                                            Am Her: - http://www.bartleby.com/61/32/K004320...

                                            china kitchen at the farmer's market used to make those kinds of eggrolls when i was a kid.
                                            no longer, i believe

                                            1. re: Jerome

                                              it's not about 'hating on' ketchup. it's just that for those of us who grew up eating this [maddeningly elusive] delicacy, the only acceptable/appropriate condiments are the very particular types of duck sauce and sinus-clearing hot mustard described above.

                                              ketchup may be fine for some things, but it's got no business anywhere near authentic ny-style eggrolls.

                                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                Heck, I love ketchup, and sometimes put it on salad, but I wouldn't put it on an eggroll, NY, LA, or MArtian, for that matter.

                                          2. Best NY style Egg Roll........ Go to NY..... Best NY style Pizza....... Go to NY However Uniquely LA "OKI DOG" Oki Dog & Pastrami Burrito..... = )

                                            1. Trader Joe's frozen Eggrolls and even those supermarket frozen-food section "Sensations" eggrolls are better than what you get in 90% of the Chinese restaurants around here !

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: jillso

                                                Sad, but oh so true.


                                                Mr Taster

                                                1. re: Mr Taster

                                                  This is wonderful - It's been donkey years since I have had such an eggroll - and reading this discussion brings back how much I miss them - however one note - I was not aware the kind of eggrolls discussed here - the blistered brown wrapper, shredded cabbage, pork with the prerequisite duck sauce and hot mustard - was specific to NY. The very same eggrolls got me through many a long night studying in several of the New England states...