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May 20, 2009 09:55 AM

Hot & Sour Soup/Egg Rolls All the Same?

In many of the Chinese Restaurants I eat in, with minor exceptions, the hot and sour soup and the egg rolls all taste the same. Is there a huge commissary in CT shipping out vats of H&S soup and cases of egg rolls? Anyone else experience this deja vu of soup and egg rolls?

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  1. Never heard of this, but somebody on the Florida board mentioned that new Chinese neighborhood restaurants there are eeriely similar in their offerings, such that they were described as "cookie cutter." What we do know is that Fujianese entrepreneurs and restaurant workers fan out from New York and settle throughout the east, midwest and south, and that workers will hop around all over those regions. We were speculating that somebody in the Fujianese community might be semi-franchising some kind of formulaic Chinese restaurant kit.

    1. If you are interested in why Chinese-American restaurants seem nearly identical no matter where you are in the USA, I highly recommend Jennifer 8. Lee's book, The Fortune Cookie Chronicles.

      1 Reply
      1. re: kathryn

        I'll second the book recommendation. It's a series of essays that are strung together with a central theme of the fast food Chinese industry.

      2. I have a sneaking suspicion you're correct. I have to say, coming from Toronto, ALL the hot and sour soups I've had in NY/LI/NJ are horrid and equally so. Dark brown glop, way too much pepper, too much cornstarch. In Toronto, they use much more chili and vinegar (which provides the hot and sour tastes), and the broth is much lighter in consistency.

        27 Replies
        1. re: KevinB

          I thought black pepper was supposed to provide the hot, not chiles.

          1. re: paulj

            Nope. Hot (chili) oil AND black pepper.

            1. re: Pan

              No, it is white pepper. Black pepper is not used in hot and sour soup.

              1. re: scoopG

                No, it is white pepper

                scoopG is fact, you would be hard pressed to find black pepper in any restaurant at all. Check the pepper shaker on the's white pepper almost always.

                1. re: scoopG

                  I checked my 'Encyclopedia of Chinese Food' (the one with the 'combine A,B,C' instructions), which has a half dozen versions. Most H&S soups used black pepper (or white if you don't want the color), typically 1/2 or 1 tsp. One called for a 'chinese hot sauce'. Several used preserved kohlrabi (the Szechuan style is quite hot).

                  1. re: paulj

                    Black pepper is much less common in Chinese cooking than white pepper. The Chinese just say "ground pepper", but it usually refers to white. Certain regions make more use of black pepper, but in general I expect white pepper in Chinese dishes.

                    I think English recipes substitute black pepper for the same reason most recipes for Orange Chicken you find on the net use chicken breast instead of dark meat. It's what Americans are used to and prefer.

                    1. re: huaqiao

                      In European/American usage, white pepper is used where appearance matters - i.e. you don't want black specks in a cream sauce. I've read that there is a difference in flavor, but at the level that I use them, I don't notice a difference.

                      Before chiles, pepper was quite valuable. Maybe black was favored in the West because it was more visible, a kind of ostentatious display of wealth. China, being closer to sources of pepper, was happier to the hide the pepper, hence a preference for white.

                      1. re: paulj

                        definitely a flavor difference between black and white pepper.

                        1. re: bigjeff

                          Would you agree with Larousse Gastronomic that white pepper (black with the 'skin and fleshy part removed') is 'less pungent and less aromatic'?

                          1. re: paulj

                            mmm, hard to describe the difference but . . . white pepper is a little more pungent in a way but maybe that's not the right word. like . . . . black pepper tastes just like pepper only but white pepper is more multi-dimensional? definitely smells stronger, more sneezier. its tableside whenever I have any sort of thicker chinese soups, or even with wonton soup. depends of course.

                            1. re: bigjeff

                              Exactly bigjeff. Also, despite what wikipedia might say - white pepper carries much more of a heat punch. It's the white pepper (heat) and vinegar (sour) that makes hot and sour soup well, hot and sour. One does not even have to add chili or chili paste at all. I've honestly never seen black pepper in hot and sour soup in any Chinese restaurant I've had it in.

                          2. re: bigjeff

                            While we're at it, I think sourcing a good package of white pepper is worth it when cooking. I've had some little bottles as sold in basic American grocery stores, and it's pretty wimpy to me. I just got some whole white peppercorns from an Asian grocer and hopefully those will have more oomph, ground.

                            1. re: Cinnamon

                              The Indian Grocery Store Demystified book claims
                              'The flavor is in the outer skin [which black pepper retains] while the pungency lies in the core, so white pepper is hotter but less aromatic.' But it still talks about using white to avoid the black specks.

                              The aromatic quality can be tested by just smelling a freshly opened jars. Whether one is hotter (more pungent) than the other depends on using it in large enough quantities - which is rare in most 'western' dishes. Peppose, an Italian beef shank stew, is the only one that I know of that intentionally uses enough black pepper to be very hot.

                              1. re: paulj

                                I think that's pretty accurate. I feel white pepper has more heat, but black pepper is more aromatic. White pepper smells kind of earthy to me, while black is more sharp.

                                The main difference for me is the texture. White pepper is very fine and powdery while black is more coarse and grainy. So white pepper definitely has the higher sneeze factor since it easily gets up your nose.

                                1. re: huaqiao

                                  White pepper does not have to be any finer than black. I have both in whole form. But I just looked at the spices in a large Asian grocery. I found white pepper powder, but the black was a coarser grind. And powder may indeed work better in a (clear) soup.

                    2. re: scoopG

                      You're right; white pepper would be more commonly used than black pepper.

                      1. re: Pan

                        Shouldn't it be ground szechuan peppercorns in hot and sour soup?

                        1. re: AmyH

                          Szechuan peppercorns aren't spicy, they're just citrusy and numbing, so you need the white pepper for the "hot".

                          1. re: Humbucker

                            Looking up these peppers, I found that the name for Szechuan pepper means 'flower pepper', while the black (and white) pepper means 'foreign pepper'.

                            1. re: paulj

                              Ha.. you got it! For your information, carrots are called "foreign turnips" and onions are called "ocean scallions"!

                              1. re: bearmi

                                I also seem to recall that at one time the chinese word for the English walnut was "foreign peach"

                          2. re: AmyH

                            No. I've never had Hot and Sour Soup with Sichuan pepper in it. I can imagine people from Sichuan putting Sichuan pepper in almost anything, though.

                            1. re: Pan

                              Chinese restaurants, at least the ones I've managed and or toured, use white pepper almost exclusively. Coarsely ground black pepper is kept on hand to make scallops in black peppercorn sauce, and XO sauce for shrimp, fish and steak. (By the way, there's not really any XO in that sauce, just good brandy.)

                              Re: above: there's never chili oil in hot and sour soup. The soup is clarified so it has no oil on top of it at all. When placed in the bowl, the soup is given a quick shot of light amber sesame oil, and a garnish of scallion, and is served immediately.

                              It's sad that Chinese restaurants take such little care, sometimes, when making hot and sour soup. I've had Taiwanese hot and sour with seafood, and it's absolutely delicious. There are a number of different preparations, vegetarian as well as pork-laden, for good hot and sour soup. The "fast-food" Chinese restaurants fear the cost of good-quality ingredients (the vinegar one uses makes a world of difference).

                              1. re: shaogo

                                This pepper conversation has been enlightening. I've been using chili paste. It isn't quite what I want. Will have to try white pepper. I want a lighter color too. I've been using soy sauce, but will try just salt.

                    3. re: paulj

                      I don't believe there's hot chile oil in H&S soup either.

                      1. re: c oliver

                        You're right. White pepper and vinegar is what makes it Hot and Sour.

                  2. surely the egg rolls are sysco but the rest of the stuff is pretty much formulaic; I'm sure everything is still made fresh on premises but certainly the same ratios of standard ingredients. its like finding the same tower isle beef patties in every single pizza joint in nyc.

                    54 Replies
                    1. re: bigjeff

                      I'm not only referring to the flavor and taste, but the ingredients as well. Most are equal in size and texture. If I took 20 containers of H&S soup and 20 egg rolls and examined the ingredients I bet they be equal in size, shape and content.

                      1. re: Stuartmc910

                        Is this really surprising? You are talking about fast food joints. Of course they are going to have premade stuff.

                        if you go to a non fast food chinese restaurant you will find that this is not the case.

                        most pizza places use the same ingredients too. that is why most pizza places taste the same and are mediocre.

                        1. re: Yaxpac

                          No, I am not talking about the mom and pop take out places, but some of the "upscale" and moderate priced restaurants as well.

                            1. re: KTinNYC

                              Our Place on 3rd Ave., Lillys (all of them) three in Hartsdale Westchester whose names wouldn't mean anything.

                              1. re: Stuartmc910

                                I've never heard of Our Place, but if it's just a neighborhood Chinese place then I'm not really surprised that the hot and sour soup and egg rolls are all very generic tasting

                            2. re: Stuartmc910

                              I think you might have a good point about eggrolls and soup coming from the same "factory". I have seen frozen "restaurant style" eggrolls sold at Chinese supermarkets (I think they are made in Brooklyn, NY) and I won't be surprised if there is a large commissary in the tri-state area that makes "Hot and Sour Soup" base for restaurants to add their own tofu/mushroom/bamboo shoots and eggs.

                              Another thing is that one common ingredient in Hot and Sour Soup and Eggrolls is canned, shredded bamboo shoots. I think these bamboo shoots all have similar shred/size so when you take apart the eggroll/soup this particular ingredient will all look alike from Restaurant A and Restaurant B, even if they make their own eggrolls or soup. Another ingredient is the "tree ear" mushroom in Hot and Sour soup. This usually comes in dry packages and they are all sliced/diced in similar dimensions, contributing to the uniformity you see.

                              1. re: Stuartmc910

                                ever thought that this was just the way the dish is? like ordering greek salad at any diner, fettucini alfredo at an italian joint or a turkey burger deluxe; call it cookie-cutter or S.O.P.; sysco rules the kitchens of the vast majority of restaurants.

                              2. re: Yaxpac

                                Even a place like Grand Sichuan (St. Marks or Chelsea, e.g.) that serves some very good Sichuan and Hunan food makes crappy, typical takeout-Chinese-style eggrolls and hot and sour soup for their lunch specials, which tend to suck. You cannot call them a "fast food Chinese restaurant."

                                1. re: Pan

                                  well, I would say that it really depends on what you are ordering at G.S.

                                  For standard American/Chinese fare, yes I would say that it is typical chinese fast food.

                                  1. re: Yaxpac

                                    That's more or less my point. The problem is, if you don't know that, you don't know that, and the whole profile of the restaurant doesn't suggest "typical cheap takeout junk."

                                    1. re: Pan

                                      i disagree. If you simply look at GS from the outside it does imply, cheap, fast-food chinese. and for items like Hot & Sour soup, chix & brocolli, etc...that is what you will get.

                                      compare that to say Chin Chin, Tse Yang or even Phoenix Garden...i would not expect the same type of meal. these places do not suggest cheap takeout junk.

                                      1. re: Yaxpac

                                        there ain't no place making eggrolls fresh. it's like fortune cookies, you just order boxes of it each month.

                                        1. re: bigjeff

                                          I beg to differ. Chinese restaurants rarely order anything pre-made. The reason? They've got plenty of labor. The staff typically work double shifts each day, and has from about 2:30 until 5:00 each day to prepare things like egg rolls, dumplings, won-tons, crab rangoon, etc. Haven't you ever seen the waiters in a Chinese restaurant sitting around a table in the back stuffing and folding won tons for soup?

                                          Hereinabove, bigjeff, you also insist that Chinese restaurants utilize Sysco for pre-made items. P.F. Chang's, maybe. The others use the industry-standard purveyors (yeah, with the "graffiti trucks") who all sell the same things to Chinese restaurants, and no pre-made items.

                                          One of the reasons egg rolls and hot and sour soup *seem* like they're all made in one place is because Chinese restaurant workers have an uncanny ability to consistently and accurately duplicate and re-create flavors, textures, shapes (folds) and sizes that they learned from whatever elder taught them how to cook.

                                          Ever have hot and sour soup that really stands out? That's probably because the stock the soup's made with was made right. The stock pot is the heart of the Chinese restaurant.

                                          How do I know this? 20 years in the Chinese restaurant business.

                                          1. re: shaogo

                                            I know for a fact a majority of the Chinese will either order from a Chinese purveyor or Sysco. Sysco will have specials on shrmp this time of year, and most load up their walk in with them. Also, cheap whole chicken and broken rice. Whatever is the cheaper path.

                                            1. re: DallasDude

                                              Perhaps Chinese restaurants in Dallas order from Sysco on sale. But here in the northeast, a Chinese restaurateur would be ashamed to admit that he sources anything from Sysco. There are plenty of lower-cost ways to go about things.

                                              1. re: shaogo

                                                Lol. Silly comment. lowest cost is lowest cost. I speak from a broader knowledge than just my little corner of the globe. Why would anyone be ashamed of getting the better bargain?

                                                Are you Chinese? Do you own a restaurant of any kind?

                                                1. re: DallasDude

                                                  I'm not Chinese but I run a Chinese restaurant and have been in that business for nearly 20 years.

                                                  I guess I didn't make myself clear. First of all, there are *always* better buys than what Sysco has to offer. Part of Sysco's appeal to restaurants is the availability of thousands of items from a single supplier. I assure you that our "grafitti truck" vendors all offer consistently lower prices on everything a Chinese restaurant uses.

                                                  The Chinese restaurateurs that I know regularly brag to each other about how frugal they are, about what kind of bargains they've found, etc. That's why I say they'd be ashamed to admit using Sysco, a supplier that's looked upon as being unnecessarily expensive. It's all about perception.

                                                  Perhaps Sysco has a winter shrimp sale but they never offer lowest prices consistently.

                                                  1. re: shaogo

                                                    mhmm. I am far from a Sysco fan. I find them to be a blight on our culture. However, a shrimp deal is a shrimp deal. And one would be foolish not to load up on a giant walk in full when presented an opportunity.

                                                    Would be curious as to this Chinese restaurant you run in the NE.

                                                    1. re: DallasDude

                                                      I live in NJ and I've personally seen workers at Chinese restaurants do food prep in off hours like shaogo mentioned. I've seen many places wrapping large quantities of egg rolls and I can't imagine any self respecting chinese takeout joint buying premade eggrolls from sysco...not that it's impossible, but the issue would be cost. They have too much labor available to buy anything premade.

                                                      1. re: joonjoon

                                                        <not that it's impossible, but the issue would be cost.>

                                                        I bet you that PF Chang's wantons and egg rolls were premade. Home made Dim Sum actually are costly even with cheap labor. In addition, making dim sum takes more than just cheap labor. It is actually a skill labor. If it is simple, then you will have tons of people able to open Dim Sum restaurants, but we don't.

                                                        Even in a Dim Sum heaven city like Hong Kong, the number of Dim Sum chefs are dwindling. Dim Sum restaurants have to start buying from specialized factories, and unable to hire Dim Sum chefs.

                                                        "With smaller crews, many restaurants today serve prepackaged, frozen dim sum, and a multitude of chefs now manage factories instead of kitchens. From a distance, the factory-made bites are indistinguishable from the handmade ones. But it's there: "It's hard to explain the difference," says Chan Chun-hung. "You can't taste the heart in it," adds Mr. Chan, the head dim-sum instructor for the Chinese Cuisine Training Institute in Hong Kong. "


                                                        Now, these are not the crappy frozen dim sum you find in supermarkets. These are made by professional chefs. However, the model is changing. It is changing to a "centralized" workflow.

                                                        My point is that making dim sum is not about cheap labor. We are not talking about workers trimming bean sprouts here.

                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                          Makes sense CK. I get how that makes sense with specialized labor like dim sum, but anyone can roll a decent egg roll with just a little practice. I'm just reporting on what I'm seeing at takeout places where I's quite often that I'll walk in and the family is huddled together prepping food.

                                                          1. re: joonjoon

                                                            egg rolls, fantail shrimp, shrimp toast, wontons, spare ribs, boneless pork are all made in house where I am as well. Most make their own dumplings, but not always.

                                                            You can tell if the egg rolls are made in house by the house Fresh, the wrappers have egg in them and are yellow in the inside. Frozen are white and close to being double wrapped on the ends.

                                                            Most will also make one type of Pork Dim Sum Dumplings in they are very very easy to make and the ingredients are already in inventory.

                                                            1. re: joonjoon

                                                              Yeah, I think you are correct.

                                                              By the way, do you mean egg rolls or spring rolls. Not a big deal really.

                                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                Actually it is. Ask any Chinese person what they are and you'll get:

                                                                EGG ROLLS = a flaky, light (almost crepe-like) long cylindrical sweet confection that is long and pale yellow:


                                                                .... sold in tins. Some are rectangular and flat with a bit of crystallized sugar as filling.

                                                                This blog detailed it best:


                                                                1. re: LotusRapper

                                                                  Foods can have many names...and the same things can have different names.

                                                                  Your links and descriptions identify cookies...but that does not mean egg rolls do not exist otherwise or cannot be something else. In almost every Chinese American Restaurant there are both egg rolls and spring rolls....the difference in the fillings and the wrappers used.

                                                                  Egg Rolls today can be:

                                                                  * all vegetables....Vegetable Egg Roll

                                                                  * Shrimp & Vegetables....Shrimp Roll

                                                                  * Red Roast Pork & Vegetables....Egg Roll

                                                                  * Red Roast Pork, Shrimp & Vegetables...Egg Rolls.

                                                                  In New York & New's been this way since at least the 50s....but probably much longer.

                                                                  Spring Rolls are also sometimes called Shanghai Rolls in this area.

                                                                  1. re: fourunder

                                                                    We are sort of talking about the same thing. The egg rolls commonly known in western Chinese restaurants exist as they are, but they did not originate in China, but in the western world by Chinese immigrants. And they do differ (as you pointed out) than spring rolls (which do originate in China) by virtue of filling and wrapper. "Authentic" Chinese spring rolls are exactly like those you see at dim sum:


                                                                    All this is making me hungry, and I don't care if someone gives me some egg rolls, egg/spring rolls, or spring rolls :-)

                                                                    1. re: LotusRapper

                                                                      regardless of what they are....egg rolls, spring rolls or cookies...I prefer all three...(is that even possible)

                                                                      btw. My father owned 5 Chinese restaurants..

                                                                      1. re: LotusRapper

                                                                        Not Chinese, but I thoroughly enjoy the so called "summer roll" or "Vietnamese spring roll" as well:


                                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                          Ah, now those are called salad rolls, lol.


                                                                          Better stop before we get into another lengthy discussion ;-)

                                                                          1. re: LotusRapper

                                                                            <Better stop before we get into another lengthy discussion ;-)>

                                                                            Do you know spring rolls are probably the oldest known dim sum? :D (at least as far as we know). Spring rolls are older than steamed barbecue buns (Char Siu Bao), spring dumplings, pork dumplings....etc.

                                                                          2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                            And Vietnamese fried rolls are called ........ CHả giò

                                                                            They were made for you, CK.

                                                                            1. re: LotusRapper

                                                                              <They were made for you>

                                                                              Ha ha ha. It took me a second to realize the humor.

                                                                              CHả giò

                                                                        2. re: fourunder

                                                                          when i was growing up in japan a hundred years ago, my mother (who was japanese) called the tamagomaki as "egg rolls" in english. she called the fried rolls as spring rolls.
                                                                          imagine my surprise when i cam to the states for college and discovered what egg rolls and spring rolls were here in the states. :-)

                                                                          1. re: ritabwh

                                                                            <when i was growing up in japan a hundred years ago>

                                                                            You are 100+ year old?

                                                                              1. re: LotusRapper

                                                                                Well, I must say he looks much younger than 100. I thought he would look more like this:


                                                                          2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                            SPRING ROLLS = fried rolls with veggie (occasionally with bits of meat) that is commonly (but erroneously labeled) as "egg rolls". There is *no* egg anywhere in, or around, a spring roll.

                                                                            1. re: LotusRapper

                                                                              Sorry, but I'm going to have to agree with all who have ever uttered the words *Egg Roll* together. Egg Rolls are made with *egg* in the wrappers.

                                                                              Spring Rolls can be made with Rice or Wheat Wrappers.

                                                                              1. re: fourunder

                                                                                That depends on the country. If we're talking about Chinese spring rolls, then no, the wrapper has wheat flour, not rice flour.

                                                                                Also, the mis-nomenclature occurs in the English language. In the Chinese language, spring rolls and egg rolls are completely different things, as I previously mentioned.

                                                                                1. re: LotusRapper

                                                                                  Chinese spring rolls, then no, the wrapper has wheat flour, not rice flour.

                                                                                  that's correct...and the same wrappers are often used for Moo Shu dishes or Peking Duck in Chinese American that do not make their own pancakes as a reasonable facsimile.

                                                                              2. re: LotusRapper

                                                                                For it worth, I got some hand made egg rolls (egg rolls as in direct Chinese translation, not the common usage) from a Toronto locally fame store: Tung Tung (東東蛋卷皇). I went to Toronto for my winter vacation.


                                                                                The employees were rolling the egg rolls and put them in plastic bags. I bought three packages for $10 -- more expensive than the typical egg rolls.

                                                                            2. re: joonjoon

                                                                              JJ - rolling eggrolls (btw correct term is spring rolls) is one thing. Making hargow, siumai, taro fritters, egg tarts, etc. takes more effort and more coordination of ingredients prepping and making.

                                                                              And these take-out places you mention, do they serve dim sum in the daytime ?

                                                                              1. re: LotusRapper

                                                                                If the correct term is spring roll then why is it called egg roll on the menu? And why is there a separate item called spring roll?

                                                                                I'm talking about crappy local Chinese takeout places...they do not serve dim sum. As noted earlier, I totally get that Dim Sum required more specialized labor.


                                                                                1. re: joonjoon

                                                                                  That's because the savoury egg rolls you find in restaurant appetizers menus are a western-Chinese creation, generally look like this:


                                                                                  While the egg rolls *in* China (finally Wiki got it right) are these, a sweet-ish crepe-y roll:


                                                                                  Spring rolls (I'm only referring to the fried kind), which vary considerably throughout Asia in that the wrapper is very thin, can be made of rice or white flour and more often lack meat, but again regional versions may add meat.

                                                          2. re: Yaxpac

                                                            You're judging by the mere fact that it's not upscale or pretentious? Please. What I expect from Midtown upscale places is spa food, and it's a pleasant surprise when it's merely overpriced by tasty. It looks like we're going to have to agree to disagree.

                                                            1. re: Pan

                                                              Phoenix Garden is far from upscale or pretentious. i am just separating those places from fast food joints okay? jeez, relax

                                                              1. re: Yaxpac

                                                                I'm relaxed here, but really don't see what you're getting at. Do you think every restaurant in Chinatown, for example, "looks like" a place for typical Chinese takeout food? You seem to want to judge a book by its cover, and in ways that seem strange to me.

                                                                1. re: Pan

                                                                  Phoenix Garden is in a group by itself, there is nowhere in Manhattan for better ( their stir fried milk with crab, thier shrimp rolls) or worse (thier Lo mein) that is quite like it.

                                              2. Growing up, it was our few times a year treat to eat out at a Chinese restaurant, usually Cantonese and for a Sunday buffet (in Michigan). Sweet and sour chicken, almond chicken, egg foo young, won ton soup and egg rolls were the standard fare my family ate. It wasn't until 20+ years ago when I was a teenager that my hubby (then BF) started to introduce me to spicer food like H & S. The first bowl I ever tried was at a long gone resto Fun Yin in Westland that absolutely lit up my tastebuds! I think it was a beef stock base with the perfect balance of med. heat and med. sour (spicy for me back then, it would probably be tame these days).

                                                We've lived in W. Mich. for 15 yrs. now and I have only found one Chinese restaurant that had a H & S nearly as good and they unfortunately went out of business about three years ago. Out of desperation, I started searching for recipes and almost right out the gate I found one that is almost exact if not better. Labor intensive but I'm soo grateful to still have that flavorful soup. And I can add all the chili garlic paste I want! ;)

                                                I'm surprised that in other parts of the country, it seems to some of you so standardized/Sysco'd. None of our restaurant's/buffets are anything to write home about but in my experience they all have mediocre but distinct H & S. Even the pretty standard Wonton soup I grew up with (chicken stock, meat wontons, greens) are all wonky; beef stock, no greens, scallions or not, even just noodles with no meat.

                                                Egg rolls are a personal pet peeve. I don't care what wrapper is used or the size, anything that is filled with cabbage is NOT any egg roll I grew up with, it's a spring roll. I love cabbage but to me an egg roll is made with BEAN SPROUTS. I ate them with sprouts until the mid to late 80's and for some reason the dreaded cabbage crept in.

                                                There was a place near us that has been around for decades and although rather run-of-the-mill they served the best REAL sprout egg rolls. I started working a block away from them and went in for lunch about a year ago. Drooling internally, I decided to forgo an entree and just ordered two egg rolls to devour. Imagine the disappointment (I know you guys can relate) when I eagerly dipped and bit into my beloved roll only to guessed it right?! Cabbage. I think I should just throw in my hat and accept my sprout rolls have gone the way of the Dodo.

                                                Edited to add what I didn't address. If it wasn't apparent :P, I agree that all "egg rolls" these days do seem to be from some warehouse.

                                                16 Replies
                                                1. re: Alicat24

                                                  Hot and Sour Soup is made with chicken stock not beef stock, the color comes from soy sauce.

                                                  1. re: KTinNYC

                                                    I would have to agree with KT, Hot and Sour Soup, as well as most soups in Chinese Restaurants and Take-Out, use chicken stock as the base for almost's all a product of the large stock pot that is in the middle of the Wok Cooking Line.

                                                    As for the Egg Rolls, I do not know if it is regional, but the Cantonese restaurants in the NY/NJ area always include ingredients including Egg Noodle Egg Roll Skins, Shredded Cabbage, Shredded Celery, Ground Red Roast Pork and Shrimp in their egg rolls. I have never had bean sprouts in any egg roll from my experience in over 40 years.

                                                    1. re: fourunder

                                                      Right, no bean spouts in egg rolls. Cabbage holds up and maintains a crunch.

                                                      1. re: KTinNYC

                                                        Mung bean sprouts are sometimes used in the filling for spring rolls. I'm using Chinese dim sum restaurants' spring rolls as reference. Most common ingredients used incl.:

                                                        barbecued pork
                                                        black mushrooms
                                                        mung bean sprouts
                                                        bell pepper (red)
                                                        bamboo shoots

                                                        But you'll sometimes see ground pork, green onion too. And all the above can be found in any combination, of course veggies ones will excl. the pork and shrimp.

                                                      2. re: fourunder

                                                        The place we frequent has a very light broth. It's still salty. I can't figure out. It's better than any I have had. This guy has been running this place for 40 years. All of the food is way above anywhere else.

                                                    2. re: Alicat24

                                                      I've never had an egg roll filled with bean sprouts in my life - they're filled with cabbage, dried shrimp and pork. I've had plenty of spring rolls filled with bean sprouts, though.

                                                      1. re: small h

                                                        small h,

                                                        I've never had an egg or shrimp roll which was made from dried shrimp either. That's not to say they do not exist, but I have never heard of a recipe for any egg rolls made with dried shrimp. The taste and texture is not something most Western palates would like.

                                                        When an establishments makes their own egg and shrimp rolls, they generally use a product known as Titi Shrimp which is 90 plus per pound, but more likely 200 plus count per pound. Titi shrimp is what most places use for Shrimp Salads.


                                                        1. re: fourunder

                                                          I'm sure you're right. Probably what I've always thought was "dried shrimp" was just teeny tiny "dried-out shrimp," a related but not identical product.

                                                          1. re: small h

                                                            Ha. Well, just putting in a pitch here for baby dried shrimp as a spice addition... never had it (knowingly) in egg rolls, but it's a really terrific flavoring addition - sort of like seafoody, spicy crushed Cheetohs. I'm a wimp (won't eat calimari except for the rubber-band-shaped ones) but this seems fine once crushed. I use it in a Thai papaya salad and Thai curry paste, and now pretty much want to put it on everything.

                                                            1. re: Cinnamon

                                                              I am a big fan of the Malaysian dish kangkung belacan, water spinach with dried shrimp paste. Fishy & fabulous.

                                                      2. re: Alicat24

                                                        Rather than address everyone individually, I'll hope this shows up at the bottom. I realize chicken stock is defacto for Hot and Sour, it has been in the many years since that first restaurant I had it at, I use it in my own as well. But, theirs was definately different than any I have ever had since, way darker than from just soy with more depth of flavor, that is why I suspect beef or possibly mushroom stock. I would think to be as dark as theirs was from soy sauce, it would have been inediblely salty. They may have used caramel coloring although I wouldn't see the point.

                                                        As for egg rolls, it may very well be a regional thing. At least two of you guys seem to be familiar with and speak about the NY area. I had bean sprouts soley for 18 yrs. eating them all over the east side of MI before cabbage started to creep in. Even then it was still primarily sprouts when I left for the west side of the state at 23. There were only a couple restos here then that had sprouts vs. cabbage and as I said, the last one went to cabbage a year+ ago. Egg rolls here are usually plain or with pork or with shrimp or (rarely) with chicken. I can't recall seeing any ever offered with BOTH pork and shrimp.

                                                        I appreciate that you guys may not have, or ever have had, bean sprout egg rolls but I am quite certain that I and my immediate family weren't mistaking cabbage with sprouts for 20+ yrs. (tack on a decade or two for my parents). FWIW, I'd never even heard of a "spring roll" until the early to mid 90's which roughly correspond's with cabbage becoming ubiquitous.

                                                        1. re: Alicat24


                                                          I realize it's a long haul from Western MI, but if you can find your way to Toronto, you will be amazed at the variety and quality of Asian food available. My Chinese brother-in-law from Long Island thinks Toronto's Asian food puts NYC to shame.

                                                          If Toronto's too far, Windsor actually has a number of great Asian restaurants for so small a town. I think you'll be amazed by the difference!

                                                          1. re: Alicat24

                                                            I think a lot of Chinese restaurants use the "dark soy sauce" (老抽 or "lao-chou") to color the Hot and Sour soup. It's got darker color than typical soy sauce and is sometimes less salty. On a separate note, I think some soy sauce makers (not all) use caramel coloring to intensify the dark color so it's possible that the soy sauce used by some of these restaurants already contain caramel color.

                                                            1. re: bearmi

                                                              not to mention black vinegar as well (chin kiang).

                                                              see this link right here:


                                                              1. re: bigjeff

                                                                Ha. You are right..the black vinegar adds color too!

                                                                Thanks for the link. Looks like I can now open up my Chinese restaurant :) I love the last ingredient!

                                                          2. re: Alicat24

                                                            I'm from Michigan too and I agree about the eggrolls. I have lived all over and there is nothing more disappointing than biting into an eggroll and getting a big mouthful of cabbage every time! Apparently, and I just discovered this, the sprout rolls are a Michigan thing. ...and really hard to find an appropriate recipe for well as, that thin bright red dipping sauce.