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Are egg rolls Chinese? (split from Ontario board)

NOTE FROM MODERATOR: this thread was split off from the following discussion on the Ontario board:
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/734278

I'd have to second the flawed logic comment. Why would Chinese people want to eat egg rolls and chicken balls when there's Peking duck to be had?

In any case, this post wouldn't get any snarky comments if it had said Chinese-Canadian food. What the OP is looking for isn't Chinese food. I doubt you could find an egg roll in China, Hong Kong or Taiwan.

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  1. Not true at all -- egg rolls are most definitely Chinese, but they have been morphed into some pretty horrible things with the use of cabbage as 90% of the filling. The recipe my mom made growing up was from an old Chinese cook book and had julienned pork, shiitake mushrooms, carrots, bean sprouts and some cabbage. Bubbly, crispy, slightly chewy skins. Totally delicious. I've never found a restaurant egg roll that's ever come close.

    12 Replies
    1. re: TorontoJo

      A good egg roll was truly a delightful thing.

      1. re: TorontoJo

        Well, if your mother made them, I will bow to your superior knowledge. I'm Chinese and neither my mother nor my grandmothers ever made an egg roll. Though my aunt and uncle made plenty of them at their Chinese-Canadian restaurant in Port Perry.

        1. re: chefhound

          I'm Chinese as well, and even though my mother never made Peking Duck at home doesn't mean that it's not a Chinese dish. :)

          I also have an English-language "Food of China" cookbook (authentic recipes, not westernized versions) that includes egg rolls in it. The recipe is remarkably similar to the one my mom's been using for over 40 years.

          1. re: TorontoJo

            I think you and chefhound may be talking about different things? I have the `Food of China` also and the recipe is for spring rolls, which are, of course Chinese. To me (and maybe to Chefhound also?), egg rolls are the North Americanized version of it. Egg rolls are the ones made with the much thicker pastry that you see at Canadian Chinese restaurants. My parents used to make egg rolls for their customers at their Canadian Chinese place which they also said were not chinese. My father is also Toi San. They would make spring rolls for us. They are two very different things but I find both can be very tasty if made well!

            1. re: TorontoJo

              I don't want to get into a drawn out discussion. Obviously I didn't mean that only things my family made form the full frame of reference for what I consider real Chinese food. I'm just saying that we never made any eggrolls, never ate them at restaurants (except for my aunt's Chinese-Canadian restaurant in Port Perry), never ate them at other people's homes. And during my childhood, we hardly ate anything except Chinese food.

              1. re: chefhound

                I only ate Chinese food growing up, as well (mom was a terrible "Western" food cook). But fair enough on the egg rolls. I'm now wondering whether the thick, chewy egg roll wraps were a North American invention and they're what were available to my mom at the time. They're really just big versions of wonton wrappers. I wonder if she just took the traditional spring roll filling and used the egg roll wrappers? She did switch over to using the thin spring roll wrappers about 15 or 20 years ago, which may be when they became easier to find. And duh, now that I think about it, she's always called them in Chinese as "spring rolls", regardless of the wrapper she used.

                Anyway, it's fascinating to me, but neither here nor there for the OP's request! :)

                1. re: TorontoJo

                  I also ate Chinese food only when growing up. My grandmother made egg rolls for us but she may have learned it up from my grandfather who worked in Chinese restaurants when he first arrived (in the '50s). Unfortunately they are no longer around for me to ask. I don't remember them ever switching over to spring roll wrappers. It may be that spring roll wrappers absorbed more oil and they didn't like that.

                  1. re: TorontoJo

                    I also grew up eating Chinese food. Occasionally, we would have the "spring rolls", which were about half the size of a hot dog. I had the big "egg rolls", which were about the size of a banana, but these were usually in Chinese-American restaurants (some US hounds refer to them as "New-York style egg rolls").

                    Egg rolls used to be fairly common in the LA area. They all but disappeared in the 80's with the massive influx of immigrants from Taiwan, China, and Hong Kong to the San Gabriel Valley just east of LA. Spring rolls are now ubiquitous. You can find them in small mom-and-pop joints as well as the huge Cantonese restaurants serving dim sum.

                    I'm not sure how everyone else made their egg rolls, but the way my parents made it for our Chinese-American restaurant was labor intensive. After cooking and wrapping the filling, we also dipped them in an egg mixture and rolled them in flour (which might be the source of the term "egg roll"). Then we steamed them again so the flour would stick to the wrapper. This resulted in a crispier skin after deep frying. Spring rolls were much simpler: cook the filling, wrap, and deep fry.

                    I've never seen egg rolls in HK or China. We never ate them with plum sauce, but it would not surprise me if others ate them that way.

                2. re: TorontoJo

                  Being from Hong Kong and being a foodie, I just have to throw in my 2 cents to end the egg roll vs. spring roll discussion. Egg rolls are the ones with the thick wrappers, and are definitely not Chinese. You won't be able to find anything like it in HK or China. Spring rolls, with the thin wrappers, are the authentic deal. Another couple of tidbits: (1) I don't know about China, but in HK, no one eats spring rolls with plum or duck sauce. It's always served with Worcestshire sauce (remnants of HK's colonial days); (2) no one eats spring rolls as appetizers for dinner in HK.

                  1. re: goofy88

                    What are spring rolls eaten as when you're not at home? Banquet treats? Snacks? Just curious.

              2. re: TorontoJo

                Definitely agree. My grandmother made the best egg rolls just as you described and my grandfather made the best plum sauce to along with. They were both from Toi San in China if that makes any difference and did not use any cookbooks.

                1. re: mrsleny

                  Most of the Chinese in Canada at the height of delicious "Canadian-Chinese" food being readily available (30-40 years ago) were from that area of China. The best plum sauce I ever had was home made by a Toi San (or Say-Yip) lady in Calgary in the 60's

              3. I guess it's not technically spaghetti if you use linguini or vermacelli, but for everyday conversation it seems like a distinction without a difference.

                if its got a pastry wrapper and you roll it up, you might call it lumpia, gau-gee, spring roll, or any number of other names, but still looks like an egg-roll to this white guy.