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What makes a good or bad egg roll?

With all of the chatter about Chinese food and my weekly Chinese food night on the horizon, SO and I were thinking - what makes a good egg roll?

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  1. * Too oily
    * If it's an egg roll, it should have some assortment of meat AND veggies, not just veggies that they're trying to get rid off. Save the extra veggies for soup of the day.
    * Skin that cracks to 100 pieces. I want it crispy, but it can't be the flake to dust egg roll.
    * Too much filler veggies like carrots and some translucent mess that looks like ONIONS
    * crappy egg roll sauce. I want fire in my belly chili oil
    * 2-bites-and-it's-gone egg roll. Must be big enough where it can be a meal for an extreme dieter, but I make myself have a couple and then maybe a meal. :)

    1 Reply
    1. I get an outstanding eggroll where I live. Good veggie cabbage/meat mix and good seasoning. And they do a cornstarch water mix to dip the eggroll skins in to get an uber crispy textured exterior. And fresh duck sauce. And it is in a 'to go' restaurant

      1. Truly great egg rolls are rare. The best I ever had were large--say five inches long and two inches in diameter. They tended to be a bit on the greasy side. And the cabbage was obviously very, very fresh.

        1. I am recalling some of my favorite eggrolls and remembering what sets them apart.

          I happen to like the thick skinned eggrolls, though most of my favorites from various memorable spots are actually thin skinned.

          There was a place in a mall by my home when I was a child and they had thin skinned eggrolls that were stuffed with ground beef. So delicious. I haven't seen other eggrolls like that.

          I also love Vietnamese style eggrolls even when the resto has used a thin wheat flour skin and not a rice paper, which a lot of places seem to do. These eggrolls are well seasoned and have lots of black pepper in them, plus mushrooms or if I get lucky, wood ear fungus which gives this great flavor. I also love the glass noodles in them.

          I noticed a lot of Thai places have eggrolls with cabbage-carrot combo but also glass noodles inside. That just adds something to the texture which is so good.

          I once had an eggroll at a Thai place that I simply adored: there was some veg in it, but also a whole peeled shrimp with it's tail sticking out of one end of the eggroll. The crispy eggroll skin paired with the soft shrimp flesh was really delicious.

          Thinking about generic eggrolls: I guess crispness and freshness are important. And the veg inside should still have crunch and not be overcooked mush. The filling should also be well seasoned, meaning salty enough to not taste bland with the skin wrapper, and with a bit of white or black pepper. Lastly, if the place does have the thick wrappers, the wrapper should be cooked all the way through. I have come across a fair amount of wrappers which are raw on the inside, and that won't do.

          7 Replies
          1. re: luckyfatima

            I honestly have not seen a "good" egg roll in years, even in the great little hole in the wall authentic places in chinatown. I feel like they are a second thought that only anglos want or order.

            Growing up my dad would take us into chinatown and I loved the egg rolls. Crispy outside with a slight chew inside, stuffed with fresh, crunchy cabbage, a sprinkling of carrots and maybe some kind of sprout (?) with well seasoned meat. They were amazing, and big! I could make a meal out them.

            Theses days they are all greasy, soggy and usually filled with sub par veggies and grizzly meat (if there is any). yuck

            1. re: foodieX2

              I think that may be true about generic American-Chinese resto eggrolls (I do order them for my kids), but there are a lot of varieties of eggrolls beyond that particular style that are quite delicious, and even those generic ones can be made well.

              1. re: luckyfatima

                Then why am I finding them in even in authentic places in chinatown? We don't eat at generic American/Chinese places.

                I never see anyone order them, which should be my first clue. I ordered them once, to share with my son, and ugh, they could have come from La Choy. Interestingly they are only listed on the english menu, again that should have been a clue.

                I have yet to see a good egg roll since circa 1976 in Boston's Chinatown.

                1. re: foodieX2

                  So do tell us how the "circa 1975" eggrolls differ from the ones of today.

                  1. re: Bacardi1

                    <Crispy outside with a slight chew inside, stuffed with fresh, crunchy cabbage, a sprinkling of carrots and maybe some kind of sprout (?) with well seasoned meat. They were amazing, and big! I could make a meal out them>>

                    Thats how I remember them. I think they may have also had more than one kind of cabbage instead of what my memory recalls as sprouts, possibly scallions too. The carrots were finely julienned and were still slightly crunchy, adding nice spot of color. The pork had lots of flavor, was plentiful and were in thin slices. Oh and they came with two dipping sauces- one soy sauce based with ginger and scallions and the other a hot/spicy mustard that would clear your sinuses!

                    While clearly fried they were not greasy/oily at all. They were always piping hot, to the point you had to cut them half and let them cool for a bit before eating. In my mind that comes from being fried to order, not pre fried and the flash fried before serving. Like the difference between freshly cooked fast food fries and those kept warm under the heat lamp, IYKWIM.

              2. re: foodieX2

                Only "Anglos" want to order? What makes you say that? If your synopsis of the plight of egg rolls is correct, the quality of the egg rolls has declined as the proportion of whites in the populace has diminished.

                1. re: Perilagu Khan

                  Bacardi verbalized it much better than I did.

                  <<And today this seems to happen even with eggrolls at Chinese restaurants where the rest of the menu items are decent. Frying up a proper eggroll shouldn't be all that difficult. One can only assume that it's just so commonplace an item that the majority of places really don't care about them.>>

                  I find that even in truly authentic places with really good food the egg roll appears to be an after thought, poorly executed at best, horrible/greasy/substandard at worst. Its as if the american version has become so commonplace it has replaced what used to be a really good item.

            2. Good - with hot mustard
              Bad - without