Chinese Egg Rolls

Yesterday, my friend and I decided to get some Chinese takeout at a local restaurant called Golden Gate Restaurant. One of the items we got were Egg Rolls. From what I saw, the two egg rolls had a crispy egg roll shell, carrots, cabbage, and possibly, a bit of ground beef. A recipe of “Copycat Takeout Egg Rolls” uses:

  • 8 cups shredded savoy cabbage
  • 8 cups shredded green cabbage
  • 2 cups shredded carrot
  • 2 cups shredded celery
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon five spice powder (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 3 cups shredded or diced roast pork
  • 2 cups cooked shrimp, chopped (optional)
  • 1 package egg roll wrappers (about 24 pieces)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Peanut or vegetable oil, for frying

egg roll pic 1

According to “Chop Suey: A Cultural History of Chinese Food in the United States” by Andrew Coe, the egg roll was invented in the 1930s in New York. But from Who Invented It, the original creator is unknown and that it could have possibly it come from Cantonese or Southern Chinese region because egg rolls are deep fried and Southern Chinese cooking consists of mostly deep fried. Chinese tradition, in general, follows that during Lunar New Year celebrations, spring rolls are served to visiting family and friends in order to welcome the new year (Eng, Chicago Tribune). Fanny Go, a Chinese-American famous for making egg rolls for her neighborhood and family, said that she adds barbecued pork, shredded chicken, chunks of boiled shrimp, chopped greens, and other ingredients to her egg rolls while many restaurants tend to use cabbage as the main filling to be more cost efficient.

According to Eng who wrote “Tracing the History of Egg Roll” from Chicago Tribune, her grandfather Harry Eng was one of the restauranteurs that helped popularize the egg roll in America. Tom Go, the manager, based his own egg roll recipe based on what the seemed to be a hit with the customers. I assume that he presented different variations of the egg roll to customers until he found a certain variation that many really like, thus giving us the Americanized egg roll we’re familiar with today. Another way it could have been Americanized was because Go said that most of the ingredients can be found in American grocery stores. Coe, the writer of “Chop Suey,” said that he adds other ingredients such as bamboo shoots, roast, pork, shrimp, scallions, water chestnuts, salt, and MSG. Ingredients such as bamboo shoots and water chestnuts are not common items found in American cuisine or even in American grocery stores. So, the adaptation of Chinese-American egg rolls to be filled more with cabbage rather than a lot of meat is not only more cost efficient, but also more familiar.


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