Of course I’ve discussed my childhood love of Chinese restaurants before. By Chinese restaurants I mean Chinese-American restaurants, of course. As a kid nothing could get me in the car quicker than the promise of cheap fried shrimp. Unless of course it was the thrill of cheap fried giant egg rolls served with a plum sauce so sweet you could ice a Coca-Cola cake with it.
It seems like years since I’ve had big, crunchy egg rolls like those I grew up on in the 70s and 80s. They’re very hard to find in Los Angeles, though I can still eat them sometimes when I travel. There are places in Florida that still serve them. There are places in Florida where you can still find some of the other dinosaurs of my youth, such as Chicken Kiev and pimento cheese. I love California, but generally when you see egg rolls on the menu it really means spring rolls. However, when you see pimento cheese on the menu– you’ve probably made a wrong turn somewhere and ended up in Macon, Georgia. They have good pimento cheese in Georgia (where it’s properly pronounced pa-men-ah).
Of course I’m not discrediting spring rolls. Spring rolls are delicious and I’m sure more authentically Asian than the egg rolls I remember so fondly. Spring rolls are fresher too, with crunchy insides instead of crunchy outsides.
Oh well, times have changed and I’ve changed with them– but I still love egg rolls. However, they don’t have to be fried as long as they’re crunchy on the outside. They also don’t have to be served with that sickly sweet plum sauce.
My puff pastry version is a mash up of classic egg rolls and another crunchy favorite of mine, turnovers. I call them eggroll-overs. Which may be a little too cute. So I’ve decided to serve this updated version with a modern day sweet chile sauce that has plenty of heat. It’s my favorite part of this recipe (other than the crunch, of course). GREG
Note: Two sheets from a 17.3‑ounce package of puff pastry may be stacked, folded and rolled together as a substitute for the 14 ounce package recommended in this recipe, though there will be some extra pastry
- 2 tablespoon light brown sugar
- 4 tablespoon water
- 1 small red Thai bird chili (thinly sliced crosswise, optional)
- 2 clove garlic (peeled & minced, separated)
- 2 tablespoon vegetable oil (divided)
- 1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
- 1 lime (juice only)
- 3 tablespoon sambal oelek (or similar Asian style chili paste)
- 2 tablespoon minced fresh mint leaves
- 2 green onions (white, light green & some dark green parts, thinly sliced, about ½ cup loosely packed)
- ½ teaspoon whole mustard seeds
- ½ cabbage (sliced slaw style, about 4 cups loosely packed)
- 2 coarsely grated carrots (about 1 cup, moderately packed)
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt (plus more for sprinkling)
- ½ cup chicken stock
- 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
- 1 (14 oz) package frozen all-butter puff pastry (thawed in the refrigerator)
- 1 egg yolk (mixed with 1 teaspoon water as egg wash)
- 2 teaspoon black sesame seeds
Add water, brown sugar and as many of the Thai bird chili slices as you like to a small sauce pan set over medium-high heat. Swirl the pan occasionally until the liquid has thickened somewhat, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat; stir half the minced garlic, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, fish sauce, lime juice, chili paste and mint leaves. Set aside.
Place oven rack in center position. Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a medium-sized sauté pan set over medium-high heat. Add green onion, remaining minced garlic and mustard seeds stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add cabbage, carrot, and ½ teaspoon salt to pan. Sauté stirring occasionally until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in stock and continue stirring occasionally until the pan is nearly dry, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to come to room temperature. May be made up to 8 hours ahead to this point kept covered and refrigerated.
On a lightly floured work surface use a lightly floured rolling pin to roll out puff pastry to a 10-by-15-inch rectangle, a scant ¼‑inch thick. Using a paring knife and a straight edge trim edges neatly and cut into six 5‑inch squares.
Spoon a generous ¼ cup vegetable mixture across the lower third of each puff pastry square, leaving a ½‑inch border along the bottom and both sides. Fold both sides inward covering the filling about ½‑inch. Then roll the bottom edge up and over the filling like a jelly roll, creating a 4‑inch tube about 2 ½‑inches in diameter. Place the filled rollovers seam-side down onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Bake in heated oven until puffed and golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve warm with Sweet Chili Sauce on the side.
I found my love for Chinese American restaurants in the 6th grade and have loved it ever since. The paper place mats with the Chinese zodiac, the cheap chop sticks, the fried rice, and for the love of all things crispy, YES, those delicious egg rolls. Dammit, Greg, you’re going to make me want to go get take out 10 minutes before The Walking Dead starts.
I never had Chinese food till I was in college… It may be the single most important finding while at school! These rollovers sound amazing and I can make believe they are healthier because they are baked and not fried! Right?
I really like this creative egg rolls with puff pastry!!! While a lot of kids prefer eating burgers and pizza, it’s great that you actually enjoyed restaurant food! 🙂 These are great after school snack, too!
This pa-men-ah cheese eatin’ Georgia boy loves eggrolls, too. One of my favorite somewhat authentic Chinese restaurants in Atlanta still serves eggrolls with their lunch specials. And…there’s plenty of plum sauce. Clever idea to make them with puff pastry.
I love this kind of food. Your egg roll looks so scrumptious-)
Greg, you are stirring up good memories of my visits to Chinese-American restaurants in LA and OC through the same decades. And you’re correct, those large egg rolls have gone away. If memory serves me right, they were filled with a sizeable measure of meat in relation to vegetables. A few of the ingredients in your recipe have me intrigued, in particular, the Thai bird chili. Thanks for sharing the recipe—it’s been pinned for a future run in the kitchen.
I was about to say “way to think outside the box!”.…but in fact, these treats are served up IN a box! Look super tasty!
Greg, I am loving this recipe albeit with a cute name. Our childhoods sound very similar, but it was always my grandparents who took us kids out for fabulous Chinese. We were lucky growing up in Michigan as we had several stellar family restaurants to choose from. My favorite, hands down, was always egg rolls. We were always puzzled by the name though. Love how you creatively used puff pastry and serve these babies with sweet chile sauce. Perfect for our grown up palates. Thanks for sharing, my friend. Have a fabulous weekend!
Brilliant to use puff pastry! I’ve just discovered using ‘Nigella’ seeds’ look just about like the black sesame seeds but seem to be adding a touch of subtle onion flavour.
Greg, I’m so excited about this recipe! If I wasn’t sick right now, I’d whip up a batch of these crunchy little beauties right this very minute!
This is brilliant, cutesy name or no cutesy name. You had me at sambal!
Giant fried egg rolls. Spaghetti-O’s. Tequila: Flashbacks of finals week in college. (These are so happening in my kitchen, btw).
Love a good mash up, they sound perfect! ~Bijouxs
I love the idea of using puff pastry for this! I’m so going to steal this idea! And although I like “authentic” Chinese food, I have a real weakness for Chinese-American. And Chicken Kiev? I haven’t thought about that for years! One of those great dishes that’s fallen out of flavor (yeah, it’s not healthy, but still). Fun post — thanks.
You’re stirring up my best memories of childhood. The crunchy eggroll at the Canton Inn. I’m surprised about the puff pastry, but I’ll bet it’s great.
I can hear the crunch from here. Great way to use puff pastry!
Now I’m craving old school Chinese egg rolls and I can probably find some where I am right now 🙂
These look perfect and I like your flavors. I mis that era of Chinese food, just not all the salt.
I ate far too much Chinese food in graduate school in Michigan, so I know exactly what you’re talking about. Crispy deep-fried spring rolls and spicy mustard! YES. These sound like a great update of a classic.