Bill, Judy, Sarah, and Kaitlin Leung are the cooks behind The Woks of Life, a food blog spanning several generations of their family. For the past two years, the entire family has used the blog — featured as part of Yahoo Food Blogger of the Week series — as a platform to communicate, tell stories, and share food across distances.
Photo: The Woks of Life
I vividly remember sitting in a crowded dim sum house as a kid, watching the carts passing by, when plates loaded with crispy spring rolls immediately caught my eye. I tugged at my mother’s arm, gesturing to her to stop the cart full of goodies.
My mom flagged down the woman with the cart, and she stopped at the table so we could marvel at her collection of dishes. She gave us a quick run-down of the dishes available, but she knew what I wanted. She picked up the small dish of spring rolls, and used her kitchen scissors to cut each roll in half.
I dug into the crunchy spring roll, tasting the mushroomy filling and slightly crunchy bamboo shoots. It was just one of many food-related childhood memories, and, as my family and all you readers know, I have plenty of them. Here’s what you’ll need to create your own homemade spring rolls!
For the marinated pork:
8 ounces finely shredded pork loin
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sesame oil
½ teaspoon cornstarch
For the rest of the filling:
2 tablespoons oil
1 clove garlic, minced
10 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked until softened and thinly sliced (can also substitute fresh shiitakes)
2 medium carrots, julienned (about 1 cup)
1 cup bamboo shoots, julienned (fresh is preferred, but canned is fine too)
1 small napa cabbage, julienned (about 6 cups)
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
white pepper, to taste
¼ teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch, dissolved in 2 tablespoons cold water
For the wrappers:
1 package 8-inch square spring roll wrappers
1 tablespoon cornstarch, dissolved in 1 tablespoon boiling water for sealing the spring rolls
Canola, peanut or vegetable oil, for frying
For the dipping sauce:
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons hot water
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Mix the pork with the marinade ingredients and set aside for about 30 minutes.
Brown the pork over high heat in 2 tablespoons of oil, and add the garlic, mushrooms and carrots. Stir fry for 30 seconds, and add the bamboo shoots, napa cabbage, and wine. Continue stir-frying for a minute. Adjust the heat to simmer the mixture, as the napa cabbage will release a lot of moisture.
Stir in the soy sauce, sesame oil, salt, white pepper, and sugar. Continue simmering the filling for another 3 minutes — until the napa cabbage is completely wilted — and stir in the cornstarch slurry to thicken. How much slurry you add depends upon the wetness of the filling, but there should be no standing liquid at all.
Transfer the filling to a large shallow bowl, and let cool. Place into the refrigerator to cool further — at least one hour. It’s best to start with a cold filling for easier wrapping. The key to wrapping spring rolls is making sure that they’re tight, yet not overstuffed. It’s best to use fresh spring roll wrappers if you can, as freezing the wrappers can result in the wrappers being a bit too damp.
Place the wrapper on a flat surface so that a corner is facing toward you. Use about two spoonfuls of the mixture per spring roll, and spoon it about 2 inches from the corner that is closest to you. Roll it over once, and, like you’re making a burrito, fold over both sides. Continue rolling it into a cigar shape. With your fingers, brush a bit of cornstarch water onto the corner of the wrapper that is farthest from you to seal it.
Place each roll on a tray. You can also freeze these spring rolls on the tray overnight, and transfer them to a zip-lock bag when they are completely frozen for future use. We usually fry some fresh and freeze the rest, unless we are hosting a party, in which case, these go like hot cakes!
To fry the spring rolls, fill a small pot (which requires less oil) with oil until it’s 2 to 3 inches deep. Heat the oil slowly over medium heat until it reaches 325 degrees. Gently add the spring rolls one at a time, frying in small batches. Carefully roll them in the oil so they cook evenly until golden brown and transfer them to a plate lined with paper towels.
Mix together the ingredients for the dipping sauce and serve alongside the hot spring rolls!