My mother’s family is from Illinois and when I was growing up, we would visit her family up there every summer. One of my fondest memories is eating fried rice and making eggrolls each summer. My Aunt Dodie’s best friend was originally from Vietnam.
Marina is a small but powerful “firecracker” of a person who can do and make anything. She is about five foot tall and not more than 100 pounds, but a powerhouse of energy. Every summer when we visited, she always worked at least three jobs and had about 50 different projects going at any time. She could cut hair, cook, bake, and sew; and that was just the stuff she did in her spare time.
No matter how busy she was, she always greeted us with a platter of amazing homemade eggrolls and fried rice. Over the years, she would teach us some of her traditional recipes. She never used fancy ingredients or specialty items in her recipes, and always made it sound like anyone could cook authentic Asian food with ease.
We were craving eggrolls recently, and my daughter and I decided to get out Marina’s old family recipe and give it a try. What I neglected to notice was exactly how many eggrolls I would be required to assemble. We made a mound of filling and then rolled and cooked eggrolls most of the afternoon and into the evening. About 75 eggrolls later, we were finished. Never fear, not a single one went to waste. I stored several in my freezer and many friends and neighbors got little packs of egg rolls the next day.
These are not difficult to make but the eggrolls take a little bit of time to roll and fry. I hope you will give it a try. You can fry them all in one day, allow to cool and store in the freezer until ready to serve. Simply crisp up the eggrolls in the oven.
2 pounds ground pork or ground pork sausage
1/2 package of Chinese bean thread noodles, soaked in warm water for about 20 minutes and then cut with scissors into manageable lengths
1 medium head green cabbage, finely shredded
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 carrots, peeled and shredded
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and pressed
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 packages of egg roll wrappers (These can be found in a refrigerator case near the fruits and vegetables section of most grocery stores.)
Toss the shredded cabbage, ginger, onion, carrots, and garlic, in a large bowl with one tablespoon kosher salt. Put in a colander and allow to drain for several hours or overnight in the refrigerator. This will soften the vegetables so they do not poke through the eggroll wrapper skins when you rolling them.
When ready to assemble the eggrolls, put the slightly wilted vegetables in a large bowl. Add eggs, seasonings, bean threads, and meat. Combine thoroughly using your hands. You will need to really mix and squeeze and make sure the mixture is thoroughly combined. Keep mixture in the refrigerator until ready to roll the eggrolls.
To assemble the eggrolls, use a pastry brush to dampen the edges of the eggroll wrappers with water. Spoon about a tablespoon of mixture in the center of each wrapper. Fold one point of the wrapper over the filling and then fold in both sides of the corners to the center of the eggroll. Then continue to roll the long side to enclose the filling completely. Roll as tightly as possible. Put on a cookie sheet sprinkled with cornstarch and allow to rest seam side down.
In small batches, fry the eggrolls in hot oil for about 10 to 12 minutes each until there are very golden brown. Drain and serve warm.
This recipe will make a lot or eggrolls so once the eggrolls have cooled completely, store them in the freezer. When ready to use, take them out and crisp them in a 350° oven for about 30 to 45 minutes.
Quick and Easy Egg Drop Soup
4 cups good quality chicken broth (Homemade is great but not necessary.)
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon cornstarch mixed with 2 teaspoons cold water
4 eggs, well-beaten
1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives
salt and pepper to taste
In a sauce pan, combine chicken broth, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Bring to a boil. Stir together the cornstarch and water and pour into boiling broth. Stir gently while you pour in the eggs. Season with chives and salt and pepper if desired. Serve hot.
Sweet and Sour Pork
2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into half inch by half inch cubes (Any cut of pork will work)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chicken bouillon powder
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Mix all dry ingredients and whisk in 1 1/3 cups of cold water until you have the consistency of pancake batter and there are no lumps. Heat oil in a large pot or fryer to about 350°. When oil is hot gently dip individual pieces of pork into the batter and carefully drop them in the hot oil. Gently stir the pork a few times and remove when pieces float and they are golden brown. Serve with fried or steamed rice and sweet and sour sauce.
Sweet and Sour Sauce:
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 cups water
1/2 cup sugar plus more
2 tablespoons oil
4 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 cup rice vinegar
Optional but good to add:
1/4 onion, chopped; 1/2 bell pepper, chopped; 1 small can pineapple, well drained, cut into chunks
Mix all ingredients except vegetables and pineapple and a small sauce pan and cook until thickened. Once to desired consistency, add vegetables and allow to gently simmer for about a minute. Serve warm.
If you do not want to make up your own sauce, consider using a store-bought Asian sweet-chili sauce like Mae Ploy.
Fried Rice with Edamame
Years ago, I read that the key to good homemade fried rice is to use leftover rice. I like to make extra rice and allow it to cool in the refrigerator, uncovered, overnight. It allows the rice to dry out and will help get crispy edges.
2 cups cooked rice, allowed to dry in the refrigerator overnight if possible
3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 onion, chopped
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
3 eggs, beaten
1 package frozen shelled edamame, defrosted
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Sesame seeds for garnish
Heat one tablespoon oil in a very big skillet or wok until very hot. Cook eggs, scrambling until almost set. Remove from pan and set aside. Add another tablespoon oil and sauté onions, garlic and ginger for about five minutes, until slightly browned, adding the garlic about halfway through if you are concerned about burning it. Remove and set aside with the eggs.
Add the final tablespoon of oil to the skillet and heat until almost smoking, add the rice. Spread out rice and allow to cook without moving it for about five minutes. Stir and allow to cook without moving until edges begin to brown and rice becomes slightly crispy. Season with salt, pepper, soy sauce and stir in edamame and allow to cook for about three minutes. Stir in
cooked eggs and vegetables. Season to taste and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Ginger Salad Dressing
I love the cool contrast of crisp iceberg lettuce, shredded carrots, and this delicious dressing. It can be made a few days before serving and stored in the refrigerator.
2 green onions, chopped
2 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon miso paste
1 to 3 tablespoons chopped peeled fresh ginger, more or less depending on your preference for ginger
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup canola oil
Put first eight ingredients in a food processor. With machine running gradually add the oil.
Best if made several hours before. Served drizzled over a bed of lettuce.