That’s How I Roll.

When thinking of your favourite typical Chinese food, spring rolls will probably come to mind. However, the Western take on spring rolls is to submerge it in oil and hope for the best. If you have not tried spring rolls in a reputable restaurant (not a Chinese take-away) or from an old Chinese grandma (all old Chinese people are great cooks), you have not come close to the real thing. I have always been a bit snobby when it comes to Chinese food, but I think it is to be expected as I am of Chinese descent.

I hope to one day become a fine cook and connoisseur of Chinese cuisine, so I thought I would tackle my first hurdle and try my hand at making spring rolls.

Ingredients:

 800g of pork mince

20 king prawns

4 spring onions

2 grated carrots

100g cornstarch sticks

40g black fungus

8 seafood sticks

1 clove of garlic

1 tsp of cornflower

A splash of soy sauce

pinch of salt

ground pepper

1 pack of spring roll pastry sheets (usually 30 sheets in a pack)

egg white

vermicelli noodles (optional, to eat with your spring rolls)

Vietnamese fish sauce (optional, to eat with your spring rolls)

shredded little gem lettuce (optional, to eat with your spring rolls)

What’s next?

An hour before you start making the spring rolls, soak the black fungus and cornstarch sticks separately in boiling hot water. This will help them soften and it will be quicker to cook later on.

Prepare the king prawns and add them to the food processor with the pork mince, spring onions, chopped garlic, cornflower, soy sauce, salt and ground pepper. You may have to do this in batches, as I found I had too many ingredients to fit the bowl.

Shred the seafood sticks and grate the carrots, or get your husband to do it… After soaking the cornstarch sticks, boil for a few minutes until they become soft and transparent. The longer they are immersed in water, the better, however I only soaked them for an hour.

Add the cornstarch sticks, black fungus and grated carrots to the prawns/pork mixture and stir well until fully incorporated.

Now you are already to start wrapping. Place the mixture onto a sheet of pastry in a long rectangular shape and fold the bottom corner over the mixture.

Fold in both sides to envelope the mixture.

Roll pastry tightly to ensure the mixture is compact. When you reach the end of the pastry, dab a small amount of egg white to make sure it sticks.

Repeat thirty times until you have used up all of the mixture and pastry sheets…

Cooking the spring rolls requires lots of oil and a big pan, if you do not own a deep fat fryer. My grandma cooks them in a wok but we settled for a large saucepan instead. Do not question the use of the potato masher below, I am only an amateur cook!

If you use a large wok or a deep fat fryer, you will most probably shorten your cooking time. It took us quite a while to get through all thirty!

We ate our spring rolls with vermicelli noodles, little gem lettuce and Vietnamese fish sauce (known as Bún Chả Giò in Vietnam), but of course you can eat them with anything you desire.

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Grease lightning.

I was very interested to read an article that distinguishes the difference between real authentic Chinese cuisine, to the greasy variations we find in a typical Chinese take-away. It is tragic that many see Chinese take-aways as ‘the real thing’, and neglect to realise that this is not what we actually eat. The western take on Chinese foods is to submerge everything in oil and fry it.

I am a bit of a snob when it comes to Chinese food; I will not eat anything Chinese unless it has been cooked by my grandma or in a respectable restaurant. I only really go to restaurants for Dim Sum; the Chinese equivalent to Spanish tapas. It is a shame Dim Sum is widely unknown, I would like a restaurant that is closer than 55 miles away.

Dim Sum, har gow (prawn dumplings).

I strongly recommend finding your nearest Chinese restaurant and trying something new. It pains me to watch people actually enjoy their Chinese take-aways in delusion. The majority of Chinese foods are steamed, not deep-fried, and they taste incredibly better than anything you buy over a counter. My favourites are prawn cheug-fun and har gow (prawn dumplings); I like anything with king prawns (another qualm I have is the quality of king prawns in supermarkets, lets leave this one for another day).

My husband converted a long time ago and now favours my grandma’s cooking and Dim Sum; he boldly had a taster of chicken feet and tripe, much to his surprise, he liked it. He also grew an addiction to jasmine tea, which is another part of the Dim Sum tradition. Each table receives a teapot full of loose jasmine leaves and hot water to share. When the teapot is empty, it is custom to place the lid upside down as an indication to the waiters that they need to refill the pot.

I think it is healthy to experience other cultures, be willing to try different foods and appreciate something for what it is, not a replica of it. I mean, what the hell is lemon chicken anyway?