In Memory of Norma Elliott, the Pearl of the Orient
If you had ever been to a party hosted by Norma Elliott, chances are you had these wonderful, golden-fried cylinders of goodness. Often called lumpia, sometimes referred to as “egg-ah-rolls” in the Rainy River District, I’ve always just called them Mom’s spring rolls.
Here’s how you make them!
(makes about 100-150 spring rolls)
-2-3 pounds of ground pork or 50/50 pork and beef… take your pick
– 1-2 onions, depending on the size or how much you like onion
– chopped cabbage/coleslaw or shredded carrot or bean sprouts, anywhere from 2-4 cups of veggie goodness
– Garlic, either fresh, or pureed or powdered.
– salt and pepper
– a tablespoon or so of soy sauce
Begin by dicing up the onions. You don’t want big chunks of onion coming out when someone bites into a spring roll. Filipino springs rolls, much like Filipino people, are dainty, So dice finely.
Sautee the onions in a large frying pan or wok in a high heat oil like peanut oil, or canola oil. Once the onions start to brown, crumble in your ground meat. You don’t want big chunks of meat, so be sure to continue mincing it with your spatula as you fry it up.
Add your salt and pepper to taste, along with a couple of teaspoons of pureed garlic. NOTE: If you are using fresh garlic, use four cloves or so of minced garlic and add them to the onions just a few seconds before you add the meat. If you are using garlic powder, sprinkle it over the meat with the salt and pepper. Norma never really measured the garlic…she just sprinkled a light layer over everything so you could taste it.
Continue to fry the meat, mincing it into small chunks. (Dainty pieces, remember.) Just as it’s coming to being completely brown, add your veggies. Norma used to always use bean sprouts, but started to favour cabbage later in life as sprouts became hard to come by and more expensive and sometimes were reported to carry bacterial contamination. Norma’s son, Mark, likes to add shredded carrots, enough so that his box shredder is pretty packed. Place the veggies in the pan and season with an extra bit of salt and pepper on the vegetables. Then add the soy sauce (Norma never really measured that either, a shot or two, enough to taste) and start stirring in the veggies until they are all mixed in. Once mixed in, cover and turn the heat off on the stove. Let the heat from the pan gently steam your vegetables so they are cooked without being too soft. About two minutes.
Pour your filling mix into a colander to let the excess fat and liquid drain out. This helps prevent your filling from becoming too greasy.
Spring Roll or Egg Roll Pastry wrappers, usually frozen (TYJ, Doll, or other)
It used to be you needed to know someone going to the city to find spring roll wrappers at an Asian Food store. You can now order them online for pick-up and delivery at most chain stores. Eight inch square wrappers are fine, but so are 6 or 10 inch. There are 20 to 25 wrappers per package depending on size and brand. Some gluten free wrappers are also available.
First tip: pull apart the wrappers first, but just one package at a time. Get the kids involved. Small nimble fingers are a help here.
When you have your wrappers pulled apart, take one and sit in front of you with a corner pointing at you and away from you, leaving you a diamond shape sitting in front of you.
Take one rounded teaspoon of filling (NOT TOO BIG!!! Remember the dainty rule!) and place it about a third of the way up the length of the wrapper, centering the contents.
Take the corner of the wrapper closest to you and lift it up over the filling, creating a pocket of meaty goodness. Then pull back on that corner so you tighten up the pocket and spread the meat out a bit to the left and the right. Once your pocket is created, fold over from the end closest to you one more time, so the pocket is now secure.
Now we close the ends of the pocket by folding over the left side and then the right side. All that’s left to do is to now roll the pocket forward over the remaining wrapper until it gets to the top. Remember to keep firm pressure as you roll it so the pocket of goodness you created doesn’t get loose, but stays closely wrapped together.
Now repeat this until your run out of wrappers or run out of filling. Pile your spring rolls on a tray as you make them and cover with a towel so they don’t dry out. If the wrappers get a bit dry wet the edges with a bit of water or egg white to re-stick them.
For storage, stack the desired number in a ziplock plastic bag and store in the refrigerator. If you wish to store longer than a week, freeze them. Frozen spring rolls should be thawed in their container for a couple hours before frying.
The easiest way to fry spring rolls is a shallow fry method… no deep fryer wanted or required.
For making small batches: using a high wall sauce-pan with about 1/4 inch of oil on the bottom. You want this at a medium/high heat or about 385 F. Your oil is hot enough once it sizzles when you put your spring rolls in it. (If it boils furiously, it’s too hot!) This will allow you to do about 10 at a time, and give you good control on how they cook. Cook for about 1-2 minutes, and then turn over to reveal a golden brown spring roll. Careful not to burn. It’s almost like frying walleye. Remove from the oil when done and place on a paper towel or rack first to cool off and allow some of the oil to drain.
For making large batches: nothing works like a high end electric frying pan. Set your temperature for 385 F and let your oil come to temperature. Start lying in your spring rolls, remembering where you started. By the time you get 20 to 30 spring rolls placed in, your first one is getting ready to be turned over. A small pair of ice cube tongs works great.
As you cook, your oil level is going to go down so watch your oil level and your temperature.
Serve with your favourite dipping sauce. Norma always had a good supply of plum sauce on hand, as well as Thai Chili Sauce.
Average serving per person is three to four spring rolls, but 10 or 12 is not uncommon (the big pig!).
Bon appétit and Merry Christmas.