By Zeus I love crispy stuff. There’s something about a salty, brittle crunch which carries enormous appeal. Maybe it’s the feeling of shattering something beautiful, maybe it’s the flood of flavour that almost always accompanies that moment. Maybe it’s just that everything crispy is usually fantastically unhealthy, appealing to my self-destructive side.
These spring rolls are a compromise between that most base of desires and my almost-but-not-quite-unashamedly metrosexual desire to not become a cratered doughball, drowning my promise in deep-fried goodness. Therefore they are baked. This method takes a little longer, but consider that to be time you’d lose to high cholesterol if you’d gone the deep-frying route.
I couldn’t be more certain that this method is deeply untraditional. I suspect there will be some special way of rolling and folding, some special kind of wrapper, some special ritual that one must follow to make a true spring roll. Frankly, I don’t give a damn. This recipe uses nothing you can’t find in a supermarket and, much to my surprise given that it was cobbled together on the £3.20 I had left the day before payday, tastes fantastic.
Do be careful though. When these spring rolls came out of the oven, their crispy shells hid boiling tendrils of beansprout and the peas became vicious little fuckers, exploding with hot, sweet juice on my tongue. Be patient. Have a cigarette. Stroke the cat. Set the table and pour a beer. Then, eat.
Enough for three big ones. Rolls that is, not people. Enough for one big person, as a lunch with a salad.
- One white onion, halved and thinly sliced
- A handful of beansprouts
- Two pak-choi, sliced
- About 30 frozen peas. This is probably around 100g, but I wouldn’t know
- Four cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
- Two birds-eye chillis, finely chopped
- Soy sauce
- Oyster sauce
- One teaspoon Chinese five spice (I use the paste, because I like the way it thickens the sauce)
- Handful of mushrooms (preferably Chinese, but bog standard buttons will do)
- 1 egg, beaten
- Six sheets filo pastry, halved lengthways
- One chicken breast, cut into pea-sized pieces (if you’re feeding a vegetarian, just leave this out)
In a wok, heat a good splash of oil until it’s shimmering. Throw the onions and chicken (if you’re using it) into the pan and stir fry for two minutes before adding the rest of the vegetables except the beansprouts. Cook for a further minute before adding a teaspoon of five spice paste, a tablespoon and a half of soy sauce, a tablespoon of oyster sauce and most of the egg, retaining a little for use later. Stir furiously whilst trying to avoid squishing the peas. When everything’s coated in a dark, sticky sauce about two minutes later, take off the heat and stir through the beansprouts.
Grease the bottom of a baking or roasting dish with butter. Lay three half-sheets of the filo pastry on top of one another in the dish. Using a wooden spoon, apportion about a quarter of the stir-fried goodies into the middle of the pastry sheets, leaving a good margin around the outsides to fold in and roll the cylinders. Use the leftover beaten egg to stick together the rolls and make sure they maintain their shape. Repeat until you’ve got four big cylinders.
Put the spring rolls in the oven and cook for about five minutes before removing and brush the top and sides of each roll with a little more egg. Replace in the oven, cook for another five minutes or so and turn when golden crispy on all exposed sides. Brush any part of the roll that isn’t yet starting to colour and crisp with a little more egg and cook for another five to ten minutes until done.
Serve with this sweet chilli sauce & cold dry wine or beer.