Photo courtesy of Ogilvy
You’ve probably heard of jiaozi, or dumplings, the ubiquitous Chinese food that nearly every family eats during the week-long celebration of the Chinese New Year. Boiled, steamed, or pan-fried, the dumplings are easy to make ahead and can be frozen in large quantities to preserve the tradition of fun and relaxation that characterizes a New Year’s holiday spent at home with family.
Spring rolls are popular all over the world, but they have special significance as a traditional Chinese New Year food, particularly south of the Yangtze River. These “spring pancakes” are easy to make and can be wrapped around a variety of fillings.
In a large bowl, stir the salt into the flour. Mix water into the flour to form a batter. Cover and allow to rest 1 hour.
Spray a pan with cooking spray and heat on medium-low heat.
Turn the heat down to low and add a heaping tablespoon of batter to the middle of the pan. Quickly spread the batter evening to form a circle 5-6 inches in diameter. Continue smoothing the batter as it cooks.
Cook the wrapper briefly, until it is cooked on the bottom and the edges curl up slightly. Don’t overcook or burn it!
Remove the wrapper carefully from the pan. The finished wrappers can be refrigerated or frozen until ready to use.
Fillings can include meat or shrimp and vegetables, or a simple red bean paste in northern China. If you decide to use meat and vegetables, all ingredients should be cut thinly, cooked separately, and cooled, to prevent making the wrappers soggy.
One example of a traditional filling is lean ground pork, marinated in rice wine vinegar, dry sherry and salt, with cabbage, carrots, bamboo shoots, shitake mushrooms, and green onion, combined with a mixture of cornstarch, sugar, white pepper, soy sauce, sesame oil, and dry sherry.
To wrap, place a small amount of filling (about a tablespoon) into the corner of your wrap and roll up into a tight bundle, folding in the edges. Paint the final edge with a mixture of cornstarch and water to seal the spring roll.
Keep rolls covered until you are ready to fry them.
To deep-fry your spring rolls, use vegetable oil (canola, rice bran, corn, peanut) heated to 350 degrees F. Slide the spring rolls in (don’t toss!) and don’t overcrowd. Turn to brown evenly, and place on a rack to drain once golden brown.