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An egg roll is an Asian appetizer which includes meat and vegetables wrapped inside a rice or wheat dough and then steamed or deep fried. Many consumers associate deep fried egg rolls, especially those from China, with the concept, although a number of Asian nations make variations on the food. Many Asian restaurants offer these dishes as a starter. Since they are easy to make, they are often made by cooks who are first learning about Asian cuisine.
Several things characterize a true egg roll. Typically, it has a wheat dough which turns dense, puffy, and crunchy when fried. The roll is usually dipped or washed in egg before cooking, and the filling may include any combination of vegetables and meats. Frequently, bean threads or other noodles are included as well, for filler.
In most cases, an egg roll is entirely closed, resembling a small log of dough, and allowing the vegetables inside to steam slightly as the food is cooked. One variety is open on one or both ends, and has a more crunchy, deep fried flavor throughout. A variety of dipping sauces can accompany this food. Soy sauce is common, as are plum sauce and sweet and sour sauce. Typically, the dish is served hot, as it will start to taste oily and heavy as it cools down.
A well known cousin of the egg roll is the spring roll, a lighter version which may be made with a thinner wheat dough or a rice paper wrapper. In some cases, spring rolls are steamed, rather than fried, to make the flavor even more delicate. In many places, spring rolls are traditionally served on the first day of spring, and they also come with a variety of dipping sauces.
To make egg rolls, start by tracking down wrappers, which are available at many markets. Stir fry an assortment of vegetables and meats of your choice, seasoning with salt, pepper, and a small amount of soy sauce or oyster sauce. Garlic, ginger, cabbage, bok choy, carrots, green onions, celery, water chestnuts, mushrooms, and bean sprouts are all common vegetables, while pork, beef, and chicken are frequently chosen meats. Set the vegetables aside to cool, and lay out the wrappers alongside a dish of lightly beaten egg.
Orient the roll wrapper so that one corner points toward you. Spoon out a small amount of filling into the middle, and roll the egg roll up, folding in the sides as you do so. Brush a small amount of egg along the top edge to seal it before rolling it up all the way and brush the outside with egg, and set aside. Once you have rolled a sufficient number, you can either fry or steam the egg rolls, serving hot with sauces of choice.