SPRING ROLL WRAPPERS
| Mandarin: Chunjuan Pi |
Cantonese: Shuen Guen Pie |
Preparing spring rolls
Spring rolls are also known as egg rolls or pancake rolls in different parts of the world.
Spring rolls must be one of the most popular Chinese snacks in the world, including China
itself. While the fillings may vary from region to region, or even between different
restaurants and food stalls, the wrapper are more or less almost always the same. They are
made from a simple flour and water dough, except in Vietnam, where the wrappers are made
from rice flour, water and salt.
are three different sizes of ready-made spring roll wrappers available from the freezers of
Asian stores; small, medium and large, and they are all wafer-thin. The smallest wrappers,
which measures approximately 12cm square, are used for making dainty, cocktail-style rolls.
The standard-size wrappers measures between 21 - 23 cm square, and usually come in packets
of 20 sheets. The large-size wrappers, measuring 30cm square, are too big for general use,
so they are usually cut in half or into strips for making samosas and similar snacks.
| Mandarin: Huntun Pi |
Cantonese: Wontan Pie |
Wontan skins or wrappers are made from flour and egg dough, which is rolled out to a
smooth, flat thin sheet, as when making egg noodles. The sheet is usually cut into small
squares, although round wontan skins are also available. Ready-made wontan skins are stacked
in piles of 25 or 50 pieces, wrapped and sold fresh or frozen in Asian or Chinese stores.
Unlike spring roll wrappers, which have to be carefully peeled off, sheet by sheet before
use, fresh wontan skins are dusted with flour before being packed. This way, each piece of
skin is separated from the other and thus very easy to use. Frozen wrappers bought from
stores must, however, be thawed thoroughly before use, or they will tend to stick together.
Any unused skins can be re-frozen, but should be carefully wrapped in foil so that they so
not dry out in the freezer.
There are several ways of using wontan skins. They can be deep-fried and served with a dip,
filled and boiled, steamed or simply poached in a clear broth. On most Chinese restaurants
menus in the West, this last option is listed under soups, which is rather misleading, as in
China and South-east Asia, wontan soup is always served solo as a snack, never as a separate
soup course as part of a meal.
| Vietnamese: Banh Trang |
Other than Thailand, the rice paper used in Vietnam is quite different from the rice paper
that is used for writing and painting in China and Japan. It is also different from the
sheets of rice paper in the British use as pan liners when baking macaroons. Made from rice
flour, water and salt, it is a round, tissue-thin 'crepe', dried on bamboo mats in the sun,
which results in the familiar crosshatch pattern being embedded on each sheet.
Rice paper is used for wrapping Vietnamese spring rolls and small pieces of meat and fish to
be eaten in the hand. The sheet are rather dry and brittle, so soaking them in warm water
for a few seconds before use is a good practice. Alternatively they can be placed on damp
dish towels and brushed with water until they are sufficiently pliable to be used. Spring
rolls are usually deep-fried, but this is not always the case. Vietnamese cooks also makes a
fresh version. Cooked pork, prawns, beansprouts and vermicelli are wrapped in rice paper,
which has been dipped in cold water until it is pliable and transparent. The filling can
clearly be seen through the wrappers, and the rolls looks very pretty.
Packaged and sold in 15cm, 25cm and 30cm round, rice paper will keep for months in a cool
dry place, provided the packages are tightly sealed. When buying, look for sheets that are
of an even thickness, with a clear, whitish color. Broken pieces are a sign of bad handling,
and are quite useless for wrapping, so avoid any packages that look as if they have been
Asian Melting Pot
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