Time for Spring (Rolls)!
Spring rolls! Summer rolls! Eggrolls!
The names have nothing to do with the seasons, or with eggs for that matter.
Take eggrolls, a Chinese- American invention named after an unrelated pastry in Cantonese cookery. They are ubiquitous, but blessedly less so than in 1968 when “With Six You Get Eggrolls”, Doris Day’s last film, was released. It is possible to make a tasty eggroll, but that rarely happens. Restaurants usually default to factory made rolls comprising a rather clunky deep fried wrapper, normally filled with lots of cabbage and little else, dunked by many folks in sweet “duk” sauce.
“Spring” and “summer” come from the words come from which they were translated from the original Asian language, for example Vietnamese or Thai. No matter, they are treats, and can be exquisite depending on the fillings and how skilled the frying.
The wrappers are much more delicate than eggrolls’, often made of rice flour, sometimes deep fried, and sometimes with the translucent roll wrapped around ingredients such as shrimp and vegetables, then served cold.
In general, a spring roll can be fried or not, and served hot or cold, but a summer roll is usually cold. A fried spring roll is generally shorter and more slender than an egg roll, but a cold rendition can be quite sizable.
They come with dipping sauces that vary by cuisine, for example, soy sauce, rice vinegar, fish sauce, peanut sauce, even mustard/chili mix, or that old-fashioned sweet sauce. They are particularly delicious wrapped in lettuce leaves and herbs such as Thai basil before dipping.
Wrappers can be found in supermarkets, and the best selection will be found in Asian markets.
Several years ago, while touring Vietnam, MyMEGusta was treated to a demonstration of how rice wrappers were made (probably still are) by villagers, basically making pancakes from a rice gruel.
This demo took place outside the infamous tunnels near Saigon, and this was one of the foods sustaining the thousands of people – army and civilians – hiding there during the 1960’s war.