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Appetizers Chinese Recipes Vietnamese

Imperial Rolls (roll your own)

Light and crispy shells are filled with a tasty fresh mix of pork, vegetables and seasonings. You may never buy frozen prepared rolls again.

The difference between spring rolls, egg rolls and imperial rolls

The spring roll is the traditional treat served at Chinese New Year banquets. Variations have evolved as the dish gained popularity around the world. The imperial roll is a Vietnamese variation often made with ground pork. While they are traditionally made with rice paper, outside of Vietnam, they are often made with spring roll wrappers. The egg roll is actually a North American Chinese version of the spring roll with egg added to the wrapper batter.  

When choosing from a Chinese restaurant menu, I usually opt for imperial rolls over spring rolls or egg rolls for my starter course. They tend to have a lighter, crispier wrapper and the right balance of meat, vegetables and seasonings.

From time to time I’ll get a hankering to make my own imperial rolls.  Homemade is the way to go since you can choose quality fresh ingredients and season them to your liking. They aren’t really that complicated to make. After you’ve rolled your second or third, you’ll get the knack of it. The reward for your work in the kitchen is the compliments you’ll get at the dinner table.

Imperial rolls straight out of the fryer. Photo: Sue Stewart

Making the filling

First, cook the ground pork until the meat is no longer pink. You should also break up the chunks as it is cooking. Remove the pork with a slotted spoon from the wok once it is just cooked since it will remain juicier. Set it aside in a dish with a cover. Next, keep the melted pork fat in the wok with the heat at medium high then add the carrots and cabbage, then the mushrooms and garlic. Once the vegetables are cooked, move them to one side of the wok and add the sauce mixture to the other side. Heat and stir the sauce until it thickens. Lastly, mix the sauce into the vegetables. This goopy sauce helps to hold everything together.  Allow the filling to cool down to room temperature before making the rolls.

Preparing the wrappers

You’ll need either spring roll sheets or phyllo pastry sheets. If you have bought them frozen, you should thaw them overnight in the refrigerator before making this recipe. Normally the spring roll sheets are cut into 8” squares. The phyllo pastry may come in larger sheets, so just cut them to roughly 8” squares. Handle them carefully because they can tear easily. Lie the wrappers on a flat surface then set a damp tea towel over them to prevent them from drying up.  

Choose your dipping sauce

I haven’t included a sauce recipe here since you likely have your favourite condiment on hand already. My preference is sweet and sour sauce. More suggestions include: plum sauce, sweet and spicy chili sauce, peanut sauce, hoisin sauce or Vietnamese nuoc cham.    

rolls on rack

Imperial Rolls

Kevin Lamoureux
You’ll be amazed at how delicious these homemade rolls are compared to frozen or take-out versions. The light and crispy shells are filled with atasty fresh mix of pork, vegetables and seasonings.
40 mins
Total Time 10 mins
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Chinese
Servings 8
Calories 255 kcal

Ingredients
  

Filling

  • 1 tbsp peanut oil
  • 2 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 1 ½ cups shredded carrot (1 large carrot)
  • 1 ½ cups shredded green cabbage
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 tsp corn starch
  • 2 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • ½ tsp ginger powder
  • ½ tsp Chinese five-spice

Imperial Rolls

  • 16-20 spring roll wrappers 8” square
  • 2 tsp corn starch
  • 2 tbsp water
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • ½ cup chopped green onion (fresh spring onion)

Instructions
 

Filling

  • Heat the 1 tbsp peanut oil in a wok or large frying pan to medium-high.
  • Add the pork and cook until the pink has gone. Remove the pork but keep the pork fat in the pan.
  • Add the carrots and cabbage and cook for about 10 minutes or until tender. Stir frequently.
  • Meanwhile, combine the water, cornstarch, hoisin, ginger and Chinese five-spice.
  • Add the mushrooms and garlic to the pan and cook for another minute or two.
  • Move the cooked vegetables to one side of the pan and add the sauce mixture to the other side. Heat and stir the sauce for about a minute or until it thickens.
  • Stir the sauce into the cooked vegetables then remove from the heat. Allow filling to cool down to room temperature.

Imperial Rolls

  • Mix the cornstarch and water in a small dish then set aside.
  • Carefully peel away a spring roll wrapper and place in a diamond position on a clean flat work area. Cover the remaining wrappers with a damp tea towel to prevent them from drying out.
  • Place about 2-3 tbsp of the filling in the centre of the lower half of the wrapper (closest to you).
  • Fold the bottom, left and right sides over the filling then roll towards the top.
  • Apply the cornstarch mixture to the inner top corner of the wrapper and seal the roll. Put aside on a plate, flap side down.
  • Repeat until all of the wrappers and filling are used up.
  • Add the cooking oil to a pan and heat to medium. There should be enough oil to cover the rolls when immersed.
  • Cook a few rolls at a time for about 1 ½ to 2 minutes, or until golden brown. Be careful not to overcook and make sure that the oil isn’t too hot.
  • Remove with a slotted spoon and allow to cool on a wire rack. Repeat.
  • Serve warm with sweet and sour sauce or plum sauce and garnish with chopped fresh green onions.

Notes

Phyllo pastry can be substituted for the spring roll wrappers.
I use smaller sized saucepan to cook three or four rolls at a time fully immersed in the oil.
 
Nutrition
Per serving
Calories: 255kcal | Carbohydrates: 18g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 4.5g | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 3g | Iron: 1.5mg
Keyword Imperial, imperial rolls, rolls, spring rolls

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