Even though I’ve been a vegetarian (on and off, but mostly on) for about 7 years now, I still have a few lingering carnivorous weaknesses I just can’t seem to shake.
I know, I know – bad flexitarian! But most of them aren’t so bad; ramen soup flavoring, gravy in all forms, a few slices of turkey on Thanksgiving… you know, the things where a veggie substitute usually isn’t readily available.
One of my continued disappointments as a vegetarian is the severe lack of vegetable egg rolls at Chinese food places. No, I’m not talking about spring rolls… those are different. I’m talkin’ about the crispy, flaky, big, thick rolls usually stuffed with cabbage and pork. Man, those things are amazing.
Sometimes, if I’m desperate, I’ll make exceptions for egg rolls too, but on the whole I try to be good about it. I’m already an ovo-lacto-pesce-gravyatarian, adding egg-roll-atarian to the mix definitely cuts down on my credibility.
Every once in awhile le boyfriend and I get a HUGE craving for take-out egg rolls, and instead of heading down to our local Chinese dive and settling for spring rolls (or just plain cheating…but le boyfriend is “above” that), we cook up a nice heaping pile of homemade egg rolls using vegetarian meat substitutes.
Some foods never quite stack up to their take-out counterparts, but these little buggers are quite the exception! Fry ‘em up good and they’re fairly indistinguishable and you can add whatever you like to them.
I adapted this recipe from one that calls uses real chicken. I followed nearly the same steps (with a few changes to cooking time because fake chicken is pretty much already cooked), but added my own twist. For all you carnivorous biddies out there, check out the original recipe – I can’t imagine it’s any less delish than the vegetarian version!
These little guys aren’t terribly hard to make, but they do require a little patience and kitchen finesse. A few tips:
Don’t freak out if you don’t roll every egg roll perfectly. Avoiding overstuffing will eliminate most of the problems that arise from folding, but if you do break a wrapper open, just double wrap that sucka’ – I did with a few of mine and they were fairly indistinguishable from all the others. It’s also okay if every nook and cranny isn’t perfectly sealed. They harden up real fast in the hot oil and we usually have no major disasters.
Get (and keep) the oil nice and hot! Each batch of egg rolls should only take a few minutes to fry up to a nice golden brown. The longer you take to cook the rolls, the greater your risk of ruining one or getting burnt. Wouldn’t want to hurt those precious cooking fingers!
As you probably know from take-out, leftover egg rolls aren’t really the best. They have a tendency to get soggy and gross when they’ve sat in the fridge for a day. Only make as many as you plan to eat. We do about 4 to 5 egg rolls per a person as a main dish. Obviously budget less if you’re making this a side.
Vegetarian Chicken Egg Rolls (adapted Tide and Thyme)
- 4 tablespoons soy sauce
- 3 cloves minced garlic
- 4 chopped green onions
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil (I use a mixture of vegetable and peanut oil)
- 2 packages of Smart Life veggie chicken (or about 8 oz. of any other fake meat)
- ¾ head green cabbage, shredded thin (I used one bag of Dole Cole Slaw Medley instead…saves work!)
- 1 cup shredded carrots
- Salt and pepper to taste
- A good drizzle of siracha sauce
- 16-24 egg roll wrappers
- 2 tablespoons flour mixed with 3 tablespoons water
- Canola oil, for frying (again, I used a mixture of peanut and veggie oil)
- To make the marinade, combine 3 tablespoons of the soy sauce, 1 clove of minced garlic, half of the green onions, all the minced ginger, and 1 tablespoon of the oil in a Ziploc bag; shake well to combine. Place the fake chicken strips in the bag, press out the excess air, and seal. Refrigerate and marinate for at least 30 minutes, or up to 3 hours.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the vegetable in a wok or large skillet over high heat. When the oil is very hot, add the fake chicken and all of the marinade to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until the fake meat is warmed through and lightly browned.
- Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan. Add the shredded cabbage and carrots and the remaining tablespoon of soy sauce. Stir to toss the vegetables. Cook over high heat for about 2 minutes. Toss in the remaining garlic and green onions and cook for 1 more minute. Add a good drizzle of siracha sauce and remove from heat.
- Place the mixture in a colander and in the sink. Press down firmly on the filling mixture to remove as much excess liquid as possible. Let the filling cool for 15 minutes before filling the wrappers.
- Heat about 3 inches of oil to 375 degrees F. While the oil is heating, assemble the rolls. Lay an egg roll wrapper out on your work surface with one corner pointing toward you. Add a tablespoon or two of the filling to the center of the wrapper. Fold the corner closest to you up over the filling. Roll slightly away from you then fold in the two outside corners, and continue rolling the wrapper tightly away from you. Securely close the egg roll by lightly brushing the inside top corner of the wrapper with the corn starch mixture. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling.
- Fry several egg rolls at a time in the hot oil but without overcrowding, about 4-5 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to a large plate lined with paper towels and place the finished egg rolls vertically to help drain excess grease. Repeat with the remaining rolls. Serve warm with soy sauce or sweet n’ sour.