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The History of Egg Rolls and How They Became a Staple in Asian Cuisine
Discover the fascinating history of egg rolls, from their origins in China to their evolution into a beloved dish in Asian cuisine
Egg rolls are one of the most popular and recognizable dishes in Asian cuisine, enjoyed by millions worldwide. These crispy, cylindrical, deep-fried rolls filled with savory ingredients are often served as appetizers, snacks, or side dishes in Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, and other Asian restaurants. But where did egg rolls come from, and how did they evolve into their current form and status?
Origins and Variations of Egg Rolls
The origins of egg rolls are unclear, as there are many variations and regional differences in how they are made and named. Some sources trace their roots to China, where similar snacks made with thin wrappers and various fillings have been consumed for centuries.
For example, the Cantonese-style spring rolls, which are thinner and lighter than egg rolls, were eaten initially during the Spring Festival to symbolize new beginnings and good luck. They typically contain vegetables, seafood, or meat and are served with dipping sauces like sweet and sour or soy sauce.
In contrast, the egg rolls most commonly associated with American Chinese cuisine are thicker and heavier, with a crispy exterior often made with wheat flour, egg, and water. They are typically filled with a mixture of chopped or shredded vegetables such as cabbage, carrots, onions, bean sprouts, ground meat like pork or chicken, and sometimes eggs or shrimp. The filling is seasoned with various spices and sauces such as garlic, ginger, soy sauce, and oyster sauce and then wrapped tightly and deep-fried until golden brown and crispy.
The popularity of these wrapped snacks in America can be traced back to the early 20th century when Chinese immigrants introduced their cuisine to the Western palate through restaurants and food trucks. These egg rolls were often served as part of a combo platter or as a side dish to other main dishes like chop suey, lo mein, or fried rice.
Over time, American Chinese chefs and cooks adapted and modified the recipe to suit local tastes and ingredients, such as adding more meat and fewer vegetables or substituting wheat wrappers for rice paper wrappers.
Egg Rolls in Vietnamese and Other Cuisines
Egg rolls are not exclusive to Chinese cuisine, however. In Vietnam, for example, egg rolls are called cha gio or nem ran and are often smaller and thinner than China’s deep-fried delicacy. They are filled with a mixture of ground pork, shrimp, wood ear mushrooms, and vermicelli noodles and are served with lettuce, herbs, and dipping sauce. In Thailand, they’re called popiah or po piah and are similar to Chinese spring rolls, with a more delicate wrapper made from rice flour and filled with vegetables, tofu, and peanuts.
Egg Rolls Today and National Egg Roll Day
Today, egg rolls are enjoyed by people of all ages and cultures. They can be found in many different types of restaurants, from casual to fine dining, and even in frozen or pre-packaged forms in supermarkets. They are often served as appetizers or snacks at parties, potlucks, or festivals and can be customized with various fillings and sauces.
There is even a National Egg Roll Day, celebrated on June 10 every year, to honor this beloved dish and encourage people to try new recipes or variations. Whether you prefer Chinese-style, Vietnamese-style, or any other variation, there’s no denying that savory rolls have become a staple in Asian cuisine and a beloved dish around the world.
The history of egg rolls is fascinating and complex, with different versions and adaptations across various regions and cultures. From their humble origins as a festive snack in China to their widespread popularity in America and beyond, egg rolls have come a long way and continue to evolve and innovate.
So next time you’re craving something crispy, savory, and satisfying, consider trying some egg rolls and celebrating National Egg Roll Day on June 10. And if you’re in the DFW area, remember to check out Pho 95 and their delicious egg rolls. Bon appetit!