By Christine Coe | Writer, Mother & Egg Roll Connoisseur
The egg roll as many know it today is a popular appetizer served in Asian restaurants but more recently has even become a common option on bar and appetizer menus in restaurants all over the place. From Tex-Mex, often referred to as a southwestern egg roll, to the pizza roll and even the cheese steak roll, variations of this tasty snack are all over the place! So what’s the origin of the egg roll anyway? Good question. There are many stories and our blog title pokes fun at this fact. Many Asian countries claim to have originated the dish and variations of the egg roll do exist in many Asian cuisines. However, an article written by Diana Huynh on “The origin of Egg Rolls” reports that “Southern China is the most likely source, as it stems from features of Cantonese cuisine.” Although according to author Andrew Coe (no relation to me,) who wrote “Chop Suey: A Cultural History of Chinese Food in the United States”, the egg roll was likely invented in New York sometime in the early 1930s. New York…really? I have a hard time swallowing that one! Henry Low is one of the chefs who claimed the honor and he even included an egg roll recipe in his 1938 book “Cook at Home in Chinese.”
I also had a hard time believing the egg roll had only been around for 80 some odd years, so I kept digging. Foodtimeline.org says, “egg rolls (and their lighter counterpart, spring rolls) date back to ancient China. It is quite likely that egg-roll type foods were made and consumed in the USA by the first Chinese settlers in the mid 1800’s.” Okay, now we are getting somewhere.
So is there egg in egg rolls?
A Chinese-American cookbook published in 1917 included a dish for “Dan Gun” or Egg Roll. This recipe called for meat and vegetables to be wrapped in egg, sliced and served. Maybe it’s possible this is how the name stuck? Either way, traditionally the egg roll we know today did use egg in the dough but many do not anymore. Van’s Kitchen doesn’t use egg in our egg rolls and there is NO MSG added in any of our products either.
And where does the spring roll fit in?
It is said by some that the spring roll led to the creation of the egg roll. So maybe a better title for this blog would have been “What Came First: The Spring Roll or the Egg Roll?” But that didn’t seem as clever. Either way, no one can argue that egg rolls grew out of a Chinese culinary tradition. Their wrappers are usually rather thick and, as mentioned earlier, traditionally were made with wheat flour and egg. Spring roll wrappers on the other hand are much thinner, have no egg and are often made with rice flour. They are also smaller and usually don’t contain any meat. However, there are spring roll recipes that often include shrimp and even pork or chicken. Like any good culinary idea, the spring roll and the egg roll alike, have been imitated and embellished over and over throughout history.
That’s a wrap!
Although the egg roll may have sailed far from its roots in China, the Van’s Kitchen family has never strayed from their mission to “Make every bite the best one.” The kitchen truly is the heart of a home and a place for families to gather for nourishment and togetherness. Van’s Kitchen egg rolls are made with that sentiment in mind and provide a tasty appetizer or meal for any occasion – whether you choose chicken, pork, shrimp or vegetable!