I began the celebrations of Chinese New Year again with Liz and Dan Krieger at Cal Poly’s Chinese Students’ annual 10-course dinner, complete with original performances, and the lion dancers and drummers — what a treat!
Since then I have enjoyed the nightly lighting of my former Christmas tree appropriately decorated with an assortment of Asian items I have collected over the years. A bowl of fresh Cayucos navel oranges graces my table, symbolizing prosperity during the coming year, with a personal teapot for healthful hot green tea.
One of the joys of my teaching years was cooking multicultural food items in the classroom during social studies, relating that to other curricular areas, and having the students write about it for language skills. By the end of the year, they had their own 10-page cookbook. Naturally, Chinese egg rolls made with the small wonton skins were always a favorite, which translated to a skill they also carried home.
Traditionally they are made with finely shredded cabbage, but I prefer the flavor of bok choy and other favorite vegetables from farmers market that I use in stir fry; simply dice them smaller. For a full-bodied serving, use the large spring roll size, and add in some chopped cooked pork, chicken or shrimp.
Chinese Spring Rolls
- 1-2 heads baby bok choy
- 6 stalks celery, destringed
- 1/2 yellow onion
- Crimini mushrooms, brushed clean
- 8 scallions
- Spring peas in a pod, destringed
- Canned water chestnuts and bamboo shoots, drained and rinsed (optional)
- Low sodium soy sauce, sesame oil (optional)
- Peanut oil or vegetable oil for frying
- 1 pkg. large egg roll wrappers
Shred and chop cleaned vegetables, making sure to pat dry. Season with a little splash of soy sauce and/or sesame oil for flavor. Place two to three heaping tablespoons of filling in the center of the wrapper. The third-graders giggled as they set up a baseball diamond, folded up first base to the pitcher’s mound, folded in first base and third base, and then rolled it up tightly to second base. (A little water along the upper edge will ensure it sticks closed so the filling will not leak out.)
Let set a short time while a deep pan or wok heats the oil up to 350 degrees. Carefully slide the rolls in two or three at a time, seam side down first, and then turn over so all sides are golden (this goes very quickly). Carefully remove with a spider or tongs onto paper towels to drain off excess oil. (Hungry Girl website alternately recommends oiling them with cooking spray and baking them at 400 degrees until golden.)
Serve hot with hot Chinese mustard, soy sauce, and sweet and sour or plum sauce. Easy enough for third graders, this is challenging for a large group; you may place them uncovered on a sheet pan in a 375-degree oven for just a few minutes so they remain crispy.
To stir fry the same vegetables, slice them larger, and save out the green onions for last so they retain their flavor and crisp texture. Enjoy good Chinese food year round served with rice or crispy pan-fried noodles. Wonton wrappers and fresh noodles with instructions are readily available in the produce section at the Cookie Crock.
Happy Valentine’s Day to all our loving readers, from the Culinary Corner.