I travel a lot for work, and frequently spend Monday through Friday in a small town with a Best Western or Holiday Inn and a few chain restaurants. But one thing I’ve found is that no matter where you are in Wisconsin, no matter how small the town, there is a Chinese restaurant nearby.
Eau Claire, for instance, has a large Hmong population. Hmong beans and sprouts are typical grocery fare, which recently inspired me to grow my own bean sprouts. It’s super easy and they’re a delicious, nutritious crunch on sandwiches or in stirfries. However, like a typical middle American, my favorite way to eat them is wrapped in carbs and deep-fried– egg rolls!
But I prefer my egg rolls vegetarian. Small pieces of minced mystery meat has never excited me particularly. And really, why couldn’t one bake egg rolls? Why must they go for a swim in a large vat of hot oil? Couldn’t they simply be brushed with some oil and put in a very hot oven instead? For heaven’s sake, why not?!
In stepped my father-in-law’s favorite TV chef, Emeril. I didn’t follow Emeril’s recipe exactly- no pork or cilantro, sauteed the sprouts with the rest of the veggies, no fancy dipping sauces- but I did use his step-by-step instructions for wrapping and baking the rolls. I ate these with a mixture of soy sauce, teriyaki, and a few tiny drops of oyster sauce stirred in.
Overall, these were really tasty, easy to prepare considering they’re egg rolls, and they freeze REALLY well. I’ve got a bag in my freezer and it’s easy to pop them in a hot oven for an afternoon snack or quick meal.
Baked vegetarian egg rolls
Inspired by Emeril’s baked egg rolls
1 tablespoon cornstarch, plus extra for dusting
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 pound nappa cabbage, outer leaves removed and rinsed well
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne
1 cup finely chopped green onions (green and white parts)
1 cup grated carrots
1 cup bean sprouts
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon Asian (dark) sesame oil
Twenty 6-inch square egg roll wrappers (about 1 package)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Sprinkle the cornstarch over the soy sauce in a small bowl and stir well to dissolve.
Stack the cabbage leaves on top of each other. Trim off and discard the bottom 3 inches of the leaves. Roll the leaves up tightly and slice into long thin strips. (This should yield about 5 loosely packed cups.)
Heat the 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a wok or deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cabbage, salt, and cayenne and stir-fry until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the green onions, carrots, garlic, sprouts, and sesame oil and continue cooking until just slightly wilted, about 2 minutes. Add the cornstarch mixture and stir well to blend and thicken, bring to a boil, and boil for 1 minute. Transfer to a wide bowl and let cool completely.
Pour ½ cup water into a small bowl and place next to your work area. Lay 1 egg roll wrapper on the work surface, with one of the points toward you. Dip a finger in the water and wet the edges of the wrapper. Put 1/4 cup of the veggie filling just below the center of the wrapper, above the bottom point. Pull the bottom point up over the filling, fold over the sides, and roll up to completely enclose the filling. Place seam side down on an aluminum-foil lined baking sheet. Continue with the remaining wrappers and filling.
(Note: If the egg rolls will not be cooked right away, lightly dust them with cornstarch to prevent them from sticking together, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for up to 4 hours.)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Brush the egg rolls on all sides with the vegetable oil and place on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet. Bake the egg rolls for about 20 minutes, or until they are light brown and crispy on the outside, turning them over and rotating the baking sheet once.