Saturday, July 26, 2014

How to Bake Crispy Egg Rolls That Taste Almost As Good As Fried

How to Bake Crispy Egg Rolls That Taste Almost As Good As Fried 1

A while back, I got an email from one of my readers asking if she could bake egg rolls. She feared deep-frying anything after an oil splatter incident, she explained. Understandable.

I suggested a deep-fryer with a lid.

That idea was nixed too.

But, deep-frying egg rolls is far superior to baking them. The only time I've baked egg rolls is if I'm re-heating fried ones.

Obviously, you don't need me to write a whole blog post telling you to bake the usual recipe for egg rolls. Since I was making Cha Gio Cua Be (Vietnamese Crab Egg Rolls), I decided to set aside a few for experimenting. I wanted to replicate, as close to possible, the crispness of fried egg rolls, but by baking them. What these egg rolls needed was oil.

This isn't the healthy alternative to frying egg rolls. Maybe juuuust a smidge healthier, but really, I was after a baking alternative that didn't require you to stand over a pot of boiling oil. Think it worked? Do those egg rolls look like they were fried?

Cha Gio Cua Be (Vietnamese Crab Egg Rolls)

Cha Gio Cua Be (Vietnamese Crab Egg Rolls) 2

Cha Gio Cua Be (Vietnamese Crab Egg Rolls). So decadent!

I remember the summer I spent a month in Hanoi, I repeatedly visited Bun Cha Dac Kim at #1 Hang Manh for Bun Cha Hanoi (Vietnamese Hanoi-Style Rice Vermicelli Noodles with Grilled Pork Patties. As the reputedly best in town, sure the bun cha was good, but it was really the crab egg rolls that had me coming back again and again. An order of bun cha nem ran cua be only set me back about $1.50 back then too. *Sigh.*

If only crab egg rolls weren't such a luxury. Normally, any amount of crab I have on hand gets saved for my mom's banh canh cua (Vietnamese thick noodle soup with crab), but I had to make this just once, just for the blog.

Crab is too delicate and flaky to use alone in the filling, so adding some ground pork and shrimp can stretch it further so it's not quite so expensive. I omitted Tree Ear Fungus that I normally add to egg rolls because I felt the mushrooms would overpower the taste of the crab. Other than that, it's a pretty basic egg roll recipe.

Ha Noi Avenue - Westminster (Little Saigon)

Ha Noi Avenue - Westminster (Little Saigon) 1

In December 2011, LT, a commenter on my Golden Deli - San Gabriel post suggested I try Ha Noi Avenue for Nem Ran Cua Be (Vietnamese Crab Egg Rolls), made Hanoi-style in a big square and then cut into quarters to be eaten. Now, that's the kind of recommendation I can get behind!

Although, I have to mention that I've eaten crab egg rolls at multiple places in Hanoi, including at the reputedly best in town, Bun Cha Dac Kim at #1 Hang Manh, and I have never been served square egg rolls before. My favorite crab egg rolls in Little Saigon are at Vien Dong Restaurant - Garden Grove (Little Saigon) and Quan Hy Vietnamese Restaurant - Westminster (Little Saigon), but those aren't square either.

I've driven past Ha Noi Avenue numerous times and was always amused by the signage which seemed to scream, "Notice me!" I asked my friend DP, my source for Little Saigon gossip, about the restaurant and she said that the original owners of Hanoi Restaurant sold their business and then opened Ha Noi Avenue.

It took me almost six months after the tip for me to finally visit. It's a little removed from the main drag of Little Saigon and closer to the freeway, a convenient stopping off point on my way to San Diego to visit lil' sis, so I asked Tony of SinoSoul if he wanted to check it out with me.