Asian Foods Ep.3


Asian Foods : Ultimate Veggie Spring Rolls

by Thomas M. Tillman
Whether you're a vegetarian or vegan or neither, this is going to be one of the best spring rolls you've ever had. Bold claim, I know; but with the perfect seasoning, and a generous amount of flavourful ingredients (plus one special one!), you won't even need a dipping sauce. They can also be made in advance and frozen, just fry them up when you're ready to eat!

Why These Are 100x Better Than Takeout

  • Actually flavourful filling. Too many takeout spring rolls are filled with bland noodles and measly shreds of carrots and cabbage. Not these. The filling is packed with tons of veggies and are so perfectly seasoned I sometimes just eat the filling straight up. This is a vegan filling that super tasty, but if you eat meat also check out these classic pork spring rolls and green curry spring rolls as well!
  • Dipping sauce not necessary. Most takeout spring rolls are nothing without the sauce. Not these. The spicy and vinegary sweet chili sauce does add a nice contrast, but these are so flavourful that you can do without.
  • Secret ingredient: Taro root! Taro and deep fried foods are a match made in heaven. It adds a unique aroma and a slight creaminess that makes these feel substantial even without any meat.
  • Umami and texture. Two types of mushrooms add umami and lots of texture to keep things interesting.

Important Ingredient Notes

  • Taro root. Taro is a root vegetable that cooks up creamy similar to russet potato, but with a uniquely wonderful flavour and aroma that work in both savoury and sweet dishes. Choose the larger taro root rather than the small hairy ones as large ones are creamier. Asian grocery stores often sell them pre-cut into chunks. If you can only find the smaller taro though, they are okay to use. Make sure you wear gloves when peeling taro btw as they can irritate your skin. Got leftover taro root? Use it in this Filipino sour soup recipe (sinigang), Thai coconut pancakes (kanom krok), and black sticky rice pudding.
  • Glass noodles. The best quality glass noodles are made from 100% mung bean starch, such as Pine Brand (our sponsor!). The noodles have a nicer chewy texture, and are more resistant to overcooking and tearing than ones made with a mixture of starches. Here are some of my other glass noodles recipes.
  • Dried shiitake mushrooms. Use dried, not fresh, as they have more umami, are chewier, and we need the soaking water. Choose medium to small shiitake which are quicker to rehydrate.
  • Dried black fungus mushrooms. These are also called wood ear or cloud ear mushrooms. You can get them julienned or whole at most Asian grocery stores. Once you have them, try them out in this traditional ginger chicken stir-fry recipe!
Taro root sold precut in a big chunk. I slice a bit off of the cut surface since it was exposed at the store, then use a knife to peel of the skin. Make sure to wear gloves as raw taro can irritate your skin.

Step-By-Step

Check out detailed recipes in the recipe card below, but here's a bird's eye view of what you'll need to do.
1. Saute garlic and pepper in oil until golden and aromatic. 2. & 3. Add carrots, cabbage, taro,and rehydrated mushrooms; cook until veggies are done. 4. Add glass noodles, cilantro stems and seasoning.
5. Cook until noodles are done. 6. Wrap using a little more than ¼ cup per an 8-inch wrapper. 7. Use a flour slurry or a beaten egg to seal the wrapper. 8. Ready to fry or freeze!
9. Fry at 350°F (175°C) for 5 mins. 10. Should be deeply golden and bubbles are only coming out the ends, not from the surface. 11. Drain on paper towel and let cool a few minutes before cutting. 12. Cut on a diagonal for a pro look.

Frequently Asked Questions About Spring Rolls

Can they be made in advance and frozen?

Yes! That's what most restaurants do. Make a whole bunch and freeze. Fry them from frozen and they will take a few minutes longer.

Can they be baked?

Yes. Brush them generously with oil then bake them on a rack in a 425°F oven for about 25 minutes. They won't look as good and will be a bit dryier, but they will still be crispy.

Can they be done in an air-fryer?

Yes, though I have never done it myself. Other sources say to brush them with oil and air fry them for 7-8 minutes at 350°F.

Can I make these without the taro?

Yes, though add a little more of each of the other veggies to make up for it. You should end up with equal amount of total veg.

INGREDIENTS

  • 0.5 oz (about 4 medium pc) dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated see note
  • 0.25 oz dried black fungus mushroomsrehydrated, see note
  • 1.4 oz dry glass noodles (1 small pack)
  • 2 Tbsp neutral oil
  • 4 cloves garlicminced
  • ½-1 tsp ground white or black peppersee note
  • 5.3 oz (2 cups) finely julienned taro root
  • 5.3 oz (1¾ cups) finely julienned cabbage
  • 4.3 oz (1 cup) packed julienned carrots
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp table salt
  • 8-10 cilantro stemsfinely chopped
  • 2 green onionschopped
  • 12-14 pieces large 8-inch spring roll wrappers or 24 pieces 6-inch ones.
  • 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour or 1 egg for sealing the wrapper
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Sweet Chili Saucefor dipping, store bought or homemade

Notes:

  • You can soak the shiitake and black fungus together in hot off-the-boil water for about 15 minutes. If you have at least 2 hours you can soak them in room temp water. Wash mushrooms before soaking.
  • If you’re serving kids 1 tsp of pepper might be a bit much so I'd use only ½ tsp.

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Remove mushrooms from the soaking water squeezing out excess water from the shiitake mushrooms (and do not throw away the soaking water).
  • Soak glass noodles in the mushroom water, adding more tap water as needed to submerge the noodles. Soak for 7-10 minutes until softened.
  • While the noodles soak, remove the stems from the shiitake mushrooms and finely chop the caps. Finely dice the black fungus; if you find any hard parts (that's the root end) cut around them and discard. Place the mushrooms in a large bowl together with the taro, cabbage and carrots.
  • Once noodles are done, drain the water but do not throw it away (yes, we're STILL going to use this!). Don't toss the noodles so that the strands remain in alignment for easy cutting. Use scissors to cut the noodles into 2-inch pieces.
  • In a wok or a large non-stick saute pan, add the oil, garlic, pepper and saute for about 2 minutes over medium heat or until the garlic starts to turn golden.
  • Turn the heat up to medium high and add the mushrooms, taro, cabbage, carrot and 1 Tbsp of the soy sauce; cook for 3-4 minutes until the taro is done. You can tell that the taro is getting close to done when some of the pieces start to break; you can then taste to see if they're cooked through.
  • Add the glass noodles, cilantro stems, the remaining soy sauce, sugar, and about ¼ cup of the mushroom soaking water. Toss until the noodles are fully cooked, adding a splash more of the mushroom water if needed.
  • Toss in the green onions and remove from heat. Taste the filling and add the salt if it needs it. (I find it usually does need the extra salt, but it’s always good to taste first).
  • Transfer the filling into a large, shallow bowl and spread it out so it can cool quickly.
  • While the filling is cooling, peel the wrappers apart so it will be easier when you wrap. (Spring roll wrappers tend to stick together a bit right out of the package.)
  • For the spring roll wrapper glue, you can use a beaten egg, or for a vegan glue, mix the all-purpose flour with an equal amount of water so you have a thick but spreadable paste.
  • To wrap, follow the instructions in the video. Use a little more than ¼ cup of filling per roll if using a large (8-inch) wrapper. At this point you can freeze the spring rolls and fry them directly from frozen.
  • Heat 2-3 inches of oil in a wok or a pot to 350 F. Add the spring rolls, a few at a time so as to not crowd the pot. Fry on medium heat for about 5-6 minutes until golden brown and crispy. You can tell that the surface are crispy when the bubbles are only coming out of the ends, not the surface (more on this in the video). If they are frozen they may take 7-8 minutes.
  • You can also bake them: Brush them generously with oil all over and bake (better if you have a rack) at 425°F (convection if you have it) for about 25 minutes or until they’re golden and crispy. If you don’t have a rack, flip them over half way through so they brown evenly. If after 25 minutes you still want them to be more brown, you can put them under the broiler for a minute or so per side; watch them carefully!  (They will be lighter in colour than the deep fried ones but will still be crispy.)
  • For air-frying: I have not done this personally, but other sources say to brush them with oil and air fry them for 7-8 minutes at 350°F.