All News & Blogs
Egg roll wraps are used to make easy, tasty appetizers.
View More Images from this story
Visit the Photo Place
BY MONICA ENG
Born and bred in southern China, Fanny Go did not grow up eating egg rolls.
Family meals in her part of Guangdong province were dominated by rice, greens, preserved vegetables and morsels of meat.
But ever since she and her late husband Tom decided to whip up a batch for a Rogers Park Chicago block party 45 years ago, these chubby, stubbly, golden cylinders have become a family--and neighborhood--tradition.
"My parents would make as many as 500 for people at the block party to eat and take home," says the Gos' eldest daughter, Jean. "They knew that food always brought people together. So, over the years, they created a lot of good relationships around here."
Like Fanny Go, who came to the U.S. in the early '60s, the egg roll represents a 20th-century meeting of two cultures.
Though dim sum chefs in Hong Kong produce a similar snack called a spring roll, the egg roll, as we know it, is a creation of early Chinese-American restaurateurs who used local ingredients to create Chinese-ish foods that would appeal to American diners.
One of the restaurateurs who helped popularize the egg roll was my grandfather, Harry Eng, whose nephew, Tom Go, worked as a manager in the family's downtown Chicago chop suey palaces (among them Hoe Sai Gai and South Pacific) for decades.
Tom Go based his egg roll recipe on the appetizers that proved such a hit with the restaurants' clientele.
Today, Fanny Go, 87, carries on the Chinese-American tradition by making the savory treats for parties and family gatherings. She recently shared her recipe--which can take up to three days--with a convivial group who gathered at Go's home to learn, cook and eat. One of the biggest surprises was that most of the ingredients can be found in the average American grocery store, if not in your kitchen.
I joined in to learn more about this side of my family and to bring home some tangible (not to mention delicious) link to the Eng family's restaurant past. My great-grandfather, grandfather, great-uncle, aunts and uncles opened nearly a dozen of these establishments starting in the 1930s, with the last--The House of Eng in Hyde Park--closing in the '80s.
Prep time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
cup smooth peanut
Directions: 1. For filling, heat peanut butter in small saucepan over low heat until pourable, adding 1 tablespoon peanut oil if needed to get proper consistency. Allow to cool slightly. 2. Combine pork, cabbage, onions, sugar, salt, pepper, cinnamon and any of the optional extra ingredients in very large bowl until thoroughly blended. Hands work best to do this. 3. Pour cooled, but still liquid, peanut butter into mixture; mix thoroughly. 4. Cut off 1 inch from each of the corners of the wrappers for easier rolling. 5. Place stack in front of you with one corner pointing toward you. 6. Place handful (about cup) of filling near bottom corner; roll corner over filling, tightly rolling up to just over half way. 7. Fold in side corners snugly; continue rolling until there are 2 inches of wrapper left. 8. Brush some egg wash over final corner; continue rolling over it to seal egg roll. 9. When all egg rolls are rolled, heat oil or lard in heavy pan or wok until it reaches 350 degrees. 10. Fry egg rolls, in batches, until golden brown; drain in paper towel-lined pan. 11. Eat while hot, dipped in duck sauce, sweet and sour sauce and/or hot mustard. Nutritional information per egg roll: (for 16): 277 calories, 10 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 25 mg cholesterol, 34 g carbohydrates, 12 g protein, 841 mg sodium, 2 g fiber