“In American Chinese cuisine, an Egg Roll is a savory dish typically served as an appetizer similar in concept to what is commonly known as Spring roll in Asia.” ~ Wikipedia
It’s made, using skins or sheets filled with vegetables, ground pork and seasoning. See this Recipe ~ quite tasty!
However, Egg Rolls in American Chinese restaurants is not from Asia, it was invented right on American soil. I ordered that many years ago, in an American Chinese restaurant, I knew it was going to be something different and I wasn’t going to guess. (The thick wrapper-skin, is to me, like a mega wonton wrapper!)
So how did American Egg Roll get its name? Why not Spring Roll (春卷) which has existed in Chinese cuisine for centuries and got its name because it was a dish commonly eaten is Spring? (Winter is gone; it’s warming up so no need for hot soup & congee.) So, why wasn’t this Roll in America just called Spring Roll? Was it because Chinese restaurants wanted it to be an Eaten-All-Year-Round Roll?
Or could it be a case of Lost in Translation between Chinese dialects and their 4 & 5 intonations? The word Wonton (馄饨 means Odd Dumpling) is pronounced “Wan~dan” in Cantonese and “Hun~tun” in Mandarin. Egg (蛋) is pronounced dàn in Mandarin but daan in Cantonese. So did the 2 dan‘s get mixed up in Chinatown while the menus were being drawn up for print in English? 😀 Beats me!
In South East Asia, Egg Rolls (蛋卷) are nothing close to the American ones. It is a sweet delicacy/snack, almost like a wafer, usually made in abundance before the Lunar New Year.
It is also called Love Letters because in historical myths, love notes were hidden within the ‘tubes’ and passed between lovers. Amongst the Indonesian Chinese and the Straits-born Nyonyas, it is also called Kueh Belanda or Dutch Cake and requires clamp moulds where you spoon the batter on & cook them over charcoal, flipping to get both sides well done. (I believe a similar contraption was used to make Fortune Cookies in the early days.)
Do see Diana’s Desserts for more information and a recipe of South East Asian Egg Rolls, ones I grew up knowing.
The simplest form of Egg Roll I’ve tasted was in Australia made for me by my sister-in-law. A fried egg in a bread roll! (Bacon is Optional.) 😉
I guess there are Egg Rolls and there are Egg Rolls …