Hey! How is it going? It’s been about 2 months since my last entry, back in January. To spice up my life in these troubled and unstable times, I’m on a quest to learn new skills.
For the past 2 months, I’ve been busy experimenting with Taiwanese egg rolls. Today, I would like to share my progress.
When I’ve decided to start making egg rolls back in Jan 21, I was very eager to start. Without any basic knowledge on the basics of baking, I turned to the internet for a recipe and purchased some very basic equipment to start.
Prior to starting, I’ve watched a lot of videos online to get a feel of how Taiwanese-style egg rolls are made. One thing I’ve noticed and was striving for is that thick batter. Batter so thick that when the skilled egg roll makers put a dollop of it on their hot pan, the batter retains most of its form, standing proudly until pressure came down from above to flatten it out. With the recipe I found online, not sure if it was because I did something wrong or that’s what the recipe produces, my batter was as watery as it gets and that left me very disappointed.
The very first batch of “egg rolls” I made was questionable. I was just not properly equipped with the necessary knowledge and tools. The “egg rolls” were far from what I’ve had envisioned. Instead of the flaky, delicious Taiwanese-style egg rolls, my very first batch of “egg rolls” have the texture similar to that of a really thin ice-cream cone. At my level, it was impossible to cook the rolls at a consistent heat with the metal pan over the stove, resulting in unevenly cooking of my batter.
However, everything has to start somewhere and though it was a disappointing start, it was still a start and that’s a good thing.
Progress so far…
In my mind, I knew exactly what kind of egg rolls I want to make; it’s just that I didn’t have all the information and equipment to achieve it.
Egg Rolls Machine
Equipment-wise, I purchased a specialised egg roll machine. Didn’t get the most expensive one I can find online, but I didn’t buy the cheapest one either. Always get the right tool for the job; while this machine doesn’t churn out egg rolls automatically with a push of button, it’s sped up the progress significantly.
Consisting of two rectangular hotplates, with independently adjustable temperature controls, attached together on side with a hinge, it can cook my egg roll batter at a consistent and high (DANGEROUS) temperature in seconds. Yes, it cooks human flesh just as fast. I found it out the hard way; the scar on my left ring finger is still visible to remind myself. Whenever you press the top hotplate down onto the bottom hotplate with some batter in between, steam is instantly generated from the batter and the sound of the hot air escaping the batter, can sometimes, sound like screaming. Very morbid.
If I remember correctly, the dimension of the hotplates is 200mm by 380mm. That means I can produce egg rolls of impressive length and that’s something I was aiming for.
With the machine, I continued to experiment on the recipes I found online, until I found something that produces the taste that is close to what I wanted. Then I adjusted that recipe according to my liking. There was a LOT of egg rolls making and tasting. There was a point in time that I got so sick of the taste of egg rolls.
While there are only 4 ingredients required in the recipe, there are so many brands for each ingredient available in the market which practically means endless combination. For example, I’ve gone through a few different brands of butter. One of the more memorable experiments is that I tried using a cheaper brand of butter, with the purpose of seeing whether there’s any difference with the finished product. And boy, did I learn that day.
The first thing I noticed how poorly the cheap butter is able to combine with the rest of the ingredients. I ended up with a batter that kind of looked like scrambled eggs (look at the picture above); I read in an article that you do not want “scrambled eggs” batter, that was the first red flag. I knew something was wrong looking at the batter, but since I was still pretty much inexperienced, I went ahead to make egg rolls from that cursed batter. The egg rolls turned out fine, I’d no problem rolling them up.
Then it was the taste test, I took a bite and chewed. Everything was alright, nice crisp, nothing particularly bad or good. It was after I swallowed that the problem hit me; there was this repulsive aftertaste that I can only described as “the back of my throat coated with cheap oil“. Absolutely disgusting. It was so bad that I couldn’t bring myself to eat/ finish the egg rolls made from that batter and tossed everything out. That was an important lesson.
Visual / Mouthfeel
Once I got the general taste right, I started working on the dimension of the egg rolls. There’s a length and girth (heh) which I wanted, I had to come up with techniques to achieve what I wanted. It quickly became more than just putting batter on the machine, press it down flat and roll it up. Even the inner diameter of the rolls has received special attention; I’ve to order stainless-steel rod of specific thickness to roll my egg rolls.
It wasn’t solely for the visuals; I knew the dimension of the egg rolls also affect the overall mouthfeel it provides to the consumer.
Yeah… I’ve put in a lot of work into making egg rolls. Overall, it has been a really fun experience. Standing there in front of the egg roll machine, making egg rolls for hours can be a therapeutic way to spend an afternoon. I’m still not done with egg rolls though; my list of “To-Do experiments” still runs long.
So far, my egg rolls are well received generally. What pleases me the most is that I’ve managed to get Constant Companion RR‘s approval, because she’s an extremely picky eater, known to stop eating after a couple of bites, if the food isn’t appetizing to her. As a Taiwanese, she claimed herself to be a connoisseur of the Taiwanese egg rolls and a lover of egg rolls since young.
Apparently, the egg rolls didn’t immediately hit off with her. At the start, her opinion was like “good egg rolls”. Then after a day or so, her opinion changed to “I LOVE THE EGG ROLLS OMG SO NICE!” I guess it took a little time to grow on her. For the past week, she’s been consistently bugging me to send her another batch as soon as possible. Maybe, I will send her another batch… Maybe not. 😀
Thanks for reading!