If you open your refrigerator door and find leftovers there, then you are fortunate—even if you don't realize it right away. Leftovers are the ultimate budget hack because they maximize the value of your meals; and it's a smart way to save money while making the most of your food purchases.
However, a lot of times you end up with odds and ends that don't seem like enough put together to make a complete meal (or even a decent-sized snack). Well, this is where the concept of egg rolls come in handy: because you can wrap just about anything in an egg roll—be it salty, savory, or sweet—and still make something delicious.
Egg roll wrappers can usually be found in the refrigerated produce section of your local grocery store—they need to remain cold, as the wrapper contain uncooked egg. If you happen to go to an Asian grocery store, they are often found in the frozen section next to the frozen dumplings.
When bought frozen, they do need to be fully defrosted before they can be used; just put them in the fridge the night before use and they'll defrost beautifully. Try to resist putting them in the microwave to defrost, as they are very delicate and will cook and dry out in seconds!
Wrappers are usually kept in airtight packages to prevent them from drying out, so it's important to keep them airtight if storing them for later. However, even with these extra precautions, wrappers dry out relatively fast—so try to use them within the span of a few days if possible to make rolling them much easier on yourself.
After a week of cooking and eating, it's always interesting to see what's left in the refrigerator. Half of the fun is seeing what flavors may collude and taste great together; the other half is trying to figure out ways to make ingredients that normally don't harmonize taste appetizing.
Then again, the simple act of frying ingredients in a tasty, crisp shell is an almost surefire way to make food delicious.
For my first egg roll filling, I found a large hunk of cream cheese, grated cheddar cheese from taco night, and whole red bell peppers. I decided to make these ingredients into a twist on pimento cheese. The addition of cream cheese and fresh red bell peppers yields a sturdier spread with a dose of fresh veggies.
- 6 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
- 2 cups grated Cheddar cheese
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- 2 Tbsp. diced pimentos
- ¼ cup diced red bell pepper
- ½ tsp. cayenne (for an extra kick)
- salt and pepper, to taste
- one package of egg roll wrappers
- Beat cream cheese until smooth and fluffy using a wooden spoon and elbow grease or an electric mixer.
- Add all of the remaining ingredients and beat until well blended.
- Assemble your egg rolls by placing one tsp. of filling onto the middle of your wrapper turned diagonally.
Note: I followed this fantastic egg roll-rolling tutorial from Thien-Kim from I'm Not the Nanny, and think you'll find it equally helpful. I'll still explain the steps, but I think that these reference pictures are probably easier to understand.
- Roll the bottom corner (closest to you) over the filling.
- Dab the top corner with water.
- Fold in the side corners over the filling—which will make the roll look like an envelope—and continue rolling the egg roll up until it is sealed.
When they are finished, they should look like this:
- Place your finished egg rolls on a plate and cover it with plastic wrap or a damp paper towel so they won't dry out.
- Heat about 6 inches of vegetable oil in a wok or deep-fryer to 350°F.
- Fry the egg rolls 3-4 at a time until golden brown, 5-7 minutes.
- Drain on paper towels, then serve.
If you're a cheese fan like I am, then these rolls will definitely hit the spot—I mean, you can't beat fried cheese! And the red bell pepper added a crisp, fresh sweetness to the overall flavor that balanced the creaminess quite nicely.
For my second egg roll filling, I found raw kale, diced white onions, whole garlic cloves, and a large piece of fresh ginger. Ginger and kale don't immediately come to mind when you think "colluding flavor," but with the addition of garlic and onions, kale takes on an Asian-style flavor that is reminiscent of vegetable stir-fry.
You may be wondering why this recipe calls for the kale to be cooked and wilted prior to being used in the egg roll and fried. The answer is that raw vegetables release water when cooked, especially ones that are high in water content like kale. This would make the egg roll soggy and cause it to lose its trademark crunch. When using vegetables for a fried egg roll filling, always use cooked and seasoned vegetables.
- 1 Tbsp. (~1-inch piece) of fresh ginger, grated
- 3 cloves garlic, sliced
- 2 Tbsp. sesame oil (or olive oil)
- 2 bunches kale, rinsed and chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- one package of egg roll wrappers
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.
- Add the kale and cook for a few minutes, until it starts to wilt.
- Turn the heat to medium low and add the ginger and garlic.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Stir to combine and cook for two more minutes.
- Remove from heat and cool completely before assembling egg rolls.
I used the same assembly steps for these egg rolls as I did for the first set, and fried them for a similar amount of time as well—in fact, I fried both recipes together at the same time. Since the vegetables are already cooked, they don't require an overly-long time in the fryer.
While frying your vegetables in an egg roll wrapper may not be the healthiest way of enjoying them, they are absolutely delicious all the same.
If you don't have egg roll wrappers but you still have leftover kale in the fridge, I still recommend adding the same ingredients together and stir-frying—kale is definitely outside of the box when it comes to Asian-style cooking, but that doesn't make it any less tasty.
Egg rolls can be stuffed with just about anything, and that's why they pair perfectly with leftovers. Cooked vegetables, different cheeses, and meats are all fair game. Rice and beans are great fillers, too.
Just remember: if you can stuff it into dough, you can fry it into an egg roll!