Spring rolls
comments 21

How to make spring rolls

Happy New Year!

Actually, it was New Year’s Day on Friday, but I was busy going out that evening.  On Saturday daytime I was busy sleeping to make up for aforesaid evening out, and in the evening I iPlayered four solid hours of The Bridge, which did nothing to reset my confused body clock.

Today was a relatively normal day, during which I made some spring rolls for lunch to mark the New Year.

When I worked in Brighton, within almost easy reach of a Chinese supermarket, I used to make spring rolls using the ready made wrappers that come in packs.  But I never really got into it – accessibility apart, I used to find the volumes that the wrappers arrived in problematic.  As with ready made pastry, you can freeze them.  However, it’s annoying having to remember to defrost them again.

Since I’ve started cooking, one of my favourite things to work with is pastry.  It tastes much nicer if you make it yourself, buttery rather than greasy.  You don’t have to remember to defrost it.  You can make just the volume you want, without having tons left over.  I also like the stretchy, silky feeling of it.  But best of all is the knowledge that even if it goes wrong, you can MASH IT ALL UP WITH A BIG ROLLING PIN! and something perfectly tasty and edible will still come out of it, albeit slightly strangely shaped.

With all this in mind, I decided to research making spring roll wrappers, which after all, look like a kind of pastry.  I found a variety of different methods online, some swearing simplicity, and others presenting a routine that would make Jewish ritual laws appear straightforward.   There was one that I was quite attracted to, which involved MASHING IT ALL UP WITH A BIG ROLLING PIN!  However, most seemed to be based around the idea that a spring roll wrapper should be very gently fried, and so the method I have come up with is as follows.

How to make spring rolls

Makes: 8 spring rolls

Ingredients: 1 cup of flour, 3/4 cup water, teaspoon of salt, some pre-cooked filling*.

Utensils: Large, flat non-stick frying pan, “one-cal” cooking oil spray, pastry brush (preferably silicone?), thin plastic spatula.

Method: Mix the flour, water and salt.  The result should look like the batter you make on Pancake Day.  Heat the pan on low-medium.  It’s ready when you spray one-cal onto it and it hisses.  (I found One-cal weird stuff when I first started using it, but now I ignore its similarity to WD-40, as I am totally sold on its magic.)  Spray the whole pan with One-cal.  Now  use the brush to start painting the batter onto the pan into a square shape.  I do this fairly slowly, but this is OK. By the time you have finished the square, the wrapper is more or less ready.  I flip it over just to dry the other side out, but you don’t want it too dry.

Now you are ready to fold the roll up.  There’s a picture here on how to do it.

The big, big advantage of making up your own wrappers is that when they are freshly made, they are nice and soft.   So you can wrap each one as it comes off the pan, and this makes things very easy – from the pack, you have to be careful not to let them dry out.

* You can put anything you want in the filling – I use whatever I have to hand out of: onions, carrots, prawns, chicken, spring onions, beansprouts.  The only things you have to put in to make it taste authentic are: soy sauce, garlic, some sort of spice – Chinese 5 spice is ideal, but mixed spice is fine.

When you have finished making the wrappers, you can cover the bottom of your nice big pan up with oil and turn the heat up high.  The oil is ready when you drop in some unfortunate morsel and it sizzles.   Fry the spring rolls each side until they are brown and crispy.

After lunch, I phoned my mum to say Happy New Year, and to tell her about my spring rolls.   My mum reminisced a bit about how her mum taught her how to roll them up, and how they used to buy packets of wrappers to do this.

I remember doing this with my mum and grandma once.  I’m far from the most physically co-ordinated/confident person in the world and, being convinced that this was another thing I’d get wrong, I was too tentative with it and rolled it up far too loosely.  Whereupon my mum told me I was no good at it and that it would be easier for her to do it herself.  Something which I have subconsciously held against her for years as a symbol of all that was wrong with my childhood!  It’s only remembering this now that I see it from the other point of view – with a family sized bundle of wrappers to fold up, it’s no wonder she was in a hurry.

I do sometimes think about how when we are children, the smallest remark can discourage us.  And yet as adults, sensibly calibrating how much we praise our own children against how realistically we want them to look at the results of their own endeavours sometimes seems totally impossible.



  1. Sounds fun! I’m going to try it.

    I was an overly-sensitive child, too. I found it very difficult to recover from criticism. But I did manage it, if I really believed the critic was trying to help me learn and grow, rather then discourage me, trying to get me to give up.

    I believe sensitive children can see right into the heart of an adult’s motives.

    • Sometimes I think I did used to see what adults were up to. On other occasions, I think my over sensitivity got in the way of seeing what was really there. I think the key to being oversensitive was because no-one ever said that it was OK to not be OK. So all my security was bound up on having done the right/OK thing, which is a very insecure place to be.

  2. Your night out sounds fun! 🙂 I googled the TV series – looks spooky. I do love a nice TV marathon of a fabulous after the kids are in bed. 🙂 I have never tried to make Spring rolls – and there are few Chinese markets here. 😦 I will have to seek them out! Happy new year, Denise.

    • It was very spooky. I am glad it is over in a way though – it was consuming my weekend evenings, as it did that night. Hopefully I will wake more refreshed on Monday morning this week!

  3. I agree, when I was a child, I remember the smallest comment could discourage me or make me feel less than.
    Thanks for the spring roll recipe, Denise…I love spring rolls!

    • It’s funny looking back on everyone’s reaction as children, because we are all full of opinions and good sense these days. I think we forget how significant things can seem to chidlren, which are nothing to us as adults.

  4. I was sensitive to negative remarks as well when I was younger. But we learn to handle them differently as we get older.
    I’ve never attempted to make spring rolls from scratch, but now I am inspired to! Thanks for sharing the recipe 😀

  5. I’m impressed! I used to make spring rolls all the time but never the wrappers themselves. I thought the wrappers were made with rice flour?

    • Wheat flour seems to do just fine, which is lucky as I was looking for rice flour for something else and it’s not stocked in our supermarket!

  6. They look amazing Denise! I’ve been meaning to give these a go for ages, now I know where to come for the recipe when I have the time 🙂

    Kung Hei Fat Choy!

  7. I was in that position at least once or twice this weekend alone – saying “Oh, let me do it it’ll be faster” and then trying to catch myself before it came out all the way. And cooking together is when we are most likely to say it. I have a little boy, and it really makes me happy that he shows an interest in cooking and in learning with me. If we are prepping for dinner, though, which means we are usually rushing, then sometimes it takes everything in me to not just grab his task from him and do it on my own. My heart breaks a little when I see him getting a little timid if he makes a mistake. So thanks for sharing this memory and for the reminder!

    Anyway, Happy New Year to you! And thank you for sharing your recipe. I never liked spring rolls until recently, and now I get occasional cravings for them. Maybe I’ll try making them on my own one of these days!

  8. Happy New Year Denise! I’m so impressed with you, I’ve never even attempted to make spring rolls and I adore them! I will have to try this as my family love them too!
    I know what you mean about being sensitive, I was just the same, very sensitive to any criticism and being floored by it.

  9. Your spring rolls look delicious! I love cooking but am not good generally with pastry – too heavy a hand. I know exactly what you mean about parents and children and criticism. My mother just could not bring herself to let me be in the kitchen – she always had to take over at some point so that she could do it ‘right’. In consequence I didn’t learn to cook until I went to university. But I like doing it now, probably because in my head there’s a soundtrack that goes: see, I CAN do it. When my son was little, I did my utmost to let him do things his way, mostly by letting him bake stuff that wasn’t hard, and he made it easy by not really wanting to do anything else. But I do remember once asking him when he was 13 or so if he wanted to have a more grown-up haircut and he replied, ‘What, you’re saying that my hair looks bad?’ which wasn’t AT ALL what I was saying. It made me stop and wonder about all the other times I’d offered things that he had understood as criticism. It’s amazing how asymmetrical so many conversations with kids are. And I was always looking in the wrong direction for trouble.

  10. Hi Denise! I have missed being a part of your life. And you, of mine! I have had a death in my family which has prevented me from blogging or painting. So after catching up, I will be back.

    Thank you for sharing your spring roll recipe, especially in light of Chinese New Year. This year we did not observe it and I feel bad for my daughter. Maybe I will attack this recipe of yours!

    • I have to say it’s not been the same without you and your pictures. I’m sorry to hear of the death. It’s strange when death comes close, it makes all the every day things you take for granted seem very distant from what becomes your new sense of reality.

      • You are right. I saw a piece of artwork (which I really didn’t like), but I liked the title and concept: Ethereality. It was about the space that surrounds a person when there is a loss. This space isolates the person from the rest of the world. I liked the idea and I felt like it really fit my situation.

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