Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Cahmannhii. Cahmannhii Wonders, “What do Chinese foods look like?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Cahmannhii!
Should we go with sesame chicken? How about sweet and sour pork? Fried rice? Lo mein? Dim sum? A fortune cookie? No matter what selections we make for our main meal, there's always one item we add to our order as an appetizer: egg rolls!
The exact history of the egg roll is a bit unclear. Some food historians believe the egg roll evolved from the spring roll, which is a smaller, lighter roll with a wrapper made of rice paper. They think the egg roll dates back to ancient times in southern China, where it developed as part of Cantonese cuisine.
Author Andrew Coe, however, tells a very different story in his book, Chop Suey: A Cultural History of Chinese Food in the United States. According to Coe, chef Henry Low invented the egg roll in New York during the 1930s, including an egg roll recipe in his 1938 book, Cook at Home in Chinese.
Regardless of its true origin, the egg roll is here to stay. Today, egg rolls usually contain a mixture of meats and diced vegetables in a flaky, crispy fried shell. Common ingredients include pork, chicken, shrimp, shredded cabbage, carrots, and bean sprouts.
For example, some people point to a 1917 recipe included in a Chinese-American cookbook for a dish called "Dan Gun," which translates to "egg roll." The dish consisted of chicken, ham, bean sprouts, and mushrooms wrapped in a thin egg omelet.
Others note that the earliest versions of the egg roll we know today had wrappers made of wheat flour mixed with eggs. Most of the wrappers used for egg rolls today no longer contain eggs, but the name "egg roll" is certainly here to stay!