Canadians must really love their fried foods. So far, frying has been involved in three of the five dishes that I’ve been voted to recreate in the past month and a half. First, there was that crispy fried chicken in week one, and then two weeks ago, I was battering and frying bacon and beans. Now it’s time to make spring rolls! Perhaps I should consider investing in a forty litre vat of Canola oil?
I scampered around the Calgary Farmers’ Market on Friday morning in nothing but a t-shirt (and pants, of course), which was exciting seeing as we’ve had hardly any warm weather in the past month here in Calgary. Aside from some miscellaneous items, the bulk of my ingredients for the week were shellfish; so I grabbed a lovely, fresh variety from Blu Seafood and made my way back home in my t-shirt hoping that the sun would tan my pasty, winter white skin.
Now, the original version of the Imperial Rolls that Caity and Nicole made on last week’s episode were little, one-biters, made for a canape party. Since I was at my friend Chelsea’s making this lunch, and I wasn’t interested in impressing her too much with pretty hors d’oeuvres, I made a batch of larger rolls instead. (Not that she’s not worth it, it’s just that she was still wearing her pajamas. If my mom taught me one thing in life, it’s that people in pajamas never deserve a canape!) Jumbo rolls it was!
To be honest, these were not the most beautiful appetizers I’ve ever made, by any means, but they definitely tasted good. Generally, anything involving crab, prawns and scallops usually ends up being pretty stellar. To jazz up the seafood filling a bit, I put in some fresh ginger, heavy cream, five spice powder – which, I have to admit, is a regularly overlooked spice in my cupboard! – and, last but not least, sriracha. Yes, the spicy rooster sauce that makes almost everything better (except my morning cereal, I guess…).
Once the rolls were filled and wrapped tightly, it was time to fry. Since I’m not an avid fry guy at home, I’m always a little worried that items will explode in a pan of hot oil. Once the first few rolls were dropped into the pan, there were some apprehensions about whether or not they would swell up like balloons, pop and shoot filling and oil everywhere. Luckily they did not! Although, my wrapping skills must not be up to par, as a few of the rolls didn’t hold their filling. Good thing I was not offering these up to Mark McEwan!
After frying the rolls, I served piping hot to my friends with a simple aioli made up of egg yolk, vinegar, oil, pickled ginger and spices, which was a perfect tangy ‘ying’ to the rich ‘yang’ of the creamy seafood filling. Since 8 spring rolls don’t really constitute a lunch for three people, we made a batch of fried rice and green onion cakes as well. It ended up being a tasty mish-mash of Asian-inspired dishes, which hit the spot perfectly on a lazy Saturday!
Chelsea is now insisting that I come over every week to make my Top Chef Canada recreation dish for her. I told her I’d consider it, but not until she stops wearing pajamas all day on the weekend. Will she put some proper clothes on? I guess you’ll have to find out next week!
Prawn, Scallop and Crab Spring Rolls with Ginger Aioli
Yield: 8 large rolls and 2/3 cup aioli
Total cook time: 25 minutes
1 shallot (minced)
1 bunch green onions (minced)
3 large prawns (finely chopped)
2 large scallops (finely chopped)
1/2 cup crab meat (finely chopped)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon sriracha
2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon five spice powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 cups hot tap water
8 large rice paper rolls
Canola oil (enough for frying, approx 3 cups)
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon pickled ginger (minced)
2 teaspoon hoisin sauce
salt and pepper (to taste)
1. Place all ingredients, aside from the rice paper rolls and oil, in a medium bowl and toss with spoon until evenly combined.
2. Put the hot tap water in a large, shallow bowl. One by one, take the rice paper rolls and submerge them in the water until softened, about 15 seconds.
3. Lay reconstituted rolls flat on a large cutting board or work surface.
4. Place two spoonfuls of the seafood mixture in a small line in the centre of the roll.
5. Roll each up tightly, the same way you would roll a burrito.
6. Heat up the canola oil in a deep pan on medium-high heat.
7. Working in batches, fry rolls until crispy and brown, about 3 minutes.
1. Whisk together yolk and vinegar in a small bowl.
2. Continue to whisk while slowly adding the olive oil until the mixture emulsifies and thickens.
3. Stir in the pickled ginger and hoisin sauce, season to taste with salt and pepper and let chill in the fridge until ready to serve.
Dan Clapson is a food writer and culinary instructor based out of Calgary. He is constantly creating new recipes and striving to expand his culinary horizons. He thinks yam fries are overrated.