From the very start of The Paddle, when Chef Phoebe created her very first menu, she wanted to offer a little something for everyone. She believed that in order to be successful, especially these days and particularly in a “destination” location such as South Hero in the Champlain Islands, she had to make her menu eclectic to appeal to many.
As Phoebe puts it: “One must always have a burger because folks feel safe to order a burger because it’s something they can make at home. And, it’s always a good idea to have a fish option or two for those who come from more of a coastal region and prefer a lighter fare. The pasta for the athletes who have a need to carb-load is certainly a must. Then, of course, it’s always a great idea to visit other countries and/or regions to offer our American-spin on their traditional dishes. Think of our menu as a collection of culinary delights, if you will.”
On our menu, one of the appetizers we offer is a spring roll. When Chef Phoebe was cooking under the tutelage of Anita Lo (famed Manhattan chef who has garnered many culinary accolades) she was taught by her mentor how to make spring rolls. Anita often incorporated her Asian heritage into a more American fare. She enjoyed fusing the two different ideas into one masterful creation. It was concept that she passed on to Phoebe during their time together at the restaurant Mirezi.
In order to learn more about the meeting of these two culinary cultures, Phoebe did a little research and this is what she uncovered:
According to Monica Eng, a reporter with the Chicago Tribune, the egg roll “represents a 20th century meeting of two cultures.” Though dim sum chefs in Hong Kong produce a similar “snack” called a spring roll, the egg roll, as we know it, is a creation of Chinese-American restaurateurs who use local ingredients to create Chinese-like foods that would appeal to American diners. Further exploring, Phoebe found out that according to the author of the book Chop Suey, Andrew Coe, the egg roll was likely invented in New York City sometime in the early 1930s.
It could be argued that our spring rolls are actually egg rolls. To make spring rolls, one usually uses a thinner wrap and they can be baked, rather then deep-fried. At the Paddle, we use flour dough wraps, or won ton wraps, that are deep-fried resulting in a crispy product. Phoebe uses locally-grown produce when in season. She says the rolls are versatile and can be made with a variety of proteins, including duck.
Chef Phoebe is passionate when talking about this creation. She elaborates that one can use whatever they wish in their spring roll as long as there is some vegetable foundation. Don’t be afraid to be adventuresome: “You can use pork, shrimp, beef, beans and any vegetable is a given. Just take to the Internet and see the endless possibilities of what you can stuff in those little wrappers. You’ll even see such a thing called an Imperial Roll but it’s made with a rice paper wrapper and it’s ingredients are cold. It’s like a salad in a wrap but that’s a story for a different time,” she said.
There is a “secret ingredient” to her spring roll mix that Phoebe will not disclose the recipe.
“Our friends are constantly trying to figure out what sets our rolls apart from the rest of the pack so I want them to keep coming in,” Phoebe said.
She will, however, share with you some key techniques that will help you make a great spring roll:
- You don’t want the egg roll to be too doughy; so before rolling your ingredients in the wrapper, cut off three of the four corners of the egg roll wrapper.
- Don’t stuff your wraps with the ingredients; you want to keep them bite-size.
- Drain most of the moisture out of your ingredients so you don’t make your egg roll wrappers wet when stuffing.
- Roll the wrappers as tight as you possibly can so they don’t explode in the fryer.
- If you are storing them, and not frying right away, cover them with a paper towel.
- Dipping sauce is always the key, so try to make some sauce that complements the ingredients to the egg roll.
Mandy Hotchkiss and Phoebe Bright are co-owners of the Blue Paddle Bistro in South Hero.