Before immigrating to the US when I was sixteen, this was the only spring roll recipe I knew. It’s not to say that other versions didn’t exist, it’s just that I didn’t come face to face with them.
Traveling wasn’t exactly in vogue then. Worrying about putting enough food on the table and buying some new clothes for the family at Chinese New Year was what everyone strived for at the time, so there was no extra cash to do anything else!
Spring Rolls: A Special Occasion Food
I grew up in Shanghai and remember clearly that these little babies only appeared during Chinese New Year celebrations.
And they’re really good. You get a lot of flavor from a small bit of meat and shiitake mushrooms, so this recipe produces healthier, lighter spring rolls than some of the Shanghai Style spring rolls recipes out there.
One year, my brother ate over twenty spring rolls in one sitting. He just couldn’t help himself––even after my aunt repeatedly told him to stop eating.
Let me tell you, he paid for it later that night. I guess his ten-year-old body just couldn’t hold them down. I don’t want to be too descriptive here, but let’s just say that I was the one who had to clean it all up. Some memories just stick to you for some reason. But I wouldn’t mind letting that one go…
If I haven’t grossed you out yet, trust me when I say that this is a great recipe. These spring rolls bring me back to Shanghai and some of the better memories of my childhood.
Can You Make Spring Rolls Ahead of Time?
Yes, you can make spring rolls ahead of time for any party, celebration, or just a quick snack for yourself!
After assembling the spring rolls, lay them out on a parchment lined baking sheet so they are not touching each other. Cover the baking sheet and transfer to the freezer. Freeze for at least 6 hours or overnight, until they are frozen solid.
Transfer to freezer bags and store for up to 3 months. Do not thaw them before frying. Just heat up your oil, take out a few frozen spring rolls, and throw them right in.
Shanghai Style Spring Rolls: Recipe Instructions
Mix the pork with the marinade ingredients and let sit for 20-30 minutes. Shred the cabbage and slice your mushrooms.
Over medium heat, add 4 tablespoons of oil to your wok. Brown the pork.
Then add the mushrooms and cook for another couple of minutes until fragrant.
Add the napa cabbage and stir well.
Season with salt, white pepper, shaoxing wine, and soy sauce. Stir everything together, cover the lid and let it cook over high heat for 2 – 3 minutes, or until the cabbage is wilted.
Uncover the lid and add the cornstarch slurry. Stir. The mixture will start to thicken. You don’t want there to be extra liquid in the mixture, so add more of the cornstarch/water mixture if need be. Lastly, add sesame oil and stir everything thoroughly. Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool completely.
The key to wrapping spring rolls is making sure that they’re really tight and not overstuffed. Take out your spring roll wrappers…
And place the wrapper in front of you so that a corner is facing toward you. Use about one and a half tablespoons of the mixture per spring roll, spoon it about an inch and a half from the corner closest to you.
Roll it over once tightly, tucking the corner under the filling…
…and like you’re making a burrito, fold over both sides.
Continue rolling it into a cigar shape. With your fingers, brush a bit of water to the closing corner of the wrap to seal it.
For more details on how to wrap different types of spring rolls, check out our How to Wrap Spring Rolls post!
Place each roll seam-side down on a tray. This recipe makes about 25 spring rolls (you can also prepare them ahead of time and freeze them).
To fry the spring rolls, use a small pot or shallow pan (which requires less oil) and fill it with oil until it’s about 1-inch deep, just enough to submerge the spring rolls when frying. Heat oil slowly over medium heat. To tell if the oil is ready, I just dip a bamboo chopstick into the hot oil, and if some bubbles form around the chopstick, then the oil is ready.
Slowly add the spring rolls and fry them in small batches.
Cook each side until golden brown and drain on a plate lined with a paper towel.
We like to serve our Shanghai Style Spring rolls with some Chinese black vinegar or a lighter Shanghai red vinegar for dipping!
If you prefer the spring rolls you usually see at the dim sum restaurant, then check out our homemade Cantonese spring roll recipe.
Note: fry the spring rolls immediately after assembling. You don’t want them to sit out for a long time, because the wrappers can become soggy from the moist filling. If you want to make them ahead of time, freeze them on a tray and then transfer to a freezer bag once they’ve hardened. You can fry them right after taking them out of the freezer…no need to thaw them.