What’s in an Egg Roll and Why Are They Called That?

Egg rolls are an S-tier appetizer when it comes to Chinese American takeout. In all those movie and TV scenes where the the characters are eating mystery dishes out of those not descript takeout boxes, egg rolls are the only recognizable dish.Egg rolls are an essential part of any takeout order. But have you ever stopped and wondered, what is in an egg roll? Or why are egg rolls called egg rolls? Seriously, there’s no egg in there. Why is it called an egg roll? What are egg rolls made of and what are their wrappers made of? Let’s get into what’s in an egg roll!

What’s in an egg roll?

There’s no one way to make an egg roll. These days people fry up anything in a wonton skin and call it an egg roll. Heck, look at those delicious Southwestern egg rolls from Chili’s. So, what is in an egg roll, exactly? In the classic sense, an egg roll is stuffed with chopped meat, shredded cabbage, and various other fillings. The most common meat filling is roasted pork or Chinese barbecue pork. The most common vegetable filling that folks associate with that classic egg roll taste is shredded cabbage and often shredded carrots. Egg roll wrappers are usually made of a wheat flour mixture or wonton wrapper. Egg rolls are typically dipped in a sweet and sour sauce, duck sauce, plum sauce, or hot mustard. At one time, eggs may have been used in the skin, but it’s not really that common now. So, where does the egg come into play? Why is it called an egg roll?

best frozen egg rolls

Best Frozen Egg Rolls

What are the best frozen egg rolls? We tasted a bunch of the top brands on the market to find the best frozen egg rolls to enjoy at home.

Why are egg rolls called egg rolls?

Let’s go back to the beginning of the egg roll story. Like a lot of egg roll history, its origins aren’t very clear. Egg rolls most likely started in New York’s Chinatown in the 1930s. They were probably invented by a chef named Lung Fong or chef Henry Low. Egg rolls are believed to have sprung out of the classic Chinese dish, spring rolls. Spring rolls have been around for hundreds of years. They differ from egg rolls in that they are smaller, usually completely vegetarian, and made with a thin, delicate rice flour wrapper. 

So, these Chinese American chefs may have been making their version of spring rolls with the ingredients they had at hand to cater to more American tastes. However, no one really knows why they came to be called egg rolls. Maybe it’s because there was egg in the wrapper mix at one point but that’s unlikely. Another theory is egg rolls got mixed in with another dish popping up in Chinese American cookbooks at the time called Dan Gun. This dish had meat and various veggies wrapped in a thin omelet, so it was literally a rolled egg, or an egg roll. 

These days there are too many egg roll varieties to count. The best all harken back to that thick, crispy, hot skinned egg roll out of Chinatown in New York. Some places even call their dish New York style egg rolls and have a separate spring roll appetizer on the same menu. I love egg rolls and always keep at least one in my pocket. You never know when you might need an emergency egg roll.

About the Author

Will Morgan

Will Morgan, a freelance contributor to Sporked, is an L.A. based writer, actor, and sketch comedy guy. Originally from Houston, TX, he strongly believes in the superiority of breakfast tacos to breakfast burritos. Will traveled the world as one of those people that did yoyo shows at elementary school assemblies, always making a point to find local and regional foods to explore in whatever place he was, even in rinky-dink towns like Tilsonberg, ON. Will spends his birthdays at Benihana’s. Let him know if can make it.

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