Lum: Lum’s egg-rolling
There used to be a restaurant in Aspen called The House of Lum, down under Glenrose Drug, which is where, I think, Polo now resides. I had nothing to do with the restaurant, owned by Sam and Greta Lum (Greta and I were known as Glum and Slum respectively), but I got so many calls for reservations I could have benefited from caller ID if there had been such a thing at the time.
I love Asian cooking but have never really mastered it — I think I am too afraid of the variety of sauces with nasty-sounding names (fish sauce, oyster sauce) to do it justice — but I did learn how to make egg rolls when I found out that I could buy the wrappers, or “skins,” from Sushi-a-Go-Go, a newer restaurant up a hundred steps down by the post office.
Advice: Do not try to make your own wrappers. It’s only flour, cornstarch and a little water, rolled out paper-thin, but I tried it a couple of times and concluded that the wisest course of action was to just buy them.
Egg-roll skins are available at the local markets (smaller versions for wontons) and are perfectly adequate. My friend Doug brought back an assortment of wrappers from a store called H-Mart in Denver; we tried one of them the other day and all agreed that they were more crisp but not astoundingly superior to the local choices.
I prefer shrimp egg rolls over pork or vegan. If you dare to mix your yin and yang, you can mix them all together because it’s hard to go wrong.
Begin by chopping a couple bunches of green onions, a handful of finely chopped celery and a few cloves of garlic put through a garlic press. Peel and grate a 4- or 5-inch length of ginger root, using the average size on your grater. There are fancy ginger graters which essentially reduce them to liquid, but it’s not worth the trouble. It all cooks down.
In medium-hot oil, gently saute the above ingredients until the onions are translucent. While that is cooking, chop up a head of Chinese cabbage — those oblong cabbages with leafy heads — paying special attention to the solid parts of it (extra chopping).
Add the chopped cabbage to the onion mixture, about a third at a time. Here a wok could come in handy, but I use a heavy skillet because my old wok is on the high third shelf of my larder and the skillet works just as well.
For flavor, I rely on soy sauce (as they say, “to taste”), on the theory that dipping sauces for the final product will suffice, but it won’t hurt to be creative.
Once the cabbage has cooked down, add, at the very last minute, chopped raw shrimp. Early disasters proved that adding the shrimp at the beginning makes the shrimp tough. Crank up the heat, throw in the shrimp for two minutes and you’re ready to roll.
Put the mixture in a colander to drain excess liquid.
Place the egg-roll wrappers on your counter with the diamond end toward you and follow the wrapping directions — similar to a bindle — on the package. Fry in deep fat at 375 degrees until crisp and brown; drain on paper towels. If you don’t have a temperature gauge, drop shards of wrappers into the hot oil until they shoot to the surface indicating that the oil is ready.
If there are any left over, they freeze well. Serve with sweet-and-sour sauce, hot mustard, spicy Chinese chili sauce and, of course, soy sauce.
Su Lum is a longtime local who prefers egg rolls to Easter eggs. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at email@example.com.