The Year of the Dragon starts at midnight.

I’m not sure exactly sure what that means, but it sounds like things are about to get awesome.

Jeff and I intensely prepared for our Chinese New Year celebration by Googling traditions and latching on to only the fun ones.

Sweeping away last year’s bad luck? Gimme that broom.

Lighting firecrackers to scare away evil spirits? They’re in the junk drawer.

New red undies? Always good luck.

But my favorite part of the day was making a huge platter of Pork Egg Rolls for our Chinese New Year feast. Even though it took me a few practice runs to get the wrapping technique down, I’m happy to report that the butt-ugly ones tasted just as good as the pretty ones. Mad egg roll-wrapping skills are not required. Thank God.

For the filling, I used ground pork, but you could substitute beef, chicken or shrimp. Or just add more vegetables, like mushrooms, onion, celery or bean sprouts, for a vegetarian version. I also used a packaged cabbage-and-carrot coleslaw mix instead of prepping the two ingredients separately, so the filling only took about 10 minutes from start to finish. And the stuff smelled incredible. Ground pork cooked with the cabbage, carrot, soy sauce, garlic and ginger? It was very tempting to just spoon it into lettuce cups and stop right there.

But then I would have missed out on the fun of rolling them up.

Seriously!

I’ve included “How to Roll and Egg Roll” directions under the recipe, but if you’d like some visuals, Jaden Hair has a great step-by-step tutorial posted at Steamy Kitchen, and you can find plenty of how-to videos on YouTube. In fact, your egg roll wrappers will probably have a diagram printed on the package. However – and I really can’t emphasize this enough – they don’t have to be perfect to work and be delicious. Use the egg wash to make sure they’re sealed, and you’ll be fine.

This recipe makes a big batch, which is great, because you can wrap the leftover egg rolls individually in aluminum foil, pop them into a freezer bag, and enjoy the rest later. Preferably with Chinese hot mustard.

It’s the Year of the Dragon. Live dangerously.

Pork Egg Rolls

Adapted from “Everyday Food” (April 2007)

Makes about 16 egg rolls

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • 4 cups cabbage coleslaw mix
  • 2 carrots, coarsely grated (optional)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 6 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 16 egg-roll wrappers (6 to 7 inches square)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • Sweet-and-sour sauce and Chinese hot mustard, for serving
  1. In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar. Set aside.
  2.  In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Add coleslaw mix, carrots (if using), garlic, and ginger; season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing, until vegetables are tender, 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Raise heat to high; add pork and soy mixture. Cook, tossing, until pork is no longer pink and liquid has evaporated, 5 to 7 minutes. Mix in scallions. Transfer mixture to a plate to cool.
  4. Lay wrappers flat on a work surface, and assemble egg rolls. (See “how to” below.)
  5. To Fry the Egg Rolls: In an electric skillet or a 5-quart pot, heat oil until a deep-fry thermometer registers 350 degrees. Working in batches of 4, and returning oil to 350 degrees for each batch, fry egg rolls until golden, turning occasionally, about 2 minutes on each side. Drain on a wire rack with paper towels underneath. Serve with sweet-and-sour sauce and Chinese hot mustard.
  6. To Bake the Egg Rolls: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet; place egg rolls on sheet and brush with cup oil. Bake until golden, about 10 minutes. Serve with sweet-and-sour sauce and Chinese hot mustard.

Note: If frying from frozen, add 1 minute or so to the cooking time. If baking from frozen, bake about 15 minutes.

How to Roll an Egg Roll

  1. Place an egg-roll wrapper flat with one corner facing you.
  2. Using a pastry brush, brush all four sides of the wrapper with egg.
  3. Spoon 1/3 cup pork mixture near the corner closest to you. Fold that corner over the filling, and fold both side corners toward center of wrapper. (It should look like an open envelope.)
  4. Tightly roll up filled pocket toward the far corner to close wrapper. Gently press down to seal the edges.
  5. Repeat the process until you run out of filling or wrappers. Feel free to assemble up to 4 egg rolls at a time when you feel comfortable with the process.