Spring Rolls, Summer Rolls, and Eggrolls, oh my!
WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SPRING ROLL, A SUMMER ROLL, AND AN EGGROLL?
There's so much confusion in naming when it comes spring rolls, summer rolls, and eggrolls There needs to be a standard or at least a clarification of the differences between some of these common Asian rolls so you know what you're eating, ordering, or making. Let's get started...
Summer Rolls have their origins from Vietnamese cuisine. These rolls are the easier to distinguish. The wrapper will either be tapioca or flour based and will be a wet wrap, unfried, translucent white color. The fillings will usually be fresh uncooked vegetables such as lettuce, cucumber, basil, mint, and cilantro. There's usually a light filling of meat in the form of shrimp pieces and or Vietnamese pork ham slices. There can also be rice vermicelli noodles in the filling. As a dip, you can choose between a peanut based dip or a sweet chili, garlic, and fish sauce dip.
Need a Summer Roll Recipe? Look Here
When comparing appearance, the Summer Roll can be confused with another type of roll, the wet rice roll. When distinguishing names, the Summer Roll is most confused with the Spring Roll, so let's get into that. What is a Spring Roll? Spring Rolls are fried rice or flour wrapper with a cabbage and mixed vegetable filling. Spring Rolls may have traces of meat in the filling to enhance the flavor but usually does not have any meat filling. What's confusing about Spring Rolls is that sometimes eggs are used to seal the wrapper closed. When eggs aren't used to seal the wrapper, then it's usually a flour batter that's used. The determining factor for a Spring Roll is that the fillings are mainly vegetables and that it's fried. Spring Rolls are usually wrapped in a thicker size than the rest, between 1-1/2 inches to 2 inches thick.
What is an Egg Roll (or Eggroll) ? What distinguishes Rolls above the rest of the rolls is that the filling is mainly meat (any kind of meat), and that it's fried. There will be variations, but usually, the meat is mixed with other shredded vegetables such as onion, carrots, bean sprouts, bean vermicelli noodles, and even cabbage. Eggs are also used in the filling to help emulsify the fillings (acts like a glue for the fillings). As the Egg Roll is wrapped up, eggs or a flour batter will be used to seal it.
Need an Egg Roll Recipe? Look Here
In the Philippines, there's also something called a Lumpia. Lumpias are fried and mainly filled with meat. What sets Lumpias apart is that it's usually rollled to the thickness of a finger. I would classify the Lumpia into the Egg Roll family.
Bahn Cuon (Pho Rice Rolls)
I mentioned a wet rice roll earlier. The Vietnamese usually calls it a bahn cuon. In the Hmong language, our version translates into a "Pho roll" (if you're familiar with Pho rice noodles). Pho rolls are not fried. The wrapper may come in a variety of mixture ratios between rice flour, tapioca starch, and potato starch. Traditionally, Pho wrappers are steamed over a cloth. The Pho wrapper may also be cooked on a skillet and formed similar to a crepe. The wrapper will generally be greasy or slick to prevent it from sticking to dishes and each other. Pho Rolls are usually filled with cooked ground meat, either pork or chicken. Other common fillings include diced black fungus and chopped green onion. The Pho Roll may be rolled up neatly like the other rolls or it may be loosely folded over the fillings. The presentation and fillings in Pho rolls will vary from region to region and different Asian ethnic groups. The Pho Roll will usually be served with a fish sauce and pepper dip (and there's variations to the sauce as well, hopefully I can differentiate those in another post). Pho rolls should be in a category of it's own.
If you're familiar with a different roll, feel free to include it in the comments so we can discuss and categorize it.