Spring roll wrappers have different names:
chun gen pe 春捲皮 (the commonly known name, translated as 'spring roll skin')
Ruen bing pe 潤餅皮 (as in Taiwan and some part of Northern China)
egg roll wrapper (as in America/Canada)
Popiah (in Malaysia or Singapore, translated as 'thin skin' in Hokkien)
Lumpia (a Malay word used in Malaysia or Indonesia)
We can buy the wrappers anywhere now even at the regular supermarkets. These square wrappers are made with machine.
Have you ever seen how traditional handmade spring roll wrappers are made? Here is a video. Isn't it amazing how the dough seems to be alive dancing about. This skilled people can just swing a springy wet dough about and swipe it on a hot pan, and voila a thin film of the dough sticks on the pan and forms the superthin wrapper. This method must be made with bare hand and no other alternatives. If you've seen people doing it professionally for hours on the street in S E Asia hygiene can be problem, like hand sweat and dead skin cells, errhhh.... that put you off now hmmm........
I love to make it the traditional way but it is not that easy. The dough is the crucial part it needs to be very springy, stretchy and quite wet. I have tried several times the result wasn't very good.
Here is a quick and easy method anyone can do at home, inspired by my friend Gillthepainter on this post. This method I am using is like making pancakes, the batter is brushed on the pan. Non stick pan is a crucial tool. Temperature of the pan is also very important, too hot the batter will cook right away and lifted away from the pan the second you brush it, too low the batter will not set and stick. The temperature got to be just right so you can brush the batter on easily, will stick on the pan and evenly spread without much lumps and bumps. To control the temperature a bowl of water and piece of kitchen towel is the secret. Wiping the pan with a wet towel also helps to clean the pan if there are any bits of cooked batter.
1 perfect non stick frying pan (without any scratches or peeling at all), for smaller wrapper use a small pan or large wrapper use a large pan. I used a pancake pan
1 pastry brush (preferably silicon, never use nylon)
1 silicon spatula (only for correcting imperfections)
a bowl with water and a piece of kitchen towel and chopsticks or tong (for temperature control)
The batter mix:
This will make about 20 pieces of 8 inch wrappers.
150g strong white flour (bread flour)
400 ml water
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
Mix everything together by hand or electric mixer till no lumps at all. I used a stick blender.
- Make the batter and leave to rest for about 15 minutes.
- Have a bowl ready with some water, a piece of kitchen towel and a pair of chopsticks (or tong). Heat the pan till hot then take the pan away from the heat. Squeeze out some of the water from the kitchen towel so it is not dripping wet, wipe this on the hot pan you will hear it sizzles keep wiping till the sizzling sound just about to stop. Then brush the batter on the pan. If the batter easily sticks on the pan without lifting (too hot) or not setting in globules (too cold) then you've just got it right. Practise a few times you will soon get the hang of it.
- When you brush the batter on the pan just go over once quickly covering the pan, a little patchy does not really matter, come back and brush all over a second time till you get a evenly spread batter.
- Put the pan back on medium high heat and heat it till you see the skin beginning to turn white and the top surface beginning to dry up. You will see air pockets forming underneath around the centre, at the same time the edge of the skin will curl up away from the pan. Then lift it up, turn over and heat the other side for few seconds. Voila one skin wrapper is made. Total cooking time is around 15 - 20 seconds.
- Cover the wrapper to keep it warm and the moisture will soften it.
- Patching up: If you brushing skill is not that perfect and you see some holes during cooking just brush with a little batter over.
- Uneven lumps: if there are any uneven lumps or thicker areas on the skin, wait till the skin is just about done and has dried on top then gently press the lumpy areas down flat using the silicon spatula.
Here is a slide show
The wrappers are very thin, look very similar to shop bought spring roll wrappers. It is quite stretching and springy. If you get it just right, you can see your hand through it.
When the wrapper just come out of the hot pan, it is quite dry around the edge. Once you have stack the lot together and cover with cloth they will soften. When you are ready to use just gently peel leaf by leaf.
If you use straight away when fresh you can just wrap anything you like, wrap and eat without frying or baking, just like Vietnamese summer rolls or Malaysian popiah.
Not suitable for keeping in fridge longer than one day, wrappers will become brittle. Also not suitable for freezing either.
These wrappers are suitable as duck pancakes.
Or you can wrap with any filling you like, seal with water paste, then deep fry. To bake spring rolls brush with oil/butter then bake at moderately hight temperature.