Saturday, February 16, 2013

Egg Rolls Part 1: Variations Around the World

Americans might as well be speaking a different language. I learnt this the hard way (as Genie of Bunny. Eats. Design. reminded me) when I blindly followed a recipe for chilli sin carne, and dutifully emptied two cups of tomato sauce into what, up until that point, was a delicious pot of beans and vegetables. In case you were wondering, what we call tomato sauce is similar to what Americans would call "ketchup".  My promising meal became a disgusting, sweet and sickly mess.

NZ EnglishAmerican EnglishDescription
tomato sauceketchupSeasoned tomato purée - sweet and tangy, frequently eaten with hot chips and burgers.
pasta saucetomato sauceSeasoned tomato purée - savoury, frequently eaten with meatballs and pasta.

It's not so bad when they use a completely different term altogether, like "zucchini" instead of "courgette", or "rutabaga" instead of "swede" (actually, I thought "aubergine" for "eggplant" and "mangetout" for "snow pea" were also American expressions, but apparently they are from British English). What really gets things confusing is when a word you are familiar with gets used to mean something else.  Here are some more examples:

NZ EnglishAmerican EnglishDescription
sconebiscuitSoft quickbread made of flour and baking powder or soda, frequently eaten with butter and jam.
biscuitcookieSweet, hard and dry baked product, with many variations, such as chocolate biscuits and gingernuts.
jamjellySweet spread or preserve made from fruit and sugar boiled to a thick consistency.
jellyjelloTranslucent fruit-flavoured dessert made to set using gelatine.

So What's an Egg Roll?

It wasn't until I tried to look for a recipe for "egg rolls" that I realised how many different things the term can mean.  Suppose I tell you that I am going to be bringing egg rolls for shared lunch tomorrow.  What would you expect to see?  Something sweet or savoury, crispy or soft?


Cooked egg (boiled and mashed, or fried) in a bread roll, which has been sliced in half.
Maybe something like a bacon and egg roll, minus the bacon.

Recipe: Ham and Egg Roll (More Than Words blog)
Recipe: Egg Mayo & Watercress Rolls (Good Food Magazine, April 2011) [Link added 22 June 2016 to replace broken link for Egg Mayo Mini Rolls (, BBC Good Food - Olive Magazine, April 2008)]


Cooked egg (baked whole, or mashed) in a hollowed out bread roll.

Recipe: Baked Beans, Bacon and Egg Rolls (Woman's Day magazine) [Link updated 22  June 2016 from]
Recipe: Baked Egg Rolls (Modaretto blog)
[Updated 22 June 2016: removed broken link to Sesame Egg Rolls (, Australian Women's Weekly magazine)]


An omelette which has been rolled up, with or without a filling such as meat and/or vegetables.

Recipe: Baked Cheesy Egg Roll (
Recipe: Korean Egg Roll - 계란말이 Gyeran Mari (K Food Addict blog)
Recipe: Egg Roll with Fish Paste (Elinluv blog)


A spring roll, which became popularised as egg rolls in America.  According to Dear Dim Sum [Updated 22 June 2016 to remove broken link to], spring rolls are those of the soft rice paper variety to Americans, but I'm not so sure—spring rolls are always deep-fried variety in my book.  Otherwise, they would be called summer rolls or fresh rolls.

Recipe: My Mother's Famous Chinese Egg Rolls (Steamy Kitchen blog)
Recipe: Egg Rolls (Sara Moulton, Food Network)


A sweet, flaky, tube-shaped roll eaten in Hong Kong and the southern parts of China.  The most famous in Hong Kong are those produced by Duck Shing Ho, where people queue as early as 4-5 months in advance to get their supplies for Chinese New Year!  (Not sure if something was lost in translation, but it looks like you can buy an egg roll machine [Updated 22 June 2016 to remove broken link to] for less than 2,000 Chinese yuan, or a ridiculously cheap NZ$40!)

Recipe: Love Letters / Egg Rolls - 鸡蛋卷 (wery nice blog)
Recipe: Hand Made Egg Roll 香脆手工蛋卷 (more than bread blog) [Link added 22 June 2016 to replace broken link for Biscuit (Egg) Rolls - 手工蛋卷 (, limpepsi's blog)]


Fried egg wrapped inside a paratha flatbread, a street food originating in Kolkata, India.

Recipe: Kolkata Egg Roll (Bong Mum's Cookbook blog)
Recipe: Egg Roll: a Wrap Around the Streets of Kolkata (Food Wanderings blog)


Chopped boiled egg, rolled up in sandwich bread, like an asparagus roll.

Recipe: Chicken and Egg Rolls (Mountain [Updated 22 June 2016 to remove broken link to]
Recipe: Egg Roll Sushi (


Hard-boiled egg, wrapped in flour and/or meat and deep-fried, similar to a scotch egg.  The Nigerian version is sweet.

Recipe: Nigerian Egg Roll (All Nigerian
Recipe: Sri Lankan Egg Rolls (Peter Kuravita, [Link updated 22 June 2016 from]
Recipe: Stuffed Egg Rolls (Spice India Online blog)


My New Zealand workmates had no idea what an egg roll was, but suggested it could be like an asparagus roll (G. above) or perhaps a bacon and egg roll without the bacon (A.).  Americans I spoke to didn't think they could mean anything other than spring rolls (D.).  To be honest, the first time I heard of the spring roll meaning was when I tried to google "egg roll recipes", so it's surprising to me how difficult it is to find anything about any other kind of egg roll.

What does an egg roll mean to you?  Are there other meanings than what I have listed above?

Posts in this series

No comments:

Post a Comment

Panda loves to hear from people. Thanks for leaving a comment! If you are logged in using your Google account, don't forget to click the "Notify me" checkbox (below the comment box on the right hand side), so you know when I write back.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...