Spring rolls

These are one of the most extravagant homemade spring rolls you’ll ever see. Filled with crab, mushrooms, pork, shitake mushrooms, water chestnuts and coriander, they take a fair amount of work. As most of my Chinese recipes seem to…

I blame my mum. My mother is one of the most accomplished people I know. I’m sure a lot of people say that about their mothers and to be honest, it’s mildly irritating. Even as a child, I knew I’d never come close to matching her brilliance in my lifetime. Clever and successful career-wise, she’s also very domesticated. Which is an awful word that summons up images of cats, horses and dogs.

The woman can sew, knit, cook like a dream, remains calm under pressure and can strategise like no one’s business. When my mum was studying accounting and undertook some law subjects, her professor recommended that she change her focus to law because he was so impressed with her incisive mind and brilliant marks. She didn’t, partly because her marks in accounting were even more brilliant. See what I mean? Irritating.

Slice the shitake mushrooms thinly

Slice the shitake mushrooms thinly

What’s this got to do with spring rolls? Technically nothing but many of the Chinese recipes I post are long because I learnt them from my mother and if there’s one thing she isn’t, it’s lazy. My workaholic tendencies stem in part from the example she set (although my study ethic was always severely lacking…).

Wrapped and ready for frying!

Wrapped and ready for frying!

It was my grandmother’s birthday earlier this month and my extended family celebrated with lunch at my parents’ house and then dinner out that same night. Since my parents and I don’t live close to each other, I stayed over and the next morning, made these spring rolls for lunch whilst my mum was preparing birthday noodles and congee. My cranky and lovable grandma turned a highly impressive 103 years old.

I’ve asked my mum before why no one else in the entire world seems to use a similar filling in their spring rolls. I don’t know why I keep asking; maybe I’m hoping to finally hear an answer that will satisfy me. My mum always claims that since they’re homemade, we use a fancier filling that restaurants wouldn’t find cost effective. I guess it could be true but I’ve never heard of any other family using this combination either.

The spring roll filling. Next time, I'd add little more coriander (cilantro)

The spring roll filling. Next time, I’d add little more coriander

A basic recipe is below but ingredient proportions are very individual so use more of those you like best. You should end up with about 1500 grams of filling.

The crab component can be time consuming because you can choose buy live crabs whole, cook them and then painstakingly pick out the crab meat. But good news! You can just swap it out with prawn (shrimp) instead or buy fresh crabmeat from your fishmonger. Under no circumstances add in that weird crabstick product as a substitute. My cousin says my mum makes the best spring rolls in the world precisely because of the filling combination and who am I to argue or talk it down? We’re talking about my mother here!

Golden and crispy, they're best eaten fresh

Golden and crispy, they’re best eaten fresh

Feeds: 10-15 hungry people as a snack
Start cooking: 2 hours before eating

Spring rolls, jibuyabu family style


  • Chinese barbeque pork (char sui) or leg ham
  • Fresh crab meat (for the love of god, no crabstick!)
  • Cooked fresh prawn (shrimp)
  • Fresh coriander (cilantro)
  • Dried shitake mushroom, rinsed and reconstituted
  • Water chestnuts, fresh or canned (can substitute with bamboo shoots)
  • 1 tablespoon x sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons x cornflour
  • 1 x egg yolk
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 packet x spring roll wrappers
  • 1 x egg white, lightly beaten
  • 1 litre x vegetable oil for frying (sunflower, peanut and rice bran oil are good choices)


  1. Cut the stalk off the shitake mushrooms and discard. Finely slice the mushrooms, pork/ham, water chestnuts and prawn (if using) and place into a large, shallow bowl.
  2. Roughly chop the coriander and add, along with the crab meat to the bowl.
  3. Add the cornflour, salt to taste and egg yolk and gently mix until combined.
  4. Place the lightly beaten egg white into a small, shallow dish.
  5. Align the spring roll wrapper in a diamond shape. Place a tablespoon of filling towards the lower third.
  6. Roll the bottom of the wrapper over the filling twice and then fold in the left and right sides.
  7. Continue rolling until there is a small triangle of wrapper left. Dip your finger into the egg white and dab onto the triangle. Continue rolling and smooth the fold so it sits flat.
  8. Continue with rest of the wrappers until the filling is all used up.
  9. Heat up vegetable oil in a wok or large saucepan over medium heat. Slide in the spring rolls in batches of eight and cook for about 2 minutes until crisp and golden brown.
  10. Drain over paper towels and serve immediately. Best eaten hot!