Chinese New Year is a time for serious feasting. But that does not mean the cook has to spend every minute in the kitchen. In fact, part of the genius of China’s holiday foods is that they are meant to be prepared ahead of time so that only a little last-minute work is required. This is the biggest celebration on the Chinese calendar, so everyone is supposed to take a break and join in the fun, even the family cook.
The following recipe has a few simple steps that allow you to put these together whenever you want. Wrapping the spring rolls then becomes so fun and easy that you can conscript the kids into helping, and I’ve seen few things give children as much pride as being able to say they had a hand in making a holiday dish. Since the filling is cooked, you can even make these ahead of time and freeze them.
The Chinese name actually does mean “fried spring rolls,” and one of their many charms is the way in which the deeply crunchy outsides contrast with the soft, savory filling. They also look like firecrackers, and that makes them lovely symbols of the New Year celebrations. By the way, if you don’t eat meat, feel free to substitute some fresh mushrooms in place of the pork or chicken and use vegetarian oyster sauce as your seasoning. —Madame Huang