Everything’s a pizza, if you think about it. Sandwiches? A top-and-bottom-crust pizza. Salads? A crust-less pizza. Egg rolls? A rolled-up and deep-fried pizza! (And, FYI, most anything can be a pizza topping—but that’s another story.)
We can see the pizza-bilities in any food, anywhere. And when we come across a food with as much scrumptious and as many permutations as pizza, we’ve just got to get the two to tango. That’s why we’ve ventured into our latest realm of pizzafication: PIZZA EGG ROLLS!
Gotta love those warm, crunchy delights. Egg rolls are popular across many different Asian cuisines, they’re served in Asian restaurants, and they’ve even moved beyond their roots into standard bars and appetizer menus in the U.S. Much like pizza, egg rolls are no one-trick-pony—they’re versatile, they’re mix-and-matchable, and (most importantly) they’re deep-fried. And now, they’re PIZZA-FIED!
Check out our Pizza Egg Rolls recipe down below, give it a shot, and get to know what egg rolls are all about, why don’t ya?
History of the Egg Roll
It’s thought that egg rolls can date back to ancient China, and evolved from their lighter counterpart: spring rolls. A spring roll is generally smaller, made with a thinner, rice flour dough, and it traditionally doesn’t contain meat. Originally, spring rolls were a special snack served with tea after the Chinese New Year, when friends and family came to visit. This was during springtime, so they became known as “spring rolls.” (The uncooked, un-fried version is called a “summer roll.”) With their mouth-watering, golden-brown color, spring rolls became a symbol of a gold nugget or prosperity in China.
Naturally, a thicker, flakier dough and a meaty filling, took spring rolls to the next egg-a-licious level. As the name implies, the traditional “egg roll” was made using wheat flour and egg in the dough. That’s not so common these days, but the name sure stuck. Some food historians believe this genius twist on spring rolls comes from Cantonese cuisine, a region in southern China. And, clearly, they did something right, because egg rolls are now accepted as an anytime snack or appetizer.
Wait...Egg Rolls Might NOT be Chinese?!
But, even in southern China, the supposed origin of egg rolls, many natives aren’t familiar with these fried beauties. Granted, China is a big country, but aren’t egg rolls a Chinese classic?! You’d think the word got out! Well, there are other food historians that speculate egg rolls aren’t in fact an ancient Chinese invention, but an American one. Some believe that spring rolls or other egg-roll type foods were brought to the USA by the first Chinese settlers in the mid 1800s. Over time, Chinese-American restaurant owners started looking for new adaptations of their traditional cuisines that might appeal more to American diners. So, brilliantly, egg was added to the mix, the rolls got bigger, and the fried coating was crispier—that’s America, folks.
Egg rolls may not be a traditional Chinese dish at all, but a merging of Chinese and American culture into a unique hybrid: Chinese-American cuisine. It’s thought that the egg roll was invented in New York in the 1930s, where Chinese food was becoming popular. One chef, Henry Low, actually claims to be the inventor of the egg roll recipe, and included it in his 1938 cookbook. But, there are other chefs from the time period who were also featuring egg rolls on their menus and seeing big success.
And, it wasn’t just the egg roll wrappers that transformed, it was also the fillings. Rather than rolls filled with mainly veggies like cabbage and carrot, Chinese-American chefs began to go off the beaten bath. And, boy, are we glad they did. They experimented with fillings like roast pork, shrimp, water chestnuts, and bamboo shoots. Nowadays, you can add pretty much anything to an egg roll recipe! If it’s chopped to fit the wrapper, cooked, and not too moist, toss it in there. Maybe you’ve come across tasty mutations of the classic egg roll, like Tex-Mex egg rolls or Philly cheese steak egg rolls. And, of course, we’re bringing you PIZZA Egg Rolls today!
Is Pizza a Chinese Invention?
So, contrary to popular belief, egg rolls likely aren’t a traditional Chinese food, but instead a Chinese-American creation that’s not even 100 years old yet…say whaaaat?! If it feels like everything you thought you knew is crumbling, we feel you—but brace yourself. Did you know that pizza might have actually originated in China?? There’s a savory, scallion pancake in Chinese cuisine known as a “cong you bing,” which might be pizza’s true ancestor. It’s made from dough instead of batter, and it’s folded with oil and chopped scallions (a.k.a. green onions).
Cong you bing is a popular street food and restaurant item in China, that was around waaaay back in the 1200s when Marco Polo arrived. As the story goes, Marco was lovin’ the cong you big while he was in China, but then missed the dish dearly once he was back in Italy. So, he searched for chefs who would try to re-create the savory pancake for him. Marco grew frustrated with the chefs’ failures and finally suggested that the filling be put on top of the dough rather than inside of the pancake. With that change, a little improvisation, and some cheese—bada-bing, bada-boom—cong you bing gave birth to pizza!
So pizza is Chinese food?! Are you overcome with disbelief??
Well, you should be.
PSYCHE! Though this story is a popular tale spun in China, it’s not based in reality—it’s mostly for laughs. There’s clear historical evidence that pizza was around long before good ‘ol Marco Polo was even born. If you've read our Grilled Cheetza blog, you know that there are pizza-making remnants from the time of Pompeii, and as far back as ancient Greece! Sorry, Marco. Sorry, China. Though many may hope to claim the glory of inventing pizza, it certainly wasn’t you guys. But, we could maybe work with cong you bing as a pizza crust…
No, pizza is not Chinese food, but pizza has certainly become a staple in China in recent years. And how could it not? It’s amazing! But, pizza’s been climbing an uphill battle in China for some time now. For centuries, cheese (and dairy in general) has not been part of traditional Chinese diets. Today, around 90% of the Chinese population is thought to be lactose intolerant, so selling pizza there has been tough. At one point, Chinese leaders even deemed cheese “too barbaric” for the national diet!
Now, pizza has been helping to break down those doors. Old stigmas against cheese are gone and Asia is importing more cheese than ever—in large part due to the increasing popularity of pizza. Last year, it was estimated that Pizza Hut stores were opening in China at a rate of one per day. Pizza Hut is hugely popular in China now, and is even considered a decent sit-down restaurant. Pizza is peaking , and, as with all countries across the world, China has some pretty unique spins on the classic pie:
- In Hong Kong, Pizza Hut serves up an Abalone Sauce Cheesy Lava Stuffed Crust Pizza, topped with seafood, abalone (sea snail) sauce, crayfish & crab roe dressing, chicken, and enoki mushrooms.
- Pizza Hut restaurants in Shanghai once served a pie with hot dogs, mayo, shrimp tempura, squid, and fish cake! They also offer a “Texas Steak”—translation: 2 burger patties served with spaghetti…If your meal isn’t funky enough by that point, you can also order a side of garlic snails.
- Domino’s in China serves The Tuna Delight, a pizza topped with tuna, pepperoni, ham, Italian sausage, and corn.
- Some Pizza Hut locations in China have offered a Lobster Pizza, which is a pizza pie topped with half a lobster in its shell!
- You can find pizzas in China with toppings that MOVE! When a pizza is topped with hanakatsuo, which are thinly shaved slices of dried skipjack tuna, the steam can make the slices move as if they’re dancing (or alive). No fret, the fish aren’t alive, just beware of the “dancing fish flakes” topping if this isn’t your style.
Pizza Egg Rolls: FINALLY
Everything’s a remix—especially on Eat The Pizza. We say that pizza is Italian, but American pizza changed the original recipe a bit (more about this in our Pizza Protein Bar blog). We made the crust thicker, piled on the toppings, and packed in more calories. (YUM.) Then we took spring rolls and turned them into bigger, crispier egg rolls!
And now, we’ve taken two remixes and made the ultimate mash-up—pizza-tastic fillings rolled up in wonton wrappers and deep-fried. They’re Pizza Egg Rolls, folks. Try ‘em, fry ‘em, love ‘em. And, of course, eat ‘em!
Pizza Meat Mixture
- drizzle of olive oil
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 1 cup pizza sauce
- ½ cup pepperoni, chopped
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp oregano
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 cup chopped spinach
Egg Roll Assembly
- 12-15 egg roll wrappers (7 inch squares)
- 1 cup mozzarella
- 2-3 Tbsp parmesan
- ½ cup basil, chopped
- 1 quart peanut/vegetable oil for frying
- Heat olive oil in a pan over medium. Cook beef until no longer pink and cooked through.
- Turn off heat. Stir in pizza sauce, chopped pepperoni, and spices & seasonings (to taste). Add spinach and allow to wilt.
- Spread ¼ cup beef mixture over each egg roll wrapper, diagonally. Add about 2 Tbsp mozzarella, ½ tsp parmesan, and a sprinkle of fresh basil to each wrapper.
- Roll up wrappers (fold bottom corner up, side corners in and then roll up). Seal edges with water. Cover with plastic wrap while you roll the rest, so they don’t stick together.
- Pour oil about 1” deep in saucepan or cast iron pot. Heat to 375°F (190°C), over medium high heat.
- Place egg rolls into heated oil and fry in batches, turning them occasionally, until golden brown (2-5 minutes per batch). Remove from oil and drain on paper towels.
- Allow to cool and enjoy! Eat egg rolls on their own, or dipped in pizza sauce—either way, you better EAT THAT PIZZA (Egg Roll).
Yields about 12 pizza-licious egg rolls.