Spring rolls are one of those delights of life that most of us encounter at a very early age. They are included on almost every Chinese food menu and combo. In fact, around these parts, I’d say the spring roll is far more ubiquitous than the egg roll. Perhaps it is because the spring roll, or some variation of it, has a place in countless Asian cuisines most of which are well represented in Toronto. But in spite of their ubiquity, they are left relatively untouched. The fillings remain largely cabbage and ground pork affairs. I find this strange because the spring roll is a near perfect, crispy vessel for just about anything. So, with this in mind, I bring you these Thai Basil Chicken Spring Rolls with Mango Sweet Chili Sauce. While the concept isn’t exactly groundbreaking, the spring rolls themselves are delicious.Jump to Recipe
Spring rolls and I have a complex relationship. I’m sure many of you can relate. Much like the potato chip, the spring roll was an early love. Sure, I think the egg roll came along first but the spring roll, well, the spring roll was more than a passing fancy. It’s the paper-thin pastry that fries to shatteringly crisp perfection- it’s something I cannot say no to. Which brings me to the complication in this love story – the not being able to say no part. Again, much like the potato chip, I long ago banned the spring roll from my life. I figured if I never indulged I would never have to endure the pain of stopping. But when it comes to food, sound logic only takes you so far.
Of course, cravings eventually took root and the longer I ignored them the more persistent and weirdly specific they got. It got to the point when I found myself desperate for a spring roll from a Chinese restaurant in downtown Halifax that I hadn’t set foot in since I was 9 years old. That would’ve been all fine and dandy except I was on a Toronto street corner when the craving hit, I wasn’t convinced the place still existed anyway, and it was 2 AM. When you reach that point, you find a spring roll, any spring roll and you eat it.
But what to do when the flood gates are open? Can you really just have that emergency spring roll and go back to your otherwise healthy-ish lifestyle? I think you can. I think if you accept the spring roll as a luxury you will treat it as such. Think about that pair of really expensive shoes that I know you at some point bought when you definitely didn’t have the money for them. Are they or aren’t they still one of your favorite pairs? Sure they may pinch your feet and you may have spent three months paying them off, but they’re yours. They’re something you gave to yourself because they made you feel that good. That is where we all need to be with the spring roll. And while it may not seem like it, these Thai Basil Chicken Spring Rolls are designed to help us get there.
Fried foods get a bad wrap because they are easy to produce in an industrialized setting. There are many places to hide when a food is deep fried. This makes these items easy to make and eat carelessly. When you can easily obtain and consume something that tastes good cheaply that’s where you run into a problem. So, my theory is if you remove one of these “feel good” factors from the equation, you can avoid addiction and still enjoy the foods you love in moderation. In the case of these Thai Basil Chicken Spring Rolls, I eliminated easy.
Have you ever deep fried something at home? It’s quite literally a hot mess. Provided you never break down and buy an at-home deep fryer, deep frying at home will never be considered low maintenance. I don’t care what you say, Martha Stewart. I think this is a very good thing.
A little while back, bae and I made a little pact not to buy store-bought baked goods and not to indulge in deep-fried bites unless we either went through the trouble of making them ourselves or we were celebrating. Now, we did not follow this to a T because, well, sometimes all dressed chips just kind of happen. But, for the most part, we did okay. When confronted with the reality of having to soften a block of butter in order to get a cookie, or heat a vat of oil for a french fry, we often opted to just skip the indulgence. And when you decide to skip it, it is a clear indication that your craving was not serious enough.
But, when I dreamed up these Thai Basil Chicken Spring Rolls, my craving was beyond serious. So, naturally, I told myself I was doing it for the gram and heated that vat of oil. Have you ever had a homemade spring roll hot and fresh from the oil, so hot it could burn your tongue off? Honestly, you’ll never want to eat them any other way. Add in a riff on your favorite Thai stir fry and you’ll never crave takeout spring rolls again. And spring rolls frozen from a box? Um, no.
And I think that’s the point of making your own junk food. You can really let your cravings and imagination run wild. Yes, you can put Thai Basil Chicken in your spring roll because it is YOUR spring roll in every sense of the word. You can, in the hallowed words of Burger King, have it your way. And when you make it yourself, you just value it more. You would never cram those expensive shoes you bought your own damn self in the corner of your closet any more than you would regard your homemade spring rolls as empty calories. Making your own Thai Basil Chicken Spring Rolls makes you work for your joy, which makes it all the more joyful.
Okay, I will now dismount from my soapbox and leave you to decide how severe your spring roll craving truly is. Is it strong enough to deep fry at home? Yes? Well, then get cracking on these Thai Basil Chicken Spring Rolls and don’t forget the Mango Sweet Chili Sauce.
Thai Basil Chicken Spring Rolls with Mango Sweet Chili Sauce
Mango Sweet Chili Sauce
- 1 mango diced
- 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp raw sugar
- 1 tbsp sambal oelek
- 1 tbsp water
- 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 tbsp fresh mint chiffonade
Thai Basil Chicken Spring Rolls
- 3 red bird’s eye chilis stems removed
- 1 shallot quartered
- 1 can whole water chestnuts drained
- 1/4 cup Thai basil leaves tightly packed
- 1/4 cup mint tightly packed
- 1 (1-inch) knob ginger root peeled
- 454 g (1 lb) ground chicken
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 lime juiced
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 2 tbsp kecap manis
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- Fresh ground pepper
- 12 -13 sheets spring roll pastry
- 12-13 large Thai basil leaves
- 4 cups canola oil
Mango Sweet Chili Sauce
- Place the mango in a food processor. Blitz until smooth.
- Transfer the mango puree to a small saucepan. Add the rice wine vinegar, sugar, and sambal oelek. Place the pan over low heat and bring to a gentle simmer.
- While the mango mixture is heating up, place the water and cornstarch in a small bowl and whisk to combine. When the mango mixture comes to a simmer, add the cornstarch mixture and stir. Heat until the sauce thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat.
- Set the sauce aside to cool. Once cooled completely, stir in the mint. Transfer the sauce to the fridge and chill until ready to serve.
Thai Basil Chicken Spring Rolls
- Place the chilis, shallot, water chestnuts, basil leaves, mint leaves and ginger in a large food processor. Blitz until the mixture resembles mulch. Set aside.
- Place the chicken in a large bowl, add the chili mixture and the cornstarch. Pour the lime juice, fish sauce, kecap manis, and soy sauce over top. Add an ample amount of fresh ground pepper and using a clean hand, mix until a cohesive mixture forms. Cover and set aside.
- Take a sheet of the spring roll pastry and lay it flat on a cutting board in a diamond formation. Place a large basil leaf in the center. Take roughly 2 tablespoons of the chicken mixture and form it into a log. Lay it across the basil leaf. Fold the corners of the sheet on either side of the filling towards the center. Take the point farthest from you and fold it over the filling tightly. Dip your index finger in a little water and trace the edge of the point closest to you. Roll the spring roll towards yourself as you would a burrito. Set the finished spring roll aside and repeat with the remaining sheets.
- When the spring rolls are all rolled, heat the oil in a large heavy bottom pot until it reaches 350° F. Add 4-5 spring rolls to the oil and fry until golden, about 6 minutes. Transfer the spring rolls to a plate lined with paper towel. Repeat with the remaining spring rolls.
- Place the finished spring rolls on a platter with a bowl of the Mango Sweet Chili Sauce for dipping. Serve immediately with a round of beers.