The spring rolls I am talking here are not those fried ones you regularly find in Chinese restaurants. These spring rolls are called 潤餅/runbing in Taiwan. They are not deep fried, so perhaps we can call them fresh spring rolls 😀
Runbing is a special dish to have during the tomb sweeping day 清明節, which is usually celebrated on April 5th. On that day, people will go back to their hometowns and clean up their ancestors’ tombs. Actually the day when Chinese eat runbing is called Cold Food Day (寒食節). I learned this from the Chinese Culture class I attended. So why having cold food on that day? The story can be traced back to someone called Jie ZiTui (介子推). At the period of 春秋戰國 (several hundreds of years BC), there was a prince called Jin WenGong (晉文公). He was the one next in line to the throne, so people who didn’t like him, were trying to kill him. He ran away with some people, and on his way they practically did not have anything to eat. It was impossible to ask for help from a stranger because they might be poisoned. Jie ZiTui then took a chunk of his leg meat, cooked it in a soup, and gave it to Jin WenGong without him knowing what he was eating. (Yikes!) Ten years later, Jin WenGong finally became the emperor. He rewarded every person who had taken care of him in the past except Jie ZiTui. People who knew about this felt sorry for Jie ZiTui, so they asked the emperor to summon Jie ZiTui to become an officer. However, Jie ZiTui refused, and took his mother to hide together in a mountain. In order to force them out, Jing WenGong got an idea to burn the mountain since Jie ZiTui is a filial son, so he wouldn’t let his mother suffer. After a three-day-and-three-night-fire, no one saw Jie ZiTui out of the mountain. After the fire was put out, the people saw the burnt bodies of Jie ZiTui and his mother hugging a trunk of tree. The emperor was heartbroken, and to remember Jie ZiTui, he ordered the whole nation not to eat anything hot that day. And that’s how the Cold Food Day came about.
Originally the Cold Food Day was a day before the tomb sweeping day, but later one people just combine both of them together. The background story is quite bizarre: How could an emperor think such a stupid idea? How could someone just cook his own meat for someone else to eat? Anyway, the consequence is pretty good. There are refreshing and healthy spring rolls we can have today.
After the culture class, students were invited to make the spring rolls together. I had so much fun and food. We even had a demo of how to make the spring roll wraps from a store owner. It looked reaaaally easy, but it took some time (I’m sure it will be years and years of practice) to make perfectly thin spring roll skins.
Let the dough fall onto the pan, push in a circular motion, and lift it up gently… There we have have a perfect piece of spring roll wrap.
Choose any fillings you like: peanuts mixed with sugar, cabbage, bean sprouts, some meat, tofu. All vegetables and meats are cooked.
Get a piece of the wrap (if fresh is not available, you can get the frozen kind from the supermarket). Sprinkle the peanut, arrange the other fillings as you wish.. Not too much and not too little… Add some hot sauce for a more flavorful spring roll.