Before I started writing this post I thought long and hard about what to call these. Far as I know these are unique to Sri Lanka (that tiny island off the southeast coast of India). And strangely enough in Sri Lanka, they are called Chinese rolls! So I thought about calling them Sri Lankan Chinese rolls at first, realized how silly that sounded and threw that idea right out the window in to the cold, gloomy day outside today. I never gave that name a second thought when I devoured them one after the other when I was young and now that I think about it, I cannot for the life of me figure out what makes them Chinese. They are delicate crepes filled with a spicy and juicy meat or vegetarian filling, breaded and fried till they are golden brown. So when you bite into them, they are crunchy, spicy, savoury, juicy and oh so tasty! It’s an absolute favourite amongst Sri Lankans and it will be a mighty shame if the rest of the world never found out about them. And on a cold wintry day, I guarantee, that nothing will hit the spot better than these delicious Fried Savoury Crepe Rolls! (Sounds better? I thought so too!).
So back to that question I had before I started writing this. Why Chinese Rolls? The only explanation might be that they bear a slight resemblance to Egg Rolls or Chinese Spring rolls. But that’s where the similarities end. This Sri Lankan variety is juicier, infinitely more flavourful and just down-right more satisfying to eat.
When my sister and I were younger, my mum used to make these regularly at home. We would form an assembly line every time she made these. Station 1 was where the crepes were formed, station 2 was where filling and rolling were done, station 3 was where coating and crumbing happened. I always took up position in station 2, because that meant I could steal a crepe or two every now and then. My sister may have gotten wiser to my sneaky ways over the years, but being the little sister what was she going to do? And when they had been fried to perfection, our mum would let us eat the first couple of rolls, while they were still hot and insanely crunchy, you know just to make sure “they tasted alright.” Like they ever tasted less than super awesome.
My husband is a huge fan of these rolls too, so I usually make the crepes, fill them, bread them, and freeze them and then fry them up fresh on those days we just want to nibble on something spicy. And tasty of course!
So the first thing I do is cook the crepes, then I fill them and bread all of them, and finally either freeze them or fry them if we are going to eat them the same day. Some days I feel like Superwoman and have all the stations set up right next to the stove so that I fill and roll the crepe that has already been cooked while the next crepe is cooking on the stove. The whole process feels therapeutic at times like that and the end result is an even better pay-off!
What makes these rolls even better is that you can use ANY filling you want. In Sri Lanka they are usually always savoury, with a meat or vegetable filling or a bit of both. This recipe calls for mince beef (because you know, the carnivorous husband likes nothing better) but I LOVE using mince lamb too. But chicken, fish, tofu, paneer, vegetables, and especially a mix of meat and vegetables, all go exceptionally well in the filling.
Crepes for Fried Savoury Crepe Rolls
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 cup flour
- 4 tablespoons melted butter
- Oil for coating the pan
- 1 tsp salt
- In a large bowl beat the eggs, water, salt and butter till well combined.
- Whisk the flour into the egg mixture until it is smooth with no clumps.
- Add the milk into the mixture and whisk to mix well.
- Alternatively, you can add all the ingredients into a food processor or blender and process the mix until smooth and mixed well.
- Leave the batter for about 30 minutes to rest.
- Heat a 9 inch flat pan (a crepe pan) over medium heat and lightly coat it with some oil. (I brushed the oil using a pastry brush).
- When pan is heated, ladle just enough batter to thinly coat the bottom of the pan (about 1/4 a cup or less - depending on how thick the batter is).
- Let the crepes cook for about 20 seconds (unlike regular crepes, you do not want these to colour), flip them and cook for another 10-20 seconds until crepes are cooked through, slightly crispy on the edges, but with little colour on them).
- Transfer crepe onto a plate. You can easily pile the crepes on top of each other until the next step.
Filling for Fried Savoury Crepe Rolls
- 500 g of mince or finely chopped beef.
- 1 tbsp of curry powder you can use your favourite curry powder. I used Sri Lankan curry powder
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1/2 of a large onion chopped
- 1 tbsp of chilli flakes
- 1-2 jalapeno/serrano peppers sliced seeds removed to reduce heat
- 1 tsp of mild chilli powder optional - use as much or as little as you like. We like it spicy so used more chilli powder
- 1/4 cup tomato sauce
- 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp of salt
- More salt and pepper to taste
- In a pan, heat a tablespoon of oil on medium heat.
- When heated, add the onions and cook them for a few minutes until they soften.
- Add the curry powder, garlic, salt, chilli powder (if using), chilli flakes and green chilli. Cook these spices together for a few seconds.
- Add the beef/lamb and mix it through with the spices, and let them cook for about 10 minutes or longer until it's cooked through.
- Add the brown sugar and tomato sauce and mix it in with the meat. Let it cook further (you are looking for the meat to be moist and cooked well, but without any sauce left so that it's dry enough to go in the crepes).
Fried Savoury Crepe Rolls - Assembly
- 3 eggs
- Bread crumbs
- Crepes about 15-20
- 1 recipe of the filling
- Line a cookie sheet or baking sheet with some parchment paper.
- In a flat bottomed dish, whisk the three eggs till well combined.
- In another tray/plate, place about a cup or more of breadcrumbs (you will end up using more, but it's easier to work with a little at a time).
- On a cutting board or plate, place 1 crepe. Then place 2-3 heaping tablespoons of the filling as shown in the image.
- Start rolling the filling away from you to form a roll. Place the rolled up crepe rolls on the tray until they are ready to be coated with bread crumbs. Please see Note 1.
- Take a crepe roll and coat it well with the beaten egg mixture. Maker sure that you coat the two ends of the roll as well.
- Heat some vegetable oil, or shortening till it reaches about 340 F.
- Deep fry the rolls without over-crowding the pan, until they turn golden brown.
- Serve with tomato sauce or chilli sauce (or any dipping sauce of your liking).
Tips & Tricks
Note 2 - If you're going to store them away in the freezer at this point, first transfer the rolls into the freezer for a few hours so they harden up, then take them out and put them in a box or storage bags and transfer them back to the freezer. Remember to bring them to room temperature before frying them again.
Do not be put off by the seemingly long recipe(s). These are in fact very easy to make and absolutely worth it! Crunchy, savoury, juicy and with a spicy dipping sauce of your liking, this is just what the doctor ordered when the Mercury plummets on that thermometer outside. Try it once and I guarantee you’ll be making them again. And again :).
You can enjoy these warm or at room temperature, although like most spicy things, warm makes them taste just that extra bit better and in this case crunchier. You could even freeze them after frying them and then thaw them out on a later date and reheat them in the microwave or oven until heated through (although these won’t be as crunchy as freshly fried ones). It works as a snack just as well as it does as a meal and the filling can be absolutely anything you want! The possibilities are so limitless, I can easily see myself re-inventing these with a sweet filling in the near future.
Have you tried these before? Or something similar? What were they called? I would love to find out so do let me know in the comments below!
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