Mary Ann Zonca learned how to make the perfect egg roll through a combination of education and determination.
After moving out to Brighton in 1972 with her husband, Norb, where they lived until 1996, she found she missed the Chinese food, especially egg rolls, readily available in bigger cities.
As there was no Chinese restaurant anywhere close to his Hartland-based dental practice or their home, she found herself with only one option: taking a cooking lesson. That was well before the days of the Internet, Mary Ann explained. She added, “Recipes for egg rolls at the time were hard to get.”
She took a class from Betty Benenati, a fellow Lake Moraine Guild member (she was a member for about seven years) to learn how to make the egg rolls. Benenati also was a member of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church where the Zoncas still attend Mass when in Michigan.
The egg roll recipe had staying power as a family treat. It’s still a favorite of her daughter, Ann Puvalowski, 39, who now lives in a Chicago suburb. (Norb seemed to enjoy them, too, when he sampled them.)
The Zoncas also have two boys: Jon, 37, a family practice physician living in Denver, CO, and Stephen, 43, a surgeon who lives in Grand Haven, as well as eight grandchildren. The couple divides their time between their Tyrone Township home (which has a Fenton mailing address), visiting their children and grandchildren and spending time in Florida during the winter months.
In addition to pursuing her interests in cooking, sewing and decorating, she says with a smile, “Grandbabies … now they’re my hobby.” Since Norb and Mary Ann's official retirement in 2008 (she helped out for many years managing his dental office), they’ve had a lot more time to spend with the grandchildren, a fact that makes her light up.
Mary Ann said it’s not hard to make the egg rolls, but they require a few ingredients you may not normally have on hand, such as the Chinese vegetables. Another piece of equipment the recipe requires is a deep fryer.
There are a few key things to pay attention to, such as ensuring that you don’t put the Chinese “vegetarian” filling (it does contain shrimp) on the egg roll wrappers while hot or they will tear. Let them cool down until they’re at a warm point. After carefully tucking in the corners of the egg rolls and rolling them up, make sure to brush with an egg wash where the egg rolls should seal. This helps them to hold together. Mary Ann also suggests using canola oil for the fryer and olive oil for the vegetables.
“Vegetarian” Egg Rolls
Makes about 8
2 cups bean sprouts
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ cup finely chopped onion
½ cup chopped water chestnuts
½ cup finely chopped Napa cabbage
4 ½ ounces tiny shrimp
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Package of eggroll wrappers
1 egg, beaten (use as egg wash to seal the egg rolls)
Olive oil to stir fry vegetables
Canola oil for deep fryer (this should be preheated to 375 degrees F.)
Dijon mustard or Thai-style sweet chili sauce, if desired (for dipping)
- Preheat canola oil in fryer to 375 degrees F. and maintain the oil at that heat throughout cooking.
- Take all prepared vegetables and shrimp and stir fry in a pan with a little oil for 3 to 4 minutes for the filling.
- Cool a few minutes until the filling is warm, not hot; if it is too hot, the filling will wreck the egg roll wrapper.
- Beat one egg in a small bowl to use as egg wash.
- Place about 3 tablespoons of filling diagonally along the egg roll wrapper, leaving room at the ends.
- Fold over one side of the egg roll wrapper just past the center so that it covers the filling. (It should now look like a triangle.)
- Fold in the side ends in towards the center of the egg roll; roll towards the end.
- Brush the seams/edges where it’s folded with the egg wash, which helps to seal the egg roll when it’s fried.
- Fry a couple egg rolls at a time until golden brown (on average, this takes about 4 minutes).
- Repeat process until all filling is used.
- Serve warm with choice of Dijon mustard or Thai-style sweet chili sauce.