Every culture has its version of spring rolls, and the Japanese culture is no different. In Japanese, spring rolls are known as harumaki, which literally translates to haru (spring) and maki (roll).
Japanese spring rolls are similar to Chinese spring rolls in that they are filled with vegetables, or a combination of vegetables, meat and glass noodles (bean threads), wrapped in a thin pastry shell and fried. They differ, however, in that traditional Japanese harumaki tends to omit the use of garlic. This might date back to the origins of Japanese cuisine and a tendency to omit garlic as an ingredient.
Vegetable Harumaki vs. Chinese Spring Rolls
Another way in which Japanese spring rolls, or harumaki, tend to differ from Chinese spring rolls is that the filling for harumaki is slightly thickened with potato starch to create a vegetable filling with a texture that is similar to that of a thick gravy. Because the filling is wet, harumaki are best eaten immediately after they are fried. In Chinese cuisine, spring rolls tend to have a filling that is drier, which actually helps it to become very light and flaky on the outside when it is fried.
Japanese harumaki also differ from Chinese spring rolls in that they are often enjoyed as a meal-in-itself, served with rice and soup, rather than as an appetizer or finger food. Although the filling and style of harumaki differ from family to family, it is not uncommon to make a fat spring roll with a hearty amount of filling. You might also notice that many Japanese families wrap their harumaki to make a flat, rectangular-shaped spring roll versus the traditional thin and cylindrical spring roll more common in Chinese cuisine.
The Thinner the Wrapper, the Better
As for the type of spring roll wrapper, the thinner the wrapper, the better. There are several brands of egg roll wrappers that are thick and these will tend to bubble up when fried. Frozen, thin spring roll shells often work best for this recipe. Try experimenting with different wrappers to see what suits your tastes the best.
Harumaki is often simply served with a dipping sauce of soy sauce (shoyu) and hot mustard (karashi).
Give Japanese harumaki a try, and experience for yourself how this differs from spring rolls or egg rolls from other cultures.
- 6 small to medium dried shiitake mushrooms
- 1 1/2 cups water (to reconstitute shiitake mushrooms)
- 2 1/2 ounces dried glass noodles (also called mung bean threads, potato noodles, or cellophane noodles)
- 3 cups hot water (to soften glass noodles)
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 2 green onion stalks
- 6 to 7 napa cabbage leaves
- 1 cup carrots (sliced into matchsticks)
- 3 cups bean sprouts
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon salt (to taste)
- Dash pepper (to taste)
- 3 teaspoon potato starch
- 3 teaspoons reserved shiitake soaking liquid
- 1 package thin spring roll wrappers (frozen)
- 2 to 3 cups canola oil (or coconut/canola oil mixture)
Gather the ingredients.
In a bowl, soak dried shiitake mushrooms in water until they are reconstituted.
Squeeze excess water from the mushrooms, remove stems, and slice. Reserve soaking liquid.
In a separate bowl, add dried glass noodles and hot water until the noodles are pliable and soft about 15 minutes.
Drain and cut the noodles into shorter pieces of about 3 inches in length. Set aside.
Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables. Slice onions and green onions lengthwise to make thin slices.
Finely chop napa cabbage leaves, including the white stem. If you prefer, the white stem may be omitted and substituted with additional leaves.
Cut carrots into matchsticks. A shortcut is to purchase pre-sliced carrots available at Chinese supermarkets.
In a large pan, heat olive oil. Add yellow onion and cook until translucent.
Add glass noodles, carrots, shiitake, napa cabbage, bean sprouts, and green onion. Season with salt.
Stir for a few minutes then add soy sauce and black pepper. Cook until just tender. Add additional salt to taste.
Mix potato starch with reserved shiitake soaking liquid (for added flavor).
Then pour over vegetables and stir until the mixture thickens slightly. Remove from heat. Let mixture cool.
To create the spring rolls, gently separate the wrappers and place one of the edge in front of you, putting the filling near the edge.
Start rolling it up.
Once you have rolled about halfway, fold in the sides like an envelope so that the fillings don’t fall out.
Use a bit of water and flour as adhesive to seal the edges together before you fry them.
Repeat until you have created all of the spring rolls.
In a small pot, add oil and heat over medium-high heat. Fry 2 to 3 harumaki at a time, about 30 to 40 seconds on each side until golden brown. The filling is already cooked, so it's just a matter of getting the wrappers fried.
Drain on a rack or paper towels.
Serve immediately while hot.
- Best if served on the same day. Reheated harumaki tend to become soggy but are best if reheated over a dry frying pan on medium heat.
- Make a mixture of soy sauce (shoyu) and hot mustard (karashi) as an optional dipping sauce.