One of the things I love and miss the most about Sri Lankan cuisine is its myriad of utterly delicious short eats – better known as finger food or snacks elsewhere in the world. Most of these snacks are crispy, crunchy and golden (aka deep fried) and are so addictive. Out of the whole lot, cutlets have got to be one of my all time favourite – closely followed by Chinese rolls.
Now, living in a country with a vast Chinese population – I am often met with puzzled faces when I introduce this as a ‘Chinese Roll’ and none of my Chinese friends are able to relate to these delicious morsels.
However, my recent food gawking lead me to a very similar snack found in Indonesia called Risoles. Anyway, food history aside, here’s a step by step guide on how to whip up these delicious snacks – perfect for any time of the day!
Cast of Characters:
For the filling
- 200g of minced beef
- 1 medium potato – boiled, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 large onion and a couple of cloves of garlic
- Few curry leaves, a small tomato (optional) and green chillies
- Salt, pepper, chilli flakes, coriander and cumin powder
- Fresh coriander (optional)
- Squeeze of lemon
For the savoury crêpes
- 3 cups of flour
- A knob of melted butter (about 30g)
- 2 Eggs
- 1/2 cup of milk
- 2 – 3 cups of Water
- Bread crumbs
- Heat oil in a pan and sauté the chopped onions, garlic and the curry leaves till the onions softens
- Add in the minced meat, followed by all the spices and the chopped tomato.
- Once the meat has cooked, I like to add in a handful of fresh coriander to add a bit of freshness.
- Lastly stir in the mashed/cubed potato. For beef rolls specifically, I like to keep the meat to potato ratio low as I don’t like when the potatoes over shadow the taste and texture of the mince.
- Lastly taste for seasoning and round off the flavours with a squeeze of lemon juice
- Set aside to cool down
Note: You could always substitute the beef with minced chicken or with a tuna filling similar to what’s in a cutlet.
- Mix the flour, egg, melted butter, milk & water and whisk to form a smooth, lump free batter. The consistency of the batter should be somewhat similar to that of a pancake mixture – but slightly runnier. A simple hand whisk always ensures a lump free mixture.
- Season with a pinch of salt
Note: It is important to make the batter thin as a thick mixture would result in thick crêpes which would make the ‘roll’ thicker and more dough-y. So remember to take the water quantity as a guide and adjust accordingly.
To form the roll
- Heat a non stick (it is really essential to use a non stick pan for this!) pan under medium heat and ladle in a spoonful of the crêpe mixture in and swirl it around the same way you would to make an omelette.
- Cover immediately with a lid and let it cook. Covering the pan with a lid ensures that the crêpe gets cooked evenly on both sides plus it cooks it faster. This would take about a minute.
- Remove the crêpe from the pan, into a plate and immediately place a spoonful of the minced beef filling towards the end of the crêpe – in an elongated shape.
- Bring two sides of the crêpe towards the centre and start rolling to form a ‘roll’ shape as shown below.
- Just like my mom, I too find making the crêpe and immediately stuffing it with the minced beef mixture and rolling it while a second crêpe is cooking in the pan works best for me as it cuts down on waiting time between crêpes. But if you are a newbie and needs time to perfect the roll, do make one crêpe at a time. Also take note that I am known to have asbestos hands, but if you don’t – be mindful that the crêpes fresh out of the pan are obviously hot!
- Also I’ve noticed when making the rolls with crêpes fresh out of the pan, I did not have to seal the edges with a egg mixture. But if you feel the roll is not sealed properly at the end, you could seal the edge with an egg wash.
- I like to make a whole batch of rolls at one go and then start the crumbing process later so as to make it more efficient.
- For the crumb coating, simply beat an egg or two with 2 spoons of flour and some water to make a thick batter and set aside. You could simply use a beaten egg alone, but I find adding a bit of flour gives the batter some body and makes the bread crumbs stick to the rolls better.
- Next add breadcrumbs (I use panko) into a deep dish and set aside. I like to use a deep dish for the breadcrumbs as it lessens the amount of breadcrumbs that flies out to the counter top and makes cleaning a tad bit easier.
- Now, dip a roll in the flour and egg mixture and transfer it to the breadcrumbs to coat it well as shown below
- Lastly, heat up oil in a pan and deep fry the crumbed rolls till they are golden, crunchy and delicious! These are best enjoyed with chili sauce or ketchup – the true Lankan style.
I’d love to hear if you managed to make it 🙂
Suri Jay says
i have made it it is delicious. onlything i experience pancake breaks while rolling up.otherthan that all fine. love it
Oh no! Sad to hear that. Did you use a nonstick pan?
Dilanthi LaBrooy says
Whimsical Chef ! You are one of the best recepie writers I have come across. You answered all my questions and more. Thank you. Keep it up !
Thank you! You made my day :))
Carol Patrick says
Hi there. I’m a South African married to a Sri Lankan. Your recipes are a true lifesaver for me 😁 Just a quick question. If I use Chinese spring roll wrappers instead of pancakes will it work? Thank you
Aww thank you for letting me know. Sorry this reply is so late. Yup, it would I believe. But it might not be as soft.. Making the pancake is actually pretty easy – give it a go?
I’m on Instagram as @thewhimsicalchef, feel free to connect with me there cos I post and reply more regularly there.
Cherryl Duff-Tytler says
Just a comment on the origins of these Sri Lankan “Chinese” rolls (or Pan rolls in Australia!). As far as I know, they first appeared at the Hotel Nippon(Chinese or Japanese link?) in Colombo & were called Nippon rolls. This was back in the 60’s when I was a child! So that’s probably why they became “Chinese rolls”!!
Ohh how interesting! That actually makes some sense. Thanks for writing 🙂