Day 6: Egg Roll from Hunan Chen’s Kitchen (1003 Columbus Avenue, 212-222-1118)
Little variety exists in egg rolls in Chinese takeout cuisine.
Typically, you get crackling, doughy cylinders filled with salty, peppered hot cabbage and crumbles of fatty ground pork. Sure, they’re delicious and satisfying, but not the most creative starter.
The uniformity you often encounter stems from the fact that a lot of these restaurants use a mass-produced, frozen version of this app.
They often get defrosted by thawing out in a refrigerator case — a lot of times, the one that holds the sodas, I’ve noticed — and then popped in the deep fryer when an order needs to be filled, so they still taste kinda fresh.
(The tendency to use some pre-packed foods also explains the homogeneity of many eateries’ dumplings and wontons).
At Hunan Chen, the egg rolls are actually made in-house.
The evidence? The cooks braise the pork in a bourbony glaze before stuffing it in the $1 roll — the tiny, almost candied, chunks of meat have an unexpected jazziness. Ultimately, the sweet porcine elements balance the savory leafy components quite well.