Growing up, there were special dishes that were served as a treat during special family gatherings, particularly weddings. These Chinese ‘Hoi Sin Goon’, literally translated to ‘Seafood Rolls’ were one of them. There would only ever be enough for one per person and each time I would have to resist the temptation of taking the ones from guests who were running late!
These golden rolls are filled with lightly seasoned prawns and scallops then wrapped in a very delicate layer of caul fat (if you’re wondering what that is then I, too, had no idea until Dad taught me this recipe). As a child, I never understoof how the outside stayed so crispy without anything to really wrap the exterior with.
That was until I learnt about caul fat.
Hold on, what IS caul fat?
Don’t let the name frighten you. Caul fat is a thin and lacey lining that encases an animal’s organs. When used as a wrap and cooked, it adds moisture AND brings out a flavour that no other wrap alternative can. This bonus added flavour comes from the rendering of fat, resembling a mild bacon taste.
I’ll be honest – it can be hard to find caul fat at your butcher’s (I once went to around five different stores before I found one that had some frozen in stock) but the delicious flavour caul fat adds to any recipe is very difficult to replace.
I wouldn’t be disheartened, though! There are specialty butchers who sell it online (just a quick search will suffice) and you can have it delivered straight to your door. All you have to do is let is thaw before use.
Seafood roll filling ingredients:
For the wrapping:
- 500 g caul fat (thawed)
- Egg whites (optional)
- Potato starch
How to make the seafood rolls
To begin prepping for the filling and wrap, give the seafood and caul fat a wash and let it rest on a colander or pat dry with a paper towel. The caul fat can be left to dry in a heap because you’ll stretch it out later on.
Season the seafood filling with salt, sugar, chicken powder, potato starch and oil. Give the mixture a stir until the seasoning has been mixed in well. That’s it for the filling! Super easy, right?
The next step is a little more delicate, but once you get into the rhythm of it, it’ll be just like rolling spring rolls. To save yourself from vigorously cleaning, Dad showed me a neat trick that works especially well with this recipe: line your work space with glad wrap and place a wooden chopping board on top. This will now act as your wrapping station.
Take a part of a the caul fat and spread it across the chopping board. It’s okay if it goes past the edge and lays on the glad wrap – that’s what it was for. Try to line the end of the caul fat with the side of the board. It won’t be perfect, but the closer it is, the easier it will be for the next few steps.
Scoop two tablespoons of seasoned seafood filling and place it in a line on top of the caul fat. Make it as thick or thin as you like.
The next step requires a little visualisation. You need to draw an imaginary rectangle around the filling but make sure that there is enough caul fat for you to wrap the seafood. If you’ve ever wrapped Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls or Spring Rolls, the concept is very much the same.
Once you’ve done your imagining, run a sharp knife along your visualised rectangle until it is completely separate from the original piece.
Begin wrapping the seafood using the caul fat as you would a spring roll. My biggest tip would be to wrap everything tightly so that when it comes time to deep fry the rolls, there won’t be any parts coming out. Occasionally, the thin caul fat might tear. The simple solution is to just roll it in another layer of caul fat.
How to wrap the seafood rolls
Lift the bottom part of the caul fat up to cover the seafood filling.
Fold the left side of the caul fat in, making sure there is no empty space to the left of the seafood. Repeat on the right hand side.
Roll the wrapped seafood upwards until you have formed a roll.
That’s the hardest part done! Once you’ve wrapped all of the filling, lightly coat each roll in a thin layer of potato starch. The potato starch will give it that nice crunch. Gently shake any excess off.
To make your exterior have a crispy and fluffy look, you can also coat the rolls in egg whites just before they go in the fryer. This is optional though, and I’d say it’s down to personal preference.
Pour oil into a skillet, pan, pot or wok and heat it up to a medium to high heat. Deep fry them in batches for about 3-4 minutes (or until the centre is cooked) and serve the fresh seafood rolls with whole egg mayonnaise.
Best to enjoy them while they’re still hot!