I won’t associate it with any cuisine. It’s Asian because spring rolls are Asian, but stuffing chilies with cheese is not traditionally Asian. Perhaps, these spring rolls can be labeled as modern Asian. Or fusion. The truth is, who really cares? They are deliriously good and that’s what should matter.
What’s crucial here is that the cheese does not soften too fast during frying. You want it soft and gooey when you bite into a spring roll, so you don’t want it to ooze out of the wrapper while still in the frying pan.
It is, therefore, important to seal the cheese-stuffed chili well. I have a special technique, it’s described below but, first, a couple of tips.
The right length of chili vis a vis the size of the wrapper
Ideally, the length of the chilies should be such that they can be wrapped with half of a spring roll wrapper. If the chilies are longer, cut off the bottom ends.
Finger chilies are used here because their heat is milder and because they’re just the right size. Unless you want maximum heat, it is a good idea to scrape off the seeds and membranes around them. That’s where the most of the heat is. With the seeds and membranes gone, you have more space for your cheese.
Tip for using soft or semi-soft cheese
What cheese is ideal really depends on the result you’re aiming for. Most people I know will want maximum gooeyness so the logical choice would be mozzarella. The thing about mozzarella is that it softens too fast and might ooze out of the wrapper before it has had a chance to brown properly. Is there a workaround? Yes, there is.
Freezing. The key is freezing. Take your cheese, cut into sticks, toss in a little flour, arrange on a tray and stick in the freezer for about thirty to forty minutes before stuffing the chilies.
Tip to avoid the cheese from seeping out during frying
When the chilies have been stuffed, you wrap them. I like to leave the tops of the chilies exposed so everyone knows the filling is chili.
In Asia, fried spring rolls are not dipped in egg nor coated with flour. But this is a fusion dish and the cheese needs a bit of help not to ooze out. So, after dipping the uncooked spring roll in egg, pick it up by grabbing the stem of the chili. While it is upright, use a teaspoon to scoop egg and pour into the open top of the wrapper. That’s the first step in sealing the cheese.
Now, roll the wet spring roll in flour. Again, holding the spring roll by the stem of the chili, sprinkle flour into the open top of the wrapper. You have now sealed in the cheese. Repeat until all the spring rolls have been coated in egg and flour. You’re now ready to fry your spring rolls.
Cheese-stuffed chili spring rolls
- Rinse the chilies and pat dry with a kitchen towel.
- Slit each chili vertically to create a pocket.
- Optionally, using a teaspoon or a blunt knife with a round tip, carefully scrape out the seeds and membranes.
- Sprinkle the inside of the chilies lightly with salt.
- Cut the cheese into bars small enough to fit snugly inside the chilies.
- Stuff the cheese into the chilies. Be generous.
- Start heating the cooking oil in a frying pan.
- Lay a cheese-stuffed chili on a triangle of spring roll wrapper and wrap.
- Dip each spring roll in the beaten egg.
- Dredge the spring rolls in flour or starch.
- Fry the spring rolls in hot oil (350F is the ideal frying temperature if you use a thermometer — I don’t) until golden and crisp.
- Serve the cheese-stuffed chili spring rolls at once.