As someone who grew up in the US eating American egg rolls, I was surprised when I bit into the Japanese version for the first time, and my mouth was greeted with a gush of flavorful juices. Harumaki, or Japanese spring rolls, are a variation of Chinese Chūn Juǎn (春卷), which have been adapted for the Japanese palate. Although anything wrapped in a spring roll wrapper is considered Harumaki here, the most common version is made by filling the wrapper with a stir-fry of vegetables and meat that's been bound together with a thick savory sauce.
Introducing liquids into a fried dish can be a bit tricky, but I've outlined a few tricks to help make it simpler.
Table of contents
Why This Recipe Works?
- An assortment of meat, vegetables, and mushrooms provides various textures and flavors that keep each bite of these spring rolls interesting.
- The inclusion of a starch thickened sauce in the filling makes these spring rolls juicy and flavorful on the inside while providing a nice contrast to the crispy shell on the outside.
- Wrapping the rolls loosely prevents them from bursting. It also helps keep the wrapper crispy for longer as the wrapper's outer layer is not in direct contact with the wet filling.
Ingredients for Harumaki
- Protein - The most common protein added to spring rolls in Japan is pork; however, this works with any ground meat, such as chicken or beef. Other options include seafood such as shrimp or scallops and plant-based options such as tofu or soy meat. When preparing the protein, it's important to season it along with some starch; this helps the protein retain its juices as it cooks. I've used soy sauce, mirin, and white pepper to season my pork.
- Aromatics - There's a lot of leeway on the aromatics you add to Harumaki, but ginger, along with a member of the allium family, are the most common additions. I've used scallion stems in this recipe, but yellow onions, shallots, or garlic chives are viable options.
- Vegetables - Japanese spring rolls include various vegetables, and there isn't a hard and fast rule about what to add. I generally like to select an assortment of vegetables that will contribute both color and texture to the roll. For this recipe, I'm using cabbage, carrots, and bamboo shoot. The cabbage and carrots add sweetness and color to the rolls, while the bamboo adds a nice texture.
- Mushrooms - This is optional, but I like adding flavorful mushrooms such as shiitake or maitake to my Harumaki. I also sometimes add textural mushrooms such as wood ear or eryngi. The former contains high concentrations of GMP, which enhances the taste of umami in the filling. The latter adds a nice meaty texture to the rolls, particularly if you plan on making this plant-based. If you can't find fresh ones, hydrated dried shiitake mushrooms will work too.
- Gravy - Japanese-style spring rolls generally include a starch-thickened sauce that's made with some stock. For my version, I include chicken stock, potato starch, toasted sesame oil, and salt. You can substitute any broth for the chicken stock. I generally recommend using potato starch over corn starch because it doesn't get as gummy as cornstarch, but cornstarch will work if that's all you can get. Toasted sesame oil has a beautiful nutty fragrance and is added for flavor. As for the salt, the amount you'll need depends on how salty your stock is.
- Wrappers - Japanese spring roll wrappers are like thin square crepes that have been precooked; however, any thin spring roll wrapper will work.
How to Make Harumaki Filling
Before you start cooking, make sure you have all the ingredients prepared and ready to use as parts of the process are time-sensitive. If you need more specific instructions on how to chop everything, check out the video below.
The first thing you want to do is marinate the ground pork with soy sauce, mirin, potato starch, and white pepper. Just add the ingredients to a bowl and mix everything until it's evenly combined.
You'll also want to combine the chicken stock, one tablespoon of potato starch, and sesame oil together.
Put a large frying pan over medium-high heat and then add the oil, ginger, and scallion stems. Stir-fry the mixture until it's fragrant (about 2 minutes), but don't let it brown at this point.
Add the carrots, bamboo, cabbage, and shiitake mushrooms and stir-fry the mixture until the vegetables are vibrant in color and start to become tender (about 3 minutes). Be sure to keep everything moving around the pan so that nothing burns.
Push the vegetables to the edge of the pan to make space in the center. Add the marinated pork into this spot and use a spatula to crumble it up. As the meat cooks, mix it in with the vegetables.
When the pork is mostly cooked through, give the chicken stock mixture a stir to reincorporate any settled starch and pour it into the pan. Let this cook until the sauce thickens and the pork is fully cooked.
Give the filling a taste and add salt as needed. My chicken stock was relatively low-sodium, so I added ¼ teaspoon of salt, but it will depend on how salty your stock is.
Let the spring roll filling cool before making the Harumaki. You can speed this up by spreading the filling onto a metal tray and then putting the tray in a bigger tray that's filled with cold water. You could also pop it in the freezer for a few minutes.
How to Roll Harumaki
While you wait for the filling to cool, mix the flour and water to make a smooth paste. This will act as a glue to seal your Harumaki shut. You'll also want to take the time to separate the wrappers. These dry out pretty fast, so work quickly and keep them covered with a damp dishtowel.
When the filling has cooled down, use a pastry scraper, a chopstick, or your finger to divide it into ten even segments; this makes it easier to make your rolls about the same size. Now is a good time to start preheating about 1.5-inches of oil in a heavy-bottomed pot to 360 degrees F (180 C)
To roll the Harumaki, put a wrapper on a clean work surface with a corner facing you. Add a segment of filling to the center of the lower half of the wrapper (the half closest to you).
Pick up the corner of the wrapper closest to you and roll it up and over the filling and roll it until you reach the halfway point. Fold the two flaps on the sides towards the center of the roll.
Apply some flour glue to the wrapper's top edges like you would if you were sealing an envelope and then loosely roll up the remainder of the wrapper. I usually do this by rolling it with the tip of a finger lodged in each end of the roll. This will help prevent the roll from bursting as it fries. It also creates some separation between the wrapper's inner layer and the outer layer, which helps keep the roll crispy until you eat it. Repeat with the rest of the wrappers and filling.
Before you start frying, prepare a deep bowl by lining it with three sheets of paper towels. The idea is to stand the spring rolls upright so the oil that has entered the roll can drain out of one end.
To fry the Harumaki, carefully add a few to the preheated oil. You don't want to overcrowd the pan, or it won't be easy to flip them over. Fry the Japanese spring rolls while rolling them around until the wrapper crisps and turn golden brown; this will take about 3-4 minutes.
Allow the excess oil to drain the rolls by standing up in the prepared bowl for about a minute before serving.
Serve it With
Harumaki is a popular appetizer at Chinese restaurants in Japan, and unlike American egg rolls, they're usually not served with a dipping sauce. That being said, some people like eating Harumaki with karashi or spicy Japanese mustard.
Other Japanese-Chinese Recipes
Both Harumaki and American-Chinese-style spring rolls are based on the Chinese dish Chūn Juǎn (春卷). In Japan, the definition of Harumaki is pretty broad, and anything that's wrapped in a spring roll wrapper and fried is considered Harumaki. That being said, the most iconic filling for Japanese spring rolls involves an assortment of vegetables and protein that are sautéed and then cooked with a savory gravy. On the other hand, Chinese-American spring rolls generally do not include gravy inside the roll, and they are usually served with sweet and sour dipping sauce on the side.
Harumaki is a 4-syllable word and is pronounced as follows:
ha like honk
ru the “ru” sound does not exist in the English language and is like if you tried to pronounce "ruse" with the tip of your tongue at the front of your mouth.
ma like mall
ki like key
This recipe includes ground pork and chicken stock; however, it is easily converted to a plant-based dish by substituting my vegetarian ground meat for the ground pork and vegetable stock for the chicken stock.
Because the ingredients on the inside are already cooked, you just need to crisp the wrapper. That's why I recommend frying these at 360 F (180 C).
For Harumaki filling
- 150 grams ground pork
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon mirin
- 2 teaspoons potato starch
- ⅛ teaspoon white pepper
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 10 grams ginger (¼-inch knob, minced)
- 75 grams scallions stems (2-3 stems minced)
- 175 grams cabbage (3-4 leaves, shredded)
- 50 grams carrots (⅓ carrot, julienned)
- 50 grams shiitake (2 large mushrooms, chopped)
- 100 grams bamboo (1 small can, julienned)
- 1 cup low sodium chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon potato starch
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- Salt (to taste, I used ¼ teaspoon)
- 10 spring roll wrappers
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1 tablespoon water
- vegetable oil (for deep-frying)
- Marinate the pork by mixing it with the soy sauce, mirin, 2 teaspoons of potato starch, and white pepper until the ingredients are evenly distributed.
- In a separate bowl, mix the chicken stock, 1 tablespoon of potato starch, and sesame oil.
- Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the oil, ginger, and scallion stems and saute for about two minutes until the aromatics are fragrant.
- Add the remaining vegetables to the pan and stir-fry the mixture until they're cooked through (about 3 minutes).
- Make space in the center of the pan by pushing the veggies to the sides. Add the pork and use a spatula to break it up into small crumbs. When the ground meat is no longer one mass, stir-fry it together with the vegetables until the pork is mostly cooked through.
- Stir the chicken stock mixture and pour it into the pan. Stir everything together until the pork is fully cooked. Give it a taste and add salt as needed to season (I added ¼ teaspoon).
- The filling needs to cool before you can stuff the Harumaki, and you can speed this up by spreading the mixture in a metal tray and floating it in a cold water bath.
- While the filling cools, mix the flour and water to make a smooth "glue" that you're going to use to seal the rolls shut. Separate the wrapper sheets and keep them covered with a damp towel to keep them from drying out and getting brittle.
- After the filling has cooled to room temperature, I recommend using a tool such as a bench scraper or chopstick to divide the filling into 10 even segments.
- To assemble the Harumaki, place a wrapper with a corner pointing towards you. Add one segment of filling to the middle of the lower half of the wrapper.
- Roll the corner closest to you, up and over the filling, and then continue rolling until you reach the halfway point.
- Fold the two flaps on either side of the filling towards the center.
- Spread some of the flour glue onto the wrapper's top edges and then loosely finish rolling the Harumaki. I usually put the tips of two fingers into either end of the roll as I roll it.
- Line a bowl or wide cup with 3 sheets of paper towels. This will be used to drain the spring rolls in an upright position, so you want something that's deep enough to hold the rolls standing up but wide enough that the rolls aren't overcrowded.
- Heat a heavy-bottomed pot filled with 1.5-inches of oil to 360 degrees F (180 C) and fry the rolls in batches. They will float, so you need to continue rolling them over so they brown evenly. When the wrapper is crisp, transfer the rolls to the prepared bowl and drain them for a minute before serving them.
- Be careful when you eat them as the center is going to be scorching hot.