The rolls in all their glory
Egg rolls not spring rolls. The big fat kind with the crispy doughy wrapper, the kind that you walk down the street eating. For some reason walking down the street eating a spring roll just wouldn’t work, they’re just too dainty.
The only problem? They’re egg rolls. Thus all of the premade wrappers have egg in them. Unlike eggcreams which only threaten you with raw eggs and salmonella, egg rolls mean business and don’t ever come egg free. But what does this have to do with Joaquin Phoenix? Well, I’m sure you know that he’s vegan and I’m sure that makes you write his name on your looseleaf in glitterpen surrounded by a heart. His wardrobe for Walk The Line was pleather, right down to the boots. And in his new movie, Two Lovers, he needed to be walking down the street in Coney Island eating an egg roll. I just happened to have the awesome luck of being in the right family and the right borough. My cousin, a set designer for the movie, called and asked if I could make life like vegan egg rolls for Joaquin. Of course I said, “No problem!”, or more, like “Hell, yes!” and “Swooooooon.”
But I didn’t know how difficult it would be.
Getting the dough just right was the biggest challenge. It needed to be have those signature air bubbles, not the flaky smoothness of a spring roll, so premade wrappers were out of the question. (Well, actually, I tried and it didn’t work.) This necessitated that I make the dough from scratch.
My first try was just a recipe I found on the internet, sans the huevos. That resulted in big brown air bubbles that just didn’t look right. My next try was messing with the texture. I thought that rice flour might give it a grittiness and cornstarch would add a uniform crispiness. I added a tiny bit of oil to compensate for the fat an egg would provide. Finally, I added a little baking powder in hopes that it would make the smaller air bubbles I was looking for. And it worked! Only a little too well. My egg roll looked like it had small pox.
Ultimately I decreased the baking powder and was blessed with little bundles of perfect Chinese take out egg rolls. Getting the heat right proved to be a pain in the butt, as did rolling out each paper thin wrapper individually. I had to fry each separately because I don’t have a deep fryer and it was the only way it would really work. Because of all this, and because deep frying makes your apartment smell so terrible, I’m not even going to share the recipe. It took me 3 hours after experimenting with the dough to make the two dozen that the props department requested. Unless it’s for Joaquin Phoenix, it really just isn’t worth it.
Upon delivering, I didn’t even get to meet him. He was right there, 15 feet in front of me, but he was filming a scene. I left a Veganomicon for him with a terrible inscription (“Dear Joaquin, Yay veganism!” if you must know). But I was happy to be a small part of it and I hope to be able to do more work for them, even if it does make my kitchen smell like a morgue for 2 days.
That’s him to in the dark tan hoodie jacket. He’s filming something, not buying drugs. I think.