Gingered sweet potato spring roll with sesame-fried cabbage and a coconut-chilli cream


We were making and selling these like proverbial hot cakes for a few weeks when I accidentally brought back some rice flour pastry sheets from the market. They were dried and had to be moistened all over before use (we didn’t get that information from the pack, which, clearly, was never meant to be exported). This doubled the messiness of the job, and the time spent on it, something for which I wasn’t thanked. But everyone agreed that they were worth it, so we stuck with them, until the supply ran out. Wheat flour pastry works very well too, but try to buy a brand that has only flour, water and salt in the ingredients. Using egg white to seal the rolls instead of water, or a paste made from water and cornflour, will give you an added sense of security, especially if you choose to deep fry instead of a gentler shallow fry. We usually serve one of these as a starter on a dinner menu, though a bigger portion makes a great lunch. The quantities here are for eight spring rolls, enough for eight starters or four main courses.

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For Eight Rolls

  • 1 large onion, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tsps grated ginger
  • 1 small Thai chilli, chopped or ground
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds, ground
  • 400 g sweet potato
  • 2 tsps lemon juice
  • 2 tsps shoyu
  • 1 tblspn chopped fresh coriander
  • 8 spring roll pastry sheets

For the Coconut-Chilli Cream

  • 200 mls soured cream or yoghurt
  • 2-4 tsps sambal oelek
  • a little chopped fresh coriander
  • 200 mls coconut milk


FRY THE ONION WITH THE SPICES in a little cooking oil, until the onion softens. Meanwhile, peel the sweet potatoes and chop them into pieces about the length of matchsticks but twice as fat. Cook these in boiling water for two minutes until almost tender, drain them and transfer to the onion pan with the lemon, shoyu and fresh coriander. Cook for a few minutes more to fully soften the potato - it should become a little starchy and partly break up. Leave this to cool before filling the pastries.

Lay a sheet of pastry on a worktop, facing you as a diamond shape. Spread a hefty tablespoonful of the filling about two inches up from the base and about three inches long, then brush the edges of the pastry with water. Roll up the pastry one full turn before folding in the sides, then continue rolling all the way up. Repeat with the other pastry sheets.

In a frying pan, heat enough oil to come halfway up the spring rolls. Cook the rolls over a medium heat, turning them once or twice, until lightly browned and crisp. Drain the pastries on paper before serving them with a little pile of sesame-fried cabbage and some coconut-chilli cream and serve.

THE QUANTITIES FOR THIS VERY SIMPLE, brilliant, multi-purpose sauce are difficult to dictate. Basically, I would take a container (or half of one) of soured cream or yoghurt, stir in some sambal and lots of chopped fresh coriander, dilute with coconut milk to get a thick pouring consistency, and then check the chilli level - add either more sambal or soured cream to adjust it.