Crispy Beggar’s Purses


The sweet and sour sauce can he made a day in advance, chilled and brought to room temperature before serving. Wrappers are now widely available, making this treat even easier to prepare. There are two types of wrappers. The Cantonese-style uses a smooth noodle-type dough and results in a heavier wrapper, while the Shanghai-style, which I prefer, is more like rice paper, translucent and lighter.


  • 1 packet spring roll skins, preferably the Shanghai-type
  • 25 g (1 oz) cloud ear fungus or Chinese black mushrooms
  • 100 g (4 oz) beanthread (transparent) noodles
  • 350 g (12 oz) raw prawns, peeled and coarsely minced
  • 100 g (4 oz) minced pork
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons finely chopped spring onions
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander
  • 2 teaspoons Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten

For the Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce

  • 150 ml (5 fl oz) water
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Chinese white rice vinegar or cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons tomato puree or tomato ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cornflour mixed with 2 teaspoons water
  • 2 teaspoons chilli flakes or powder
  • 8 spring onions, green parts only, blanched or microwaved on full power for 15 seconds
  • 600 ml (1 pint) groundnut or vegetable oil for deep-frying


If frozen, thaw the spring roll skins thoroughly. Soak the fungus or mushrooms in warm water for 20 minutes. If using the fungus, finely shred, cutting off and discarding any hard ends. If using the Chinese mushrooms, squeeze out the excess liquid. Remove and discard the stems and finely chop the caps. Soak the noodles in a large bowl of warm water for 15 minutes. When soft, drain and discard the water. Cut into 7.5-cm (3-in) lengths.

Put the prawns and pork in a large bowl, add salt and pepper and mix well. Then add the rest of the ingredients, noodles and fungus or mushrooms and stir them well into the prawn and pork mixture. Wrap the bowl with cling film and chill it for at least 20 minutes.

Place all the ingredients for the sweet and sour sauce, except the cornflour mixture and chilli in a pan. Bring to the boil, stir in the cornflour mixture and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the chilli flakes. Allow to cool and set aside.

When you are ready to stuff the wontons, put 2 tablespoons of the filling in the centre of each spring roll skin. Dampen the edges with a little water and bring up the sides of the skin around the filling. Pinch edges together at the top so the dumpling looks like a small, filled bag. Tie with a spring onion. Continue, to use up all the filling.

Heat a wok over high heat. Add the oil and, when it is moderately hot, add a handful of dumplings and deep-fry for 3 minutes until golden and crispy. If the oil get too hot, turn it down slightly. Drain on kitchen paper and fry the remaining dumplings. Serve immediately with the sweet and sour sauce.