It rarely comes up in her writing, which is more focused on contemporary food issues and politics, but Monica Eng of the Tribune got into food via her family's heritage— her grandfather had a dozen Chinese restaurants around the Chicago area from the 1930s to the 1980s. One of his cooks was his nephew, Tom Go, and Tom's widow Fanny, now in her eighties, is the subject of a piece on egg rolls— which she adeptly cranks out by the dozens according to the classic recipe developed for Grandpa Eng's restaurants. The egg roll, as it turns out, isn't a Chinese dish per se:
Though dim sum chefs in Hong Kong produce a similar snack called a spring roll, the egg roll, as we know it, is a creation of early Chinese-American restaurateurs who used local ingredients to create Chinese-ish foods that would appeal to American diners.
And by appeal to American diners, she means it added meat, but also what many know is the secret ingredient to a great egg roll:
Next comes her secret ingredient: a jar of creamy peanut butter, heated in a pan with some vegetable oil until it was liquid enough to be poured into the mixture.
Read it all and enjoy a few eggrolls from Aunt Fanny. [Tribune]