Updated: May 10, 2019
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Are Harumaki Japanese? (What Are Spring Rolls?)


The Japanese word 'harumaki' (春巻き)translates to 'spring roll' in English, and refers to those deep-fried, crispy rolls filled with various vegetables and meat. But are spring rolls Japanese? And how are they different from egg rolls? Read on to find out more.

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So what, exactly, is a Harumaki?

Crispy exterior, juicy interior
Harumaki (春巻き)is the Japanese word for a popular, deep-fried Chinese food. In English, we call them spring rolls, which is a direct translation of the Chinese and Japanese words: 春 = spring; 巻き = roll.

A spring roll consists of a thin, wheat dough wrapper that is filled with various vegetables and meat, wrapped tightly into a roll, and deep-fried until the outside is crispy.

Where does the name come from?

Although a bit unclear, the origin of the name seems to point to the vegetables used in the rolls. Traditionally, vegetables that bud in the springtime such as bamboo shoots and Chinese chives were used as ingredients, and the rolls were supposedly eaten as a celebration of the coming of spring.
Chives, a traditional ingredient used in harumaki

Are spring rolls vegetarian?

Mmm, spicy pork spring rolls
Spring rolls are made using a variety of ingredients, so it isn't uncommon to find versions that are vegetarian. However, pork is a very common ingredient found in Chinese and Japanese spring rolls, so it would be best for vegetarians to check the ingredients before ordering spring rolls from a restaurant.

Is harumaki a Japanese food?

Chinese harumaki
As stated above, 'harumaki' is simply the Japanese word for the Chinese food. Although popular in Japan, harumaki are not considered to be Japanese, and are most likely to be found at Chinese restaurants.

What's the difference between a 'spring roll' and an 'egg roll'?

The thick, bubbly skin is a telltale sign of an egg roll
There is a lot of confusion around this point, particularly among Americans, many of whom are used to seeing egg rolls on the menu of Chinese restaurants. Egg rolls are actually a Chinese-American creation, and will not be found here in Japan or in China.

Although there is conflicting information on the web, it seems like the major difference between an egg roll and a spring roll is in the thickness of the wrapper. Spring rolls use very thin dough, whereas egg rolls use a thicker dough. If you look at the outside of an egg roll, you'll notice bubbles, which you won't see on a spring roll.
Spring rolls have a thin, crispy, delicate wrapper

One more type of spring roll

A Vietnamese Gỏi cuốn, sometimes called a 'spring roll' in English
Another item that is often called a 'spring roll' in western countries is the Vietnamese Gỏi cuốn, which uses a soft, transparent rice paper wrapper around fresh ingredients and is uncooked. These are also delicious, but unrelated to harumaki.

In closing

I hope that this article has been informative, and perhaps helped you to win an argument you were having with a friend. Now get out there and enjoy some crispy spring rolls!
I live in west Tokyo and spend my time thinking about food and going bouldering.

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