I will never forget how my father waited patiently on the living room sofa as my mother frantically fried dozens and dozens of egg rolls for his work holiday party. It was around midnight because my dad worked the night shift. It was the one time of the year that my father, who was probably the most introverted and socially awkward employee at the United States Postal Service, became the most popular man at the office. The holiday party wasn't complete without my mom's egg rolls. I've used my mother's egg rolls to win over grumpy teachers and colleagues alike, and even my own mother-in-law declared them to be worthy of attempted bribery.
Technique tip: It's important to roll the egg rolls as tightly as possible (while not ripping them) to prevent the filling from getting too greasy when you fry the egg rolls. Another tip is to add a bit more salt or seasoning than you think is necessary. Otherwise, the flavor can get buried in the wrapping.
Press the tofu for about 10 minutes to remove excess liquid.2.
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and sesame oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, onion, kimchi, scallion and mushroom. Season with salt and pepper and cook until the onions turn translucent, 2 to 3 minutes.3.
Add the soy sauce to deglaze the pan and stir the vegetables so they are evenly coated with sauce. Remove the onion-mushroom mixture from the pan and place in a large bowl.4.
Add a little more olive oil to the pan and then add the carrots, celery and potatoes. Season with the salt and pepper, and cook until the carrots soften, about 3 minutes. Transfer the carrots to the large bowl with the onion-mushroom mixture.5.
Add a little more olive oil to the pan and cook the cabbage until it begins to soften, about 2 minutes. Transfer the cabbage to the bowl of vegetables.6.
In a large food processor, combine all the sautéed vegetables (or in batches, if necessary) and the cooked vermicelli. Pulse 7 to 10 times, until the vegetables are chopped (but not ground into a paste). Return the vegetables to the large bowl.7.
Pat dry the pressed tofu and crumble it into the large bowl of vegetables using a fork. Place the bowl in the refrigerator until you are ready to wrap the egg rolls.8.
Place an egg roll wrapper on a work surface so that it is positioned as a diamond (not a square) with a point facing you. Using the back of a small spoon or your fingers, wet the edges with a little water. Spoon 2 healthy spoonfuls of filling onto the wrapper. Lift the bottom corner up and over the filling and press down to seal. Then, bring both the left and right corners into the center and while holding them in place, roll upward until the top is sealed, just like an envelope. Repeat to make more rolls until the filling is used up.9.
Pour 4 inches of vegetable oil into a deep-fryer or large cast-iron pan. Heat the oil to about 350 F (use a thermometer or test by throwing a little bit of leftover filling into the oil — if it immediately sizzles, you are ready to fry). Line a plate with paper towels and have nearby.10.
Working in batches of two to three at a time (do not crowd the pan), add the egg rolls to the hot oil and cook both sides until they are a deep golden-brown, about 3 minutes on each side. Drain them on the paper towel–lined plate.11.
When all egg rolls have been fried, fry them again for about 30 seconds on each side. This time, you don't need to worry about overcrowding.12.
Serve plain or with sweet and sour sauce.