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The final challenge for a recent "Master Chef" was to make Spring rolls. It seemed to me that they were really making egg rolls (had I ordered it at any restaurant I've ever been to--chinese, vietnamese, thai, etc).

What is the difference between a Spring Roll and an Egg Roll?

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Can't speak to definitions in Chinese cuisine, but the Vietnamese family I used to more or less live with explained the difference (from their perspective) as that egg rolls have meat, while spring rolls don't. –  Kaji Jul 9 at 7:36
    
It's in the wrapper. They mostly looked like spring rolls to me (restaurants around here would call them that), but the contestants made their own dough, so it may have been heterogeneous. –  goldilocks Jul 9 at 15:11
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3 Answers 3

春卷 (Chūnjuǎn, Spring rolls) are julienned vegetables, sometimes with a bit of noodles, sometimes with a bit of minced meat, wrapped with a flour dough skin and pan- or deep-fried. They are a filled roll.

You can see the different varieties by country here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spring_roll

Spring roll: Spring roll

鸡蛋卷 (Jīdàn juǎn, Egg rolls) are many different things around the world. In Chinese communities, these typically refer to a sweet biscuit type roll, of hollow flaky egg pastry (not filled.) However, there is also another variety (common in American Chinese cuisine) where a flour dough wrap is filled with "pork, shrimp, or chicken, adding cabbage, carrots, bean sprouts and other vegetables, and then deep fried." In the American Chinese respect, I believe it is very similar to a Spring roll really, although the flour dough looks thicker and of a different composition than a typical Spring roll (the dough bubbles when deep-fried, with Spring roll skin it does not.)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egg_roll

Sweet egg roll: Sweet egg roll

American Chinese egg roll: Egg roll

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If you're talking about American-"Chinese" cuisine, there may be a different distinction: Vietnamese spring rolls are always wrapped in rice paper, and are commonly sold as just plain "Spring Rolls", whereas "Egg Roll" is more common for the Chinese-style roll made with an egg-based batter (pictured in setek's answer).

While it would not be wrong to call an egg-batter-based roll a "spring roll" per se, it would definitely be wrong to call these types of rolls "egg rolls" since they do not contain eggs. These rolls also tend to be made vegetarian or with shrimp only, rather than having pork or chicken.

Vietnamese Gỏi cuốn ("Spring roll"):

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Vietnamese Nem rán ("Fried Spring Roll") (Note that this uses the same kind of wrapper as the above, but fried):

enter image description here

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There's lots of different types of things that are called spring rolls in Asian cuisine. these can be fried or not fried, usually with some sort of rice flour based wrapper. Typically, egg rolls are always fried, larger and made with a wheat flour wrapper.

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