The smell of deep fried grease. An oversized fish tank. Dim lighting and loud chatter. It's the stereotypical, cheap chinese joint. The fast-food equivalent of Chinese food. It is the only thing I can think of when someone mentions Chinese food. I know, just as much as the next person, that there are cheap, fast-food-like restaurants in every culture. I also know some people love these restaurants. Fine by me, just not my choice. As you can imagine, I tend to stray from the overly greasy Chinese food, something I frequented one too many times as teenager on "date night" with my high school boyfriend (now husband). Unfortunately, this means I don't venture into the world of Chinese cooking. I should, I know I should. Yet when I think about stir-frying veggies, attempting Kung Pao chicken or beef and broccoli, my stomach recoils and I back away. One of my 2012 Goals is to cook (or learn to cook) food from various cultures; Chinese food being one of them. At the grocery store the other day, I grabbed a pack of egg roll wrappers, some bean sprouts, carrots and a few other vegetables and thought I would give egg rolls a try. You have to start somewhere, right? Baby steps, folks, baby steps. Completely underestimating myself, I set out to make an egg roll of sorts. Recalling the crunchiness of egg rolls and the taste of rice wine vinegar and soy sauce meshed together, this is the recipe I came up with. There is no ground pork. Instead, I used leftover roasted chicken that I ground finely in the food processor. The vegetables are pureed instead of shredded using a mandolin. The crunchiness doesn't stem from a deep fried roll, but rather from the carrots which are just lightly sauteed. I substituted regular romaine lettuce for cabbage, because that's what I had on hand. The result? Well the result was unexpectedly delicious. These rolls were the antithesis of what I hate about Chinese food. Oh, and the dipping sauce? That was just the cherry on top. I sat, watching Ides of March on TV, savoring the remnant flavors of these Baked Egg Rolls, with a twist, for hours to come. My first foray into Chinese food was filled with unexpected pleasure, delight, and an incredibly tasty (and really healthy) dinner. I guess this teaches me a lesson readers: don't judge a cuisine by its fast food equivalent, that is, until it has been cooked in my own kitchen.