Kitchen & Pantry

On ampao and Chinese peanut rolls

They are not spring rolls as there is no filling. My grandfather called them lo hoa but it seems that not too many people knew them by that name. I had a friend in law school who called them ampao and, I thought, how utterly silly as ampao is totally different — pressed rather than rolled then cut into squares or rectangles… they are similar to flapjacks, actually. But what’s in a name, really? Who was it that said that a rose would still be a rose even if you call it something else…?

Today, these Chinese delicacies are known as peanut rolls. Which is really a misnomer because the coating does not always consist of crushed peanuts. Sometimes, it’s puffed rice; other times, it’s sesame seeds. They are sweet, slightly chewy, slightly sticky and almost hollow. Whatever the proper name is (I’m sure there is a proper Chinese name and I just wish I knew), I love them.

How should I describe the experience of eating them?

When you bite into one, it collapses. Seriously, because there’s not much inside except those white light airy flakes which I can best describe as bits of rice paper. You know, like the small circles of bread they give Catholics during communion?

And when you bite, you have to pull off the remainder away from you a bit because, like I said, the thing is slightly chewy. There is a vague resistance before the piece that you bit off totally separates from the rest. And then you savor the rich peanut flavor — sweet and faintly crunchy.

You may know them by some other name but if, like me, you grew up with them, chances are you love them too.

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