Fusion food is back and better than ever — and if you need proof, look no further than the spring roll at Little Havana’s music mecca Ball & Chain, an appetizer marrying the best of Chinese and Cuban flavors.
“We currently get to enjoy a world that embraces different cultures and styles,” says GM Alexandro Del Bosque Garcia of the dish’s inspiration. “We wanted to embrace cuisine that also showed that and married two different styles to enhance the flavors.”
Creating the dish, according to co-owner Zack Bush, stemmed from a desire to “try something new with traditional Cuban fare” and, above all, “add a unique twist.”
The appetizer is best begun at least a day in advance, which gives you more than enough time to prep the pulled pork. Boneless pork shoulder is seasoned generously with lime juice and a rub combining cumin, smoked paprika, onion, chili, garlic and a touch of brown sugar. The pork cooks in a low, slow oven for five hours until pull-apart tender, at which point it’s shredded and rolled into spring roll wrappers along with ham, Swiss cheese and pickles.
While at Ball & Chain, according to Del Bosque Garcia, the rolls are prepped the day of and fried to order, there are a few natural stopping points in this recipe that make it a cinch to cook for a crowd. The pulled pork will hold for a few days in the fridge, and even the rolls can be assembled and chilled so that you can simply fry and enjoy with your guests.
The resulting rolls are lovely on their own, but at Ball & Chain, they’re served with a mustard aioli dipping sauce made by whisking together whole grain mustard, mayo and a touch of garlic for added complexity. The resulting crispy morsels, according to Bush, are lovely on their own, but they’re a particularly perfect pair with the house mojito. “It pairs well with everything!” he says.
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Cuban Spring Roll
For the pulled pork
- 2 boneless pork shoulders
- 2 yellow onions, large diced
- 4 jumbo carrots, large diced
- 1 head celery, large diced
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 4 ounces (½ cup) lime juice
- 2 ounces (½ cup) ground cumin
- 2 ounces (scant ½ cup) onion powder
- 3 ounces (¾ cup) smoked paprika
- 3 ounces (¾ cup) chili powder
- 3 ounces (scant ½ cup) brown sugar
- 2 ounces (6 tablespoons) garlic powder
- 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) salt
For the spring rolls
- 8 spring roll wrappers
- 1 pound sliced ham
- 16 slices Swiss cheese
- 16 pickle slices
- 1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- Preheat the oven to 250º F. Rinse the pork shoulder in cold water, and pat dry with paper towel.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the ingredients for the spice rub. Set aside.
- Place the pork shoulders in a large roasting pan, and add the lime juice. Rub all over the meat and skin.
- Rub the dry spices into the pork shoulder to cover.
- Place the onion, carrot, celery and cilantro in a large roasting pan and set aside. Sear the pork shoulders on all sides, then place on top of the vegetables. Cover with foil and bake for five hours.
- After five hours, remove the foil and increase the oven temperature to 450º F for 35 minutes, until the skin gets crispy. Remove from the pan, then set aside on a wire rack to cool. Shred the meat and set aside.
- When ready to build the spring rolls, preheat the frying oil to 350º F in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Build the spring rolls by layering first the ham, then two ounces pulled pork, then the cheese, and finally the pickles on top of the spring roll wrappers. Fold like a burrito and seal with egg wash.
- Fry the spring rolls in batches for three to four minutes, until golden brown.
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