Spring rolls has become such an international hit, transmigrating across borders and communities. I mean, surely everyone loves a piping hot filling wrapped in a crunchy outer layer and dipped in luscious sauce?
Who doesn’t? I could go for some myself at the local Chinese restaurant right now. The love for springroll has seen many cultures take inspo, take our American buddies when they created their own hybrid called the Egg Roll.
So what does Chinese, chicken and hot chics have to do with our Aussie Springroll? Let’s find out!
Some of you may have recognised the ancient, yellow, egg battered log that is the Chiko roll because it surely has become the iconic snack of sporting stadiums or at gas stations out in the middle of no-where. Whether you have heard it, seen it or perhaps, ate it out of desperation (or love it, no judgement here), the Aussie-Chinese fusion snack has been around and still hankers on today #classic
The history of the Chiko Roll is deeply rooted in the 50s sporting scene. Legend says that Frank McEnroe, a boilermaker and catering entrepreneur decided to take on his competitor when he saw a Chinese shop selling out on ‘chop suey rolls’. He saw an opportunity to one up the regular spring rolls but with a twist.
The original deep fried snack had a delicate outer wrapping which made it light and crispy but fragile at the same time while The Chiko’s thick outer batter made it more sturdier and therefore easier to hold. Chiko fever soon took over stadiums and it was sold in most places. As the demand for the snack rose, it was quickly industrialized by factories who made them in batches of 12 metre long logs to be distributed at local milkbars and supermarkets.
The roll then sailed over seven seas (or maybe just one) to land in Japan. How the Japanese people took to the Asian inspired but Aussie turned treat, we’d never know fully but it did sell up to 1 million units in its heyday, definitely a clear attribute to its fad overseas.
Even more oddly, you’d be forgiven in assuming that chicken would be the main ingredient as the name suggests but the roll has none of that, rather it is beef and minced vegetables that is used as the filling. Even more surprising was that it wasn’t the taste of the roll - greasy, fatty and salty - that made it a winning treat, rather ….oh yes *wolf whistles*… it was the ‘Chiko Chicks’ that launched the sails of into ‘snackdom’.
The muted posters of voluptuous women holding the roll became part of the brand but it was the 80s iteration of the ads that became legendary. The quintessential leather clad woman straddling on top of a Harley bike while holding the roll… somewhat...suggestively... in their hands, lined the walls of fish’n’chips shops all around Australia heralding as the iconography of the times.
I suppose that’s what put the CHIK in the CHIKOS (ba-dun-dunce!). Hahaha, takers anyone? No? Tough crowd tonight.
So although the Chikos and Chics recipe haven’t changed since its creation, the social mores have. With the rise of Feminism and a health conscious lifestyle, the sales diminished but in 2012 Sydney chef Daniel Hong brought the snack back into the limelight with his “Milkbar memories” exhibition.
Today, even as I pass the freezer aisle in Woolies, the Chiko Roll is still there amongst the assortment of other frozen goodies serving us as nostalgic memorabilia of the golden 50s and of course, its asian origins.
But for now, I'll leave you with this disturbing blast from the past... need a hand?
Bio: Sidney Boen is an energetic 1st gen Indo-Chinese Aussie with a penchant for food. She’s going into her last year in her Bachelor of Digital and social media with her eyes set on the marketing world. Loving food and travel with a voracious appetite for media and writing, she’s always out for the next interesting read. Currently working as part of the ABC News program team and a contributor to UTS Central News.