The first time I tasted lumpia was at my wedding reception when I married my first husband. One of my stepdad's co-workers made dozens of this delicious Filipino version of the egg roll and I was instantly hooked. It was 1981 and I wasn't exactly an adventurous eater; I doubt if I had ever even tried an egg roll, but these crispy little pork-filled rolls, which looked a lot like taquitos, won me over with a single bite.
It wasn't until a few years later that I got another chance to taste these savory little rolls of goodness. My sister-in-law made a batch for a small family gathering and I watched and listened, but wasn't much of a cook back in the early 80s, and thus, never attempted to make them myself.
Now, after over 30 years (and many family gatherings that included Ana's lumpia), I asked her if she would teach me once again and this time I paid close attention. I don't know why I thought they were so complicated to make! Cook the meat and onions. Chop and cook the veggies. Roll the mixture in lumpia wrappers. Fry in oil. It's pretty easy, especially if you have time to prep the veggies a day in advance. You can even make the filling ahead of time and freeze it. For that matter, you can make and freeze the assembled lumpia (wrapped in wax paper and stored in freezer bags) and fry them whenever you're in the mood for a yummy appetizer.
This past Christmas, Ana and I made 30 lumpia (a dozen of which went straight to the freezer to be fried up at a later date). We served them with a delicious Asian slaw, a few pot stickers and some Panko shrimp from Costco. Who knows, maybe next year I'll learn how to make pot stickers!
1 lb. ground pork
1/2 medium onion, diced
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 carrots, julienned
8 oz. French style green beans (I used frozen)
1/2 small cabbage, sliced into 1/4-inch slices, then in half
Salt & pepper to taste
1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 30-count package of spring roll/lumpia wrappers (frozen)
Vegetable oil for frying (I used canola)
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet (or dutch oven) over high heat. Add the chopped onion, garlic and celery, cooking until tender. Add the ground pork and cook until browned. Salt and pepper to taste.
Add carrots and green beans, cooking until just tender-crisp. Add the cabbage and mix well. Cover, lower heat and simmer for approximately 10 minutes.
Remove from heat and allow to cool completely before handling.
Note: At this point, you can either make the lumpia or refrigerate (or freeze) the filling until you are ready to assemble them.
Celery & onions (chopped finely in the food processor);
carrots (julienned by hand); cabbage (thinly sliced by hand).
When you are ready to roll the lumpia, remove the wrappers from the freezer. Gently (they tear very easily) peel one wrapper from the stack and place it in front of you so that it looks like a diamond. Put one tablespoon or so of the filling in the middle of the wrapper. You don't want to get any of the liquid from the pot mixed in with the filling or the wrapper will get soggy and tear. Use your fingers to spread the filling so that it is in a tube shape. Take the corner nearest you and pull it up over the filling making it snug around the filling. Now the wrapper should almost be triangular in shape.
Take the right hand corner and pull over the filling and the left hand corner doing the same. These folds should be snug against the filling and begin to look like the final lumpia shape.
Dip the first two fingers of either hand into the egg white and brush it on the edges of the wrapper before making the final roll toward the last corner. Roll the wrapper up toward the final corner. It should now resemble that familiar lumpia shape.
Place the lumpia on a large cookie sheet, lined with parchment paper.
Look how easy this is!
Once you have rolled all of the lumpia, they are ready to be fried. Heat 1/2-inch depth of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Gently lower 4-6 lumpia, seam-side down, into the hot oil, turning with tongs to evenly brown the wrappers, cooking for about 1-2 minutes. Be very careful with the temperature of the oil. If it gets too hot, the outside cooks too quickly and the inner wrapper won't get crispy.
Drain the cooked lumpia on paper towels and serve with sweet chili sauce (or sweet & sour sauce, if you prefer something a bit more mild).
Note: When freezing lumpia prior to frying, wrap about a half dozen in wax paper and place them in a freezer bag. When frying the frozen lumpia (you don't need to defrost them), be very careful as the oil will splatter from the ice crystals. You will also need to fry them a little bit longer in order to thoroughly heat the filling.
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