A Family Staple
Last month Victoria had to do a project on her country of origin. The class was learning about immigration and genealogy, and so it seems natural that she would pick The Philippines as her subject. This was the years big assignment, and with me being the only adult Filipina in the household, I knew I was going to be very much “involved”. Cut to The Stoner Mom frying large batches of lumpia, the Filipino answer to the egg roll, for three third grade classes.
I’m like, half second generation. My mother came to America in the 1970’s and promptly married my white dad. I grew up in the California suburbs, was spoiled and not expected to learn about the culture, the history, the language. My father worked in the tech industry, my schools comprised of full and half asians, all similarly entitled california kids. So I guess what I’m saying is, I’m not the strongest link to Victoria’s “country of origin”, and a part of me is kind of ashamed of that.
But I do have semi-cultural memories of my childhood in California. Every time an event called for us to bring a dish of food, my mother would set out to make lumpia, and often she enlisted me to help shape them. A tedious craft, she taught me to separate the wrappers with great care so that they didn’t rip. I got used to spooning a heap of raw meat and vegetables into the thin wrappers and then carefully rolling them up tight, like little burritos, eventually dipping my fingers in a bowl of water to seal the lumpia closed. Just before the event my mother would fry them in large batches and stand them on their ends to drain.
Every time we set them out they would be gone instantly. Deep fried and extremely filling, lumpia is a bona fide junk food. Not a snack for the cholesterol conscious, but a definite husband-pleaser, gut-buster, spend-the-rest-of-the-evening-on-the-couch-with-your-pants-undone type of snack. For those eating these alongside a case of the munchies, you would be very wise to set a limit on number of lumpias to consume.
Best Lumpia Recipe
- 1/4 cup finely diced green onion
- 1/4 cup finely diced red bell pepper
- 1/4 cup finely diced green bell pepper
- 1/2 cup chopped cabbage
- 2 lbs ground pork
- 2 lbs ground beef
- plenty of garlic salt
- lots of pepper
- soy sauce to taste
- sesame oil
- your preferred frying oil
- spring roll wrappers**
* I learned this recipe from my mother, who does not measure things. So… these amounts are approximates, but this is a very simple meal so don’t over think it. It doesn’t need tons of spices.
** You will likely need to visit an asian market for suitable wrappers. There are many kinds. I use pre-made frozen wrappers. They are super cheap, so buy a bunch and keep them in the freezer if the asian market isn’t close.
Preparing the filling:
- Heat sesame oil in a large wok over high heat.
- Add meat in small chunks and cook until browned and mostly cooked through. Remove meat from wok, drain fat thoroughly and set aside.
- In the wok add onion, green and red bell pepper, and sauté.
- Add cabbage and re-add meat.
- Season mixture with soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, garlic salt, and pepper.
- Once cooked through, pour the mixture in a bowl and set aside until cool enough to handle comfortably.
Forming the lumpia:
- Ok, so the lumpia wrappers. These wrappers are made from rice or corn starch and often frozen. Set the package out and let it defrost for an hour or so. Once defrosted it’s important to keep the wrappers under a damp towel so they don’t dry up. There is a small window of time between the time the wrappers defrost and when they start to curl up from drying.
- Take the stack of thawed lumpia wrappers and carefully peel them apart, separating each wrapper one at a time. This is somewhat tedious and the wrappers are delicate. If you force it they may rip.
- Keep a small bowl of water nearby to sprinkle over the wrappers to keep them moist and to glue the wrappers shut when filled. Separate the wrappers until you have finished the package.
- Once the wrappers are separated, you can begin forming the lumpias. Take one square wrapper and lay it in front of you in a diamond shape. Using a spoon, put a small amount of the meat mixture onto the middle of the wrapper. Take the bottom corner and fold it up over the filling, lightly tucking it behind the meat. Next, fold the two side corners in, and then roll the entire lumpia until it’s neatly wrapped the filling. Wet you fingers and run them over the seam of the lumpia so that it stays shut.
- Place each filled lumpia aside and begin the next. My mother likes to pack them in seran wrap in groups of 12. This makes it easy to make a bunch, toss in the freezer, and pull out small packages for meals, a dozen at a time.
Frying the lumpia:
- Lumpia should be fried as close to consumption time as possible. Soggy lumpias es no bueno.
- In a heavy pan over medium high heat, heat your frying oil of choice. Use enough oil so that it reaches about halfway up the lumpias.
- Once hot, CAREFULLY add the lumpias one by one to the oil and fry until golden brown and crispy on all sides.
- Drain lumpia on paper towels. My mother likes to stand them on one end to drain. To do this line a flat-bottomed Tupperware container with paper towels and stand the lumpias on one end, using the sides of the container to keep them upright.
- Serve right away, while hot and crispy, on a bed of white rice and with sweet chili sauce (also available at the asian market).