How to Make Lumpia (Filipino Eggrolls)
On Sunday, I made cabbage soup. It wasn't very good. I didn't really know what to expect when I found the recipe -- it involved sour cream, which kind of weirded me out -- and when all was said and done, I realized I should've just trusted my gut instinct and made tortellini soup, instead. I even considered throwing it out, but then decided it was still edible, and packed it up for the week's lunch, anyway. It's going to be a long week.
But, fortunately, that's all I have to say about cabbage soup, because I also made lumpia! For the first time! All by myself! *Cue trumpets, dancers and wild applause.*
Lumpia (I believe the correct plural form is lumpiang, but we never call it that in my family, so please excuse the slew of incorrect Filipino grammar that follows) refers to Filipino eggrolls, and comes in several different forms, but there are two types with which most people are familiar and that my mom most often makes. At my wedding, we served Lumpia Shanghai, which are small, thin and usually consist mainly of ground pork and very few, finely diced veggies, if any. These are dangerous deep-fried specimens, each consumed in no more than three bites, and entire plates known to be devoured in just minutes. You can see a picture of Lumpia Shanghai, in all its glory, here.
Lumpia Prito, or what I grew up calling "vegetable lumpia" (even though it usually contains meat, but more vegetables than Lumpia Shanghai, so maybe that explains it), are the eggrolls I made today and my favorite type of lumpia. My mom makes them large, similar to the size of the eggrolls you might order at a Chinese restaurant. However, I've always felt that Chinese restaurant eggrolls can be too greasy, often filled with too much cabbage or bean sprouts, and rolled with too-thick wrappers. Lumpia wrappers are much thinner, making them incredibly light and crisp when fried, and when talking on the phone with my mom about how to make lumpia, she reminded me not to add too much cabbage because she "just doesn't like it." OK, Mom. I totally agree.
The following how-to and recipe is based on my memory and years of experience as Assistant-to-Mom in the lumpia-making process, as well as a brief run-down from my mom as I shopped for lumpia wrappers. Let's get to it, shall we?
First, make the filling, which is as simple as cooking some ground pork in onions and garlic, then adding green beans, carrots and cabbage, and seasoning with fish sauce (or soy sauce), salt and pepper. My mom sometimes likes to add potatoes and even sweet potatoes. Other fillings include ground turkey, bean sprouts or water chestnuts. You can even skip the meat altogether -- the possibilities are endless, really.
You'll need lumpia wrappers. I found these in the frozen section at my local Asian grocery store, and chose this particular brand because they looked familiar to me. Just make sure they're square. Thaw them overnight in the refrigerator or on the counter for a few hours (the stack will still be pretty firm even when thawed), and carefully peel them apart before rolling.
Here's a tip for separating the wrappers: Peel apart a large chunk at a time, then continue to divide each chunk in half until you're left with single wrappers. Keep your stack of wrappers between two damp paper towels to keep them from drying out while you roll.
After the filling has cooled completely, scoop a little less than half a cup into a small, rectangular mound just below the middle of the wrapper. This is kind of a lot of filling, but these are big eggrolls, so just go with it.
Carefully roll the lumpia, keeping the filling compact and making sure the wrapper is tight. Pull the sides across the top so that the lumpia resembles an open envelope.
Roll the lumpia once more until just the edge is exposed, and brush the edge with egg to seal. Brush the outside seams with more egg.
Place eggrolls seamside down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, then fry the eggrolls in batches, on all sides, until golden brown. (Start frying seam side down to avoid the lumpia from opening in the pan.)
I always eat these with a simple sauce of soy sauce, vinegar, garlic and black pepper.
I'm not really sure how to end this post, but Murdo just told me to "wrap it up" (ha ha) already, so here is the recipe. Go make lumpia! (And do not make cabbage soup.)
Makes 12 lumpiang
For the filling:
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 lb ground pork* (can use ground turkey)
1 cup onions, diced
1 cup carrots, peeled and diced
1 cup green beans, sliced thinly on a diagonal
3/4 cup cabbage, sliced small
3 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
1/4 cup fish sauce (can substitute soy sauce)
salt and pepper
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, and add onions and garlic. Cook until translucent and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add ground pork, breaking up and cooking until no longer pink. Add the green beans, cook for 1-2 minutes. Add carrots, cook 1-2 minutes longer. Add cabbage and cook until slightly softened. Add fish sauce and stir to combine. Salt and pepper to taste.
(The key here is to not overcook the vegetables, as they will continue to cook later when frying the eggrolls. Instead, you want them just slightly cooked, so that they are bright but not too tender.)
Transfer pork mixture to a colander and let excess fat and moisture drain. Let cool completely. (I'm not sure what happens if you attempt to roll lumpia with warm filling, but I'm guessing the wrappers get soggy and fall apart. Just don't do it.) Filling can be made even further in advance -- I made my filling the night before, let cool and then stored in the refrigerator until ready to roll the lumpia the following morning.
For the rolling of the lumpia:
Parchment or wax paper
12 square lumpia wrappers (see tips for separating lumpia and keeping lumpia wrappers, above)
1 egg, beaten
Pork mixture, recipe above
On a large piece of parchment paper, position the lumpia wrapper so that it is a diamond facing you, with a pointed edge toward you. Scoop about 1/2 cup (I used slightly less than 1/2 cup, about 3/8 cup) of the pork mixture to form a rectangular mound just below the middle of the wrapper.
Pull the bottom edge of the wrapper over the filling, and gently tighten the wrapper around the filling. Fold the right and left edges over so that they touch in the middle and the wrapper now resembles an open envelope. Roll the entire lumpia over so that there is about a 1-inch seam exposed, then brush and seal with egg. You can also brush the outside seam with more egg.
Place seam side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat with remaining wrappers until the pork mixture is gone. Should make about 12.
(You can store these in the refrigerator for a few days until ready to roll, or even store them in the freezer for several months. Just be sure to thaw completely before frying.)
For the frying of the lumpia:
Heat 3-4 tablespoons of canola oil in a small skillet over high heat. When the oil is very hot, working in batches, place 3-4 eggrolls (do not overcrowd) in the skillet, seam side down, and fry on all sides until golden brown. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towel, add more oil to pan if needed, and repeat frying process with remaining eggrolls.
Serve immediately with lumpia sauce (recipe below). To reheat, place in a toaster oven at 350 F for 3-5 minutes until hot and crispy. Every oven is different, so just be sure to watch carefully.
For the lumpia sauce:
Combine 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1-2 tablespoon vinegar, 1-2 smashed garlic cloves, and ground pepper into a small bowl. Adjust to your tastes.
For the eating of the lumpia:
Dip the end of the eggroll into the sauce. Take a big bite. Enjoy. Don't dip again -- first of all, double dipping is gross. Second, the filling is loose and will likely fall into the sauce if you turn your eggroll upside down. Instead, take a small spoonful of sauce and drizzle over each individual bite. Enjoy some more.
*I used non-enhanced, non-confined, growth-hormone-free ground pork from Twin Oak Meats in Fairbury, Illinois. Purchased from Farm Fresh Foodstuffs.