Along with adobo and pancit, fried lumpia are among the most popular of Filipino dishes with both Filipinos and non-Filipinos alike.
Like adobo (a vinegar-based stew) and pancit (noodles), there are different variants of lumpia, including fried and fresh, but it seems most people crave the petite, fried lumpiang shanghai, filled with seasoned ground pork or chicken and encased in the crispiest wrapper.
When I was little, we would make hundreds of these rolls for Filipino celebrations and get togethers. In this enjoyable communal effort with my grandmothers and aunts, my love for cooking developed, one roll at a time.
Wanting to pass on the tradition, I recruited my niece Alyssa and my daughter Christina to help make about 100 lumpia for a family gathering. I put together the filling, which is primarily ground meat with a smattering of aromatic vegetables, and soy sauce or patis (fish sauce), and they cut the bigger spring roll wrappers in four smaller squares and rolled.
The trick is in the rolling. Whenever I teach people to make lumpia, I tell them what my dad told me: the lumpia should be about as thin as your pinky. There is a tendency to want to put too much filling, but resist! A little amount of filling goes a long way, particularly when part of the thrill of eating lumpia is enjoying that crisp wrapper.
From the top-left: Filipino wrappers are more delicate but Chinese wrappers (pictured here) are fine substitutes -- please don't use those horrible wrappers that can be bought in the grocery stores in the vegetable section; Alyssa putting a dainty line of meat in the wrapper which we cut in fourths to make party-size lumpia; lumpia cooling on the rack; lumpia cut open to show the meat filling.
2 pounds ground pork or chicken
2 large carrots, minced (if you're using the shredded carrots, a bag is probably fine; mince the shreds into small pieces)
3 large scallions, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. Salt
2 tbs. soy sauce (or fish sauce)
2 eggs, one for the filling and one for the egg white part to seal the wrappers
Chinese spring roll wrappers or Filipino lumpia wrappers
Heat a skillet over medium heat until hot. Add a little oil and saute carrots, celery, scallion, and garlic cloves until tender, about 3 minutes. If they're a little hard, that's okay, as they'll cook more when you fry them. Season veggies with a little salt and pepper, put in a dish and let cool.
Put pork in a bowl and add cooled veggies, soy sauce, salt, onion powder and pepper. Mix together. Take a little piece of pork filling, cook it, and taste it. Remember that the seasoning in the filling will be carrying the outside wrapper too, so it should be a little more flavorful than if you were to eat it purely by itself. Does it need any more soy sauce or seasonings? If so, adjust the seasoning.
When the filling is to your liking, beat one egg and incorporate it into the mix.
To make mini-springrolls, take the wrapper and cut it vertically down the center and horizontally across the middle, to make four smaller squares. Alternately, you can leave it whole, make a large spring roll and then cut it into thirds afterwards. It's up to you.
You can follow the directions on the spring roll wrapper for folding. As for how much filling, my dad or grandma told me it shouldn't be much thicker than your pinky, so be judicious on the filling, putting about 1 heaping tsp. in each one. If you're making these for the first time, it's likely you're going to want to put more filling, but if you make them thinner, you'll be happy later with the balance between the crunchy wrapper and the meat.
Fry at 360 degrees for 5-6 minutes or until cooked inside. Serve with sweet and sour sauce.
Sweet and Sour Sauce
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 tbs. ketchup
1/4 tsp. white pepper(or black pepper)
1 1/2 tbs. cornstarch dissolved in a couple tbs. of water.
Combine all the ingredients except for the cornstarch slurry in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Turn it down to low and whisk in cornstarch slurry. Sauce will thicken. When sauce starts simmering again, take off the heat. You can add slivers of carrot and red pepper for a little color. Pour in a bowl and serve with the lumpia.