When I was little, if my brother and I were good, my mother would make us lumpia, the fried spring rolls beloved by Filipinos everywhere. And since we were relatively well-behaved boys, at least once a week we’d be welcomed home from school by the savory aroma of lumpia frying. Together, we could eat a shocking number of the crispy, golden brown rolls, dipping them into sweet chili sauce or a bracing combination of minced fresh garlic and tangy rice vinegar. There was hardly a crumb left on the plate.
There are many types of lumpia, both fresh and fried, but my mother always made lumpia Shanghai, which many Filipinos—myself included—consider the best. The name Shanghai is a nod to the Chinese traders who influenced Filipino cuisine from the 9th century on, introducing Filipino cooks to pork, noodles, and spring rolls, from which lumpia evolved. They are filled with pork and carrots (some cooks add shrimp or bamboo shoots to their filling, too), rolled thinner than other lumpia, fried, and always cut into bite-size pieces before serving.
You can order lumpia Shanghai at Filipino restaurants—they’re by far the most popular dish on the menu at my Manhattan restaurant, Kuma Inn—and buy them frozen, too, but most Filipinos make their lumpia at home. It takes a little time to fill and roll them, but it’s a simple process with no complicated wrapping techniques to worry about; on the following pages, I’ll show you how to do it, and share recipes for three awesome dipping sauces, too.
The best thing about lumpia—aside from how they taste—is that they freeze really well, so you can make a big batch, stash them in the freezer, and have some ready to go whenever you want them ( just like my mom always did). Between lumpia’s convenience and undeniable deliciousness, it’s no wonder that those who know them love them.
Get the recipes:
- You can make the lumpia filling up to 4 hours ahead; cover and refrigerate.
- You can hold uncooked rolled lumpia under damp towels at room temperature for up to 1 hour, or freeze them in a single layer on baking sheets; once frozen, transfer to freezer bags and freeze for up to 1 month. Fry straight from the freezer according to the recipe opposite, cooking for about 7 minutes.
The Right Wrapper
Look in the frozen foods section of Asian and Filipino markets for thin, 8-inch-square spring roll wrappers (not egg roll wrappers) made from wheat flour, water, oil, and salt. My favorite brand is Spring Home. You may also see round pastry wrappers with “lumpia” on the label, but these are best for other lumpia styles.