Interestingly, @FilipinoFood posted this tweet “Best Pinoy Food is _____” early yesterday morning, and the three dishes I prepared for this week’s menus were definitive favorites based on the responses. At my last count, Adobo led with 30% of the vote, and there were multiple mentions of Pancit and Lumpia. At least I know I selected the right dishes for this week’s project.
Monday Night Dinner: Adobo Chicken and Steamed Rice
Friday Night Dinner: Lumpia and Pancit Bihon
For all practical purposes, lumpia are simply Filipino-style spring rolls. Characterizing exactly how they are different from other spring rolls is a question I still cannot answer definitively. I’ve read conflicting information all over the internet. Some state that they are never fried while others state that they are usually fried. There are numerous variations of fillings, too. In many cases, the lumpia wrapper is thinner than those used in traditional egg rolls, and the actual rolls are smaller and more compact. Most of the lumpia fillings include cabbage and carrots, which are typically found in spring rolls, but I also found lumpia filling recipes that include green beans, sweet potatoes, garlic, and celery, which are not standard in spring rolls. Confused? Yes, I know. It’s a bit much to decipher as an outsider, but when I found a Washington Post article about Feli Orinion, a Filipino woman in Washington D.C. known in high-profile circles for her lumpia, I found a path to successful lumpia.
To say that I loved Feli’s Lumpia is an understatement. Thank goodness I shelved the extras in my freezer before my husband and I sat down to enjoy the eight rolls I fried up for us. If not for that, I probably wouldn’t have any lumpia in my freezer for later. There are three key components to this recipe that make the resulting lumpia such a success.
1. The filling includes a long list of ingredients: carrots, green beans, celery, onion, green cabbage, sweet potatoes, water chestnuts, garlic, sesame oil, ground pork, soy sauce, and freshly ground black pepper. When I read this list originally, I thought it would be too many components, but in actuality, they complement each other to create a delicious bite full of different flavors and textures.
2. The reason that this long list of ingredients works well lies in the preparation of the vegetables. The recipe calls for each vegetable to be individually chopped finely in a food processor. This is genius because it provides for each bite to contain the full mixture of vegetables resulting in multiple flavors and textures delivered in a single bite.
3. The flour and water paste used to “glue” the wrapper end to the lumpia keeps the lumpia tightly rolled resulting in even cooking when fried.
The perfectly balanced Filipino bite occurs when these lumpia, full of sweet vegetables and seasoned with soy sauce, are dipped in a sauce of vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, freshly ground black pepper, and a pinch of sugar, which spans the full scope of sour, salty, and sweet.