Tonight, I travelled back in time. Close your eyes, travel with me. The year is circa 1994. I am in junior high and have just been invited to my friend Joanne’s birthday party. Expecting the average sleepover, I arrive at Joanne’s house and find heaven on a plate. Joanne is Filipina and her birthdays were off-the-hook (as kids in junior high maybe say now?). There were approximately a million people who would show up at her parents’ house (plus her friends) and they all brought HUGE checks. Joanne didn’t even know some of them. Man, I wanted to have a Filipino birthday. Anyway, her mother and aunties would also prepare enormous amounts of food. The best were the eggrolls, or lumpia. My friends and I literally ate dozens of those delicious, crunchy bites. Thus gorged, we would then retreat to Joanne’s room and watch scary movies and stay up late – the more typical stuff of adolescent girls.
I will never forget those eggrolls. Until tonight, I thought they might just be a delicious memory. But NO! In my very own kitchen I made an approximation of the delicious birthday lumpia. Not nearly as perfect, they were still damn delicious.
Obviously, tonight’s destination was the Philippines. We had a lumpia orgy. It was a hot day (70 degrees, which for the Northwest in May is a scorcher) and I didn’t feel like making anything else. I’m glad I didn’t, because these were just the ticket. I am still pleasantly full.
Lumpia are the Filipino version of eggrolls. I took my base recipe from the Global Table Adventure Blog:
1 lb ground pork
1 egg beaten
1/2 cup jicama, minced (about 1/4 an average sized jicama)
1/2 cup carrot, minced (1 carrot)
3 green onions, sliced thinly
1 tsp soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, crushed (or 1 tbsp of the pre-crushed stuff in a tube)
1/2 tsp pepper, or more for spicier lumpia
20 lumpia wrappers
oil for deep frying
I made both pork and tofu lumpia. For the tofu, I omitted the pork (obviously) and added napa cabbage (about 1/2 cup) and red pepper (about 1/2 a pepper). These I ran through my food processor until fine. I also added extra soy sauce and 1/2 a block of firm tofu, finely chopped.. Since I only made 1/2 the meat recipe, I only used 1/2 lb of pork.
Sasha over at Global Table Adventure has a GREAT pictorial tutorial on how to wrap these suckers. It’s pretty easy and I recommend you take a look. Once I got the hang of it, I whipped them out pretty quickly. This is a recipe that would make for a great assembly line, but my husband was recovering from a 5 hour bike ride, so I went solo.
My lumpia were not universal in size (this did not affect taste!). I started with squatter lumpia, but then tried to stretch them out a bit. The lumpia I remember from Joanne’s parties were much smaller – maybe 3 inches long – but I wasn’t about to customize the lumpia wrappers.
(Speaking of the wrappers, I bought them premade from Uwajimaya. They are fragile little suckers. Much little filo, they get dry the longer they are out, so speed really is of the essence. If you go looking for them, they are in the frozen section.)
From assembly to fry oil (about 5 minutes) to platter, these were pretty easy to make. A little messy, but that is to be expected when you deep fry anything.
These were CRAZY good. Both the pork and the tofu turned out remarkably well. Some were a little crispier than others, which is something I’d work harder to avoid next time (more oil heat moderation needed) but they were freaking delicious. We devoured them (although Quinn was not impressed).
I also made dessert lumpia. While I’m not sure of their authenticity, I distinctly remember having a dessert lumpia off the lumpia food truck that patrols around Seattle. My dessert lumpia were made with nutella and banana, which, in my book, is always a winning combination.
These were pretty good, though not quite as gooey as I had hoped (they were also slightly overcooked). Still, I ate two (alongside crème fraiche ice cream) with no regrets.
All in all, this meal was definitely a winner. I was suddenly 14 again, except with a husband, a baby, and much better hair.
(Also, bonus, my red pepper was apparently gestating, considering what I found when I cut it open: