I can’t believe that the day before Memorial Day – with all the prep work tomorrow’s feast entails – I decide now is a good time to make Lumpia. Crazy! But it’s a three-day weekend. It’s either now or Labor Day. I bring this up because Lumpia, although not overly complicated to make, is time consuming. Hubby, Kiddo and I spent about four hours to make 120 Lumpia. Is it worth it? You bet! Lumpias take one day to make, at least 24 hours to freeze, then only a few minutes to fry. It’s not something you make in the morning and eat that night.
Lumpia are Filipino Egg Rolls, only better. Like all the other Filipino dishes I’ve written about, every family has their own take on what goes inside, what wrappers work best and even how to roll. Years gone by, I’ve used whatever wrappers happen to be in the freezer case at my local Filipino Market. I’ve used thick wrappers, round wrappers, square wrappers – some come in a box, others in packages. I will say this – the thicker wrappers are easier to work with because they don’t tear as easily, but they also don’t fry up nearly as crisp. Thinner is better, just take your time rolling, use a gentle but firm hand and you’ll be fine. This time around I used a wrapper I’ve never tried before. It is paper-thin and will dry out quickly if you don’t keep it wrapped in a clean, damp kitchen towel. Because it is so thin, it has a tendency to tear easily. That said, I will never use another kind of wrapper again.
A little back story is needed here. Although I grew up in the central valley, I’ve been gone for a good many years. I once knew where to shop for Lumpia Wrappers, just as I knew where the best Filipino Markets were when we were living in Nevada. Sure, I could go on-line and find one, but it’s always better to get a recommendation from someone “in the know”. I had meant to post something on Facebook – I’m sure one of my cousins would know. But I got busy and forgot! So there I was, in Costco, picking up supplies when I realized I didn’t know where to get the Lumpia wrappers. Then I realized that the checker was Filipino. I recognized the accent immediately. Rather than say “Can you tell me where the nearest Filipino store might be?” I took a round about approach. I told Kiddo to remind me when we got home to go on-line to find a place to buy Lumpia wrappers. The checker’s ears immediately perked up – here was this very American looking family searching for Lumpia Wrappers. She was more than happy to give directions and even recommend a particular brand of wrapper. “Get the ones in the blue box. They’re the best!” Let me tell you, these are the best. What set the blue box apart were two things – they were the only brand in the store that was a product of the Philippines, AND each wrapper was individually wrapped. Imagine if you will paper-thin crepes piled one on top of the other without anything separating them? And it’s your job, before the rolling can begin, to gently take them apart. Not fun. Having the wrappers individually wrapped cut way down on prep time. Whatever you do, DO NOT discard the sheets between the wrappers. You’ll “recycle” them when packing the finished Lumpia for the freezer.
To pack and freeze the finished Lumpia, you’ll need one of two rather unusual containers – a few shoeboxes or a few large plastic containers that pre-packaged salads come in (these are the best as they stand up better when freezing). You’ll also need waxed paper to line your box. Have these handy before you begin wrapping.
The first step to making Lumpia (besides the obvious – shopping) is to gather all your ingredients. Then assign chopping duties to those helping. The more people to chop, the faster it will go. While everyone else is busy chopping, have one person browning the meats. Remember, the meat needs to be well broken up, too. The end result is a Lumpia that is easy to roll, easy to pack and easy to fry. The best way to get the cooked meat finely chopped is to cook it in batches, drain well and let it cool in a large bowl. Once cooled, put the meat (again in batches) into a food processor fitted with a blade. Finely “grind” the cooked meat – it sounds crazy, but it’s amazing what a difference this will make.
Chopping is very important, especially when using thin wrappers. Everything must be finely chopped. Break out your Pampered Chef food chopper, your food processor or whatever will help to make quick work of chopping. There’s a lot to chop – all the veggies need to be chopped into tiny pieces. Large chunks of vegetable will rip right through your wrapper. The last thing you want to have happen is for the Lumpia to fall apart when it comes time to wrap. Too much liquid is also a bad thing. After the vegetables are sautéed, place them into a colander and let them drain a bit before added the vegetables to the meat. Let the vegetables cool, then dump them into the same bowl with the finely chopped meats. Next, roll up your sleeves and (with clean hands) mix everything together well. Taste and adjust the salt as needed.
Now you’re ready to roll. You’ll need small “finger” bowls and large dinner plates for each person wrapping. Plan to place the bowl of filling in the center of the table, with two stacks of wrappers on either side, within easy reach of everyone. (If you have a lot of help, divide the filling into two large bowls, and the wrappers into four stacks). The best thing about making Lumpia is that it truly is a family affair. You can wrap and visit, tell jokes and swap stories.
To wrap the Lumpia filling into the Lumpia wrappers, place a wrapper on a plate. Put the filling (about 2 heaping tablespoons per Lumpia) down one side, about an inch from the edge, with about an inch on either side. Dip your fingers into the water, dampen the end of the wrapper closest to you and fold over the filling. Dip into the water again, dampen the sides and fold toward the center. Now roll away from you, keeping pressure gently but steady to get a tight roll. When you have two Lumpias made, place them on a piece of waxed paper, or the plastic wrap that separated the wrappers. DO NOT allow Lumpias to touch, but rather roll each toward the center in the paper. Tuck the ends over the top, then place seam-side down in your storage container. (This allows easy removal when it comes time to fry up these yummy rolls – you can remove them in pairs, frying them up as needed). Repeat this process until all the filling has been used. Depending upon how “full” you get your Lumpia, the recipe that follows will give you between 120-130 Lumpias. Plan to have some extra wrappers just in case they tear when rolling. You can always “fix” the tear with the extra wrapper – either by double rolling or cutting a “band-aid” and patching the tear. Just dampen the patch and keep going.
Filipino Egg Rolls – Lumpia
4 lbs Lean Ground Beef
4 lbs Ground Pork
2 Cans Water chestnuts, 12 oz, finely chopped
2 Cups Finely Chopped Carrots
2 Cups Bean Sprouts, finely chopped
2 Cups Garbanzo Beans, finely chopped
2 Cups Onion, finely chopped
2 ¼ Cups Celery, Finely Chopped
2 Bell Peppers, any color, Finely Chopped
6 Cloves Garlic, pressed
2 ½ Teaspoons salt
2 Cups Mushrooms, finely Chopped
150 Lumpia Wrappers, defrosted
Cook and drain ground beef. Be sure to crumble meat throughout cooking to keep pieces very small. Add 2 teaspoons of salt to ground beef while cooking.
Cook and drain ground pork. Be sure to crumble meat throughout cooking to keep pieces very small.
Chop all vegetables very finely, set aside. Press garlic into a large skillet. Add all the vegetables, season with ½ teaspoon salt. Sauté vegetables over medium heat until celery has become pale in color. Remove from heat. Drain vegetables of excess liquid.
In a large bowl or tub, combine cooked vegetables with meats, mixing thoroughly. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Set aside.
Separate Lumpia wrappers. Keep in a damp towel, removing 1 wrapper at a time as needed. Fill each wrapper with filling mixture, about 2 tablespoons per wrapper. Roll into a large egg roll, tucking in sides after the first fold.
Pack completed Lumpias with waxed paper between each to prevent them from sticking together and place Lumpias in a box or freezer-safe container. They will keep in the freezer up to a year, remove as needed.
To fry Lumpia, remove however many you want to cook from the freezer. Heat oil (enough to come half way up the Lumpia) over medium heat. Fry the Lumpia, frozen, in the hot oil, turning as needed until crisp and warmed through.
Lumpias can be served as a side, or as a meal with a noodle dish on the side. Fried Lumpias can be sprinkled with soy, vinegar or dipped in any number of Asian dipping sauces.
So when you’re ready to make Lumpia, gather the family or a group of friends. Don’t forget to order a pizza for later, because you’ll be hungry after smelling Lumpias all day, but you aren’t going to feel much like cooking. Spend the day chopping, wrapping and chatting. The better the company, the easier time will fly.
Ano ay maaaring mas mahusay kaysa sa oras pamilya at mga Pilipino Egg Rolls?