My mother-in-law’s best friend is a Filipino woman whose favorite thing was to host elaborate feasts, which would essentially shut down the neighborhood for a few hours as everyone would stop by.
I never got to attend one of these Filipino shindigs, but I did experience the next best thing. My mother-in-law was able to get the recipe for her friend’s Lumpia Shanghai, the Filipino take on egg rolls. Lumpia Shanghai features a few hallmarks different from what Americans are used to eating. For one, the Lumpia Shanghai wrapper is smoother, glossier, crunchier, less blistered and less doughy than the Chinese-American egg roll. The Filipino version is also generally longer and skinnier, like a cigarillo.
Filipinos dip their Lumpia Shanghai in a variety of sauces, from peanut butter to banana ketchup, but I’ve opted for a classic Lumpia dipping sauce that uses garlic, black pepper, and a slightly thickened consistency that’s reminiscent of stir-fry sauce. But honestly, when it comes to egg roll, I don’t mind straying across borders—I’ve dipped these in Mae Ploy chili sauce, Vietnamese nuoc cham (fish sauce + sugar + lime juice + garlic), even Worcestershire sauce, which my Chinese in-laws enjoy. Maybe that’s the way to serve these: Make about four dozen, cut them in half, put out a spread of dipping sauces, and invite the whole neighborhood over.
Lumpia Shanghai (Filipino egg rolls)
Makes 20 egg rolls, more or less
- 1 lb. ground pork
- 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp. sesame oil
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. Chinese cooking wine
- Ground white pepper
- 1 tsp. ginger juice (see note)
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 oz. dried vermicelli noodles
- 1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
- 1 stalk celery, finely diced
- 1 scallion, finely diced
- 1 package Lumpia wrappers
- Neutral oil for frying
Put the ground pork in a large bowl, and add soy sauce, sesame oil, cooking wine, sugar, pepper, half the beaten egg (save the other half for sealing the egg rolls), and ginger juice*. Mix well, and allow to sit for 30 minutes.
Note: To get ginger juice, put a few small chunks of ginger in a garlic press and squeeze until liquid drips out. If some pulp comes through, it’s fine. Alternatively, you could use a rasp to grate the ginger, using a scant teaspoon so the ginger flavor is not too strong in the pork mixture. You don’t want ginger as a dominant flavor.
Meanwhile, soak the vermicelli in hot water for 15 minutes. Drain well, and snip with scissors into one-inch lengths. Add the vermicelli and vegetables to the pork and mix well.
Lay out one lumpia wrapper at a time, keeping the rest under a slightly damp paper towel to avoid drying out. Turn the lumpia wrapper so it’s a diamond shape, and place about two tablespoons of filling in a neat horizontal log in the middle. Dip a finger into the beaten egg and wet the top ‘V’ of the diamond shape. This will be the edge that’s sealing your wrapper.
Fold the bottom of the diamond over the filling and smooth it over the log, tucking the middle of the flap under the filling slightly. Roll the wrapper over twice, then fold each end in so there are no points sticking out. Continue rolling smoothly and tautly, forming a long thin cigar shape. If needed, re-moisten the top edge with more egg to seal.
In a heavy pot, at least as wide as the length of your lumpia, heat oil to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Once it’s to temperature, add the lumpia in batches, frying until crisp and golden brown, about 5-6 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
Enjoy with the dipping sauce recipe below, or any sauce that sounds good to you.
Lumpia Dipping Sauce
- 1 cup chicken broth or water
- 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp. white vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
- 1 clove minced garlic
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 1 Tbsp. corn starch + 2 Tbsp. cold water
Add broth, soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, and minced garlic into a pot and bring to boil. Combine corn starch and cold water in a separate bowl, mixing well, the pour into the boiling sauce mixture. Turn off heat. Stir with spoon until sauce begins to thicken. Pour into bowl and allow sauce to cool completely.