Traditional Filipino lumpia is much like the spring rolls you find at most Chinese restaurants. They’re filled with a sauteed mixture of ground meat, carrots, and cabbage and wrapped in a thin, spring roll wrapper that’s deep fried until crispy.
Fresh lumpia, however, is different in both preparation, texture, and flavor. For one thing, the roll isn’t deep fried. It’s wrapped, often open-ended, and served with a sweet-and-salty garlic dipping sauce.
I called my mom and asked her about fresh lumpia, how to make it and what-not. I had already done my research the night before during a bout of insomnia, but I wanted to get her take on it. Although it’s my aunties on her side of the family that have cornered the market on fresh lumpia, my mom was able to share some of her thoughts and insights on how to make it.
For example, she says my aunts make their wrappers from scratch, which is something she’s struggled with. “I could never get the wrapper thin enough,” she said. Some people make their wrappers, and I’ve seen others where they use store-bought spring roll wrappers. I’ve made crepes before, so this would be pretty easy.
The other thing she mentioned is everyone’s filling recipe is different. My research confirmed this, as I’ve seen filling recipes that range from having hearts of palm to thinly sliced green beans. She said there are standard ingredients (ground or chopped pork, shrimp, and sometimes chicken), but when it comes to the veggies inside, it’s up to the cook. She said my aunts used ground pork and shrimp and chopped jicama, which, in my experience with jicama, adds a crunch and a sweetness. However, if you’re intimidated by jicama, just use a can of water chestnuts and chop them finely.
(If you’re interested in seeing variations of this recipe, read my notes at the bottom of this post).
I would’ve liked to use jicama, and in fact I saw some at the Asian grocery store this morning, but unfortunately I didn’t get that little tidbit of info until after I’d already done my grocery shopping. Note to self, talk to mom first before grocery shopping for a Filipino recipe.
Then there’s the sauce. Like I mentioned before, it’s a salty-sweet sauce that’s thickened with a little cornstarch and spiked with a lot of fresh garlic right at the end. If you’re not a fan of garlic (and if you’re Filipino, how can you NOT love garlic?) you can reduce the cloves of garlic from 6 cloves to 1 or 2.
Prepare the Crepe Batter
If you’re using prepared wrappers, good for you. You can skip over this part. However, be sure to get spring roll wrappers, NOT egg roll wrappers. Egg roll wrappers are thicker, more doughy, and are not what you want to use in this recipe.
If you’ve decided to make your wrappers, prepare the batter first using the recipe below, which can easily be doubled if you’re preparing these for a party. I recommend doing this first because you have to let the batter rest for 30 minutes so it will thicken. If you have a stovetop crepe pan or an electric one, great. Stove top crepe pans are the perfect size and are shallow enough for you to get your spatula in and under the crepe at a small angle for flipping. I’ve had this crepe pan for about 4 years now and it still works great (I use it for more than just crepes: pancakes, omelettes, etc.). For people who want to invest a little more, an electric crepe maker can offer a lot of convenience and can also double as a pancake griddle.
Yields about 12 – 9 1/2″ crepes
- 1 cup of all-purpose flour
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups of water
- 2-3 tablespoons melted butter, room temperature
- A dash of salt
In a mixing bowl or a blender, pour in flour, 2 eggs, 2 cups of water, melted butter, and salt. Whisk with or blend thoroughly, making sure to remove all big lumps. Your batter might appear runny, and if it is, don’t go running for more flour. Let batter rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to thicken up while you prepare the filling.
Cook the Filling
- 1/2 lb. pork shoulder or pork loin, chopped roughly
- 1/4 lb. shrimp (white shrimp, or cocktail shrimp preferred)
- 1 cup carrot, finely diced
- 1 cup red or white potato, finely diced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 3-4 tablespoons of water
- 1 8 oz. can of water chestnuts, finely diced (or 1 cup of jicama, finely diced)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 teaspoon pepper
- 1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
In that same skillet, add water chestnuts, carrot, potato, shrimp, garlic, slat and pepper and cook until fragrant. Add water and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cover and turn heat down to medium and cook for 15 minutes until potatoes and carrots are fork tender.
Once the vegetables are cooked, add to bowl with pork and mix thoroughly. Set aside.
Make the Crepes
After 30 minutes, your crepe batter should be ready (you know when it’s ready when it coats the back of a spoon). Take a spoon or a whisk and mix it a little more. The flour will probably be settled at the bottom of the bowl so you want to make sure it’s thoroughly mixed in.
Heat up your crepe pan over medium heat (or just under medium heat). You shouldn’t have to spray any oil if your surface is non-stick (plus you mixed melted butter into the batter anyway), however use your judgement. Using either a 1/4 cup or a small ladle, pour the mixture into the center of the pan and roll it around until it forms a nice round shape.
You’ll know it’s ready to come out when the edges appear a little dry and start to curl up (usually after 2-3 minutes). You can flip it and cook it for an additional minute if you want, but crepes are so thin, they usually cook through on the first pass. And if you mess up the first and the second one, it’s ok. That almost always happens.
Also be sure to continuously stir the batter in between crepes. The flour likes to settle.
Make the Sauce
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 cups of water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons corn starch, mixed in with 1/4 cup water
- 6 cloves of garlic, finely minced
- 1/2 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts, finely chopped
In a small saucepan, mix sugar, soy sauce, water, salt, and peanuts. Cook on medium heat until gently boiling. Add corn starch and water mixture and stir until thickened. At this point, turn off heat and stir in garlic.
Assemble the Lumpia
Make sure your crepes and filling have cooled thoroughly before attempting to assemble these. Tear off a piece of green leaf lettuce just large enough to cover a portion of the wrapper. You don’t need it to cover the entire thing. Your lumpia won’t stay closed otherwise.
Place about 2 tablespoons of filling on top of the lettuce. Wrap by folding one side over the filling, then folding the bottom side over to keep the filling from falling out the other end. Then roll the lumpia closed. See the photos below for step-by-step.
And that’s it! Your lumpia is ready to eat. You can either serve the sauce on the side for people to spoon, or actually pour some of it over the lumpia like a smothered burrito.
- Kusina ni Manang: Fresh Lumpia – This was the first blog post I came across detailing fresh lumpia. It was also the basis for my filling recipe. She also provides a sauce recipe, but it was too dark for my taste (1/2 cup of soy as opposed to 1-2 tablespoons) and also uses brown sugar. BTW she also has a great video on making the crepes using an electric crepe maker.
- Inato Lang Filipino Cuisine and More: Lumpia Sariwa – This is where I got my sauce recipe which tastes almost exactly like the one my aunts make. One interesting this about this post is the crepe batter. They use corn starch instead of flour. This was really intriguing. If I had enough corn starch, I would’ve tried it just to see what the difference was.