There’s a reason why Lumpiang Shanghai – Filipino Spring Rolls (Lumpia) — are the hit of every Filipino family gathering! These lumpia are filled with pork, shrimp and vegetables, and are as much fun to make as they are to eat.
The last time I made Lumpiang Shanghai, I was still in grad school, and to celebrate the end of another year of three hour sleeps, grueling defenses, and grant proposal writing, my small cohort threw a progressive dinner. I needed a dish I could prepare in advance, one that would share a taste of home, and one that I knew was guaranteed to be well loved. There was never a doubt – Lumpiang Shanghai is most people’s gateway to Filipino cuisine. We all know, by now, that lumpia (egg rolls or spring rolls) are delicious bites of savory goodness, but for some reason, lumpia made in this particular style is especially a fast favorite. Lumpia comes in all shapes, sizes, wrappers and fillings – and these small finger food sized bites are filled with pork, shrimp, and vegetables. They’re a hit of family gatherings, and they were certainly a hit with my grad school friends.
It took a family gathering to motivate me to make another huge batch of lumpia over July 4th weekend. Our celebration took a certain Filipino-American twist, as we we gathered for a mini reunion with my aunt visiting from the Philippines. In true potluck style, there were dishes to feed an entire barrio, and I had already committed to making cassava cake (to my children’s delight), and I decided at the last minute it was time to remedy the lumpia drought. My children adore Lumpiang Shanghai, but they had never actually tried my version, which seems almost odd.
Rolling lumpia – especially this kind – can be quite laborious, but when you are gathered with aunts and cousins, usually everyone chips in and helps out. But I tackled this, again, solo, although my daughter did help. There are some shortcuts – for example, some like to make long lumpias that they slice into smaller pieces, but I much prefer when each is individually wrapped, like little presents. It is time consuming, but this labor of love is worth it! I rolled 100 lumpia that day, and now I have extra in my freezer for when the lumpia craving bites.
Once we were gathered, my husband was in charge of the deep fryer, and as each lumpia floated to the top, it was with much eagerness (and some patience) that we let the spring rolls cool before biting into them. The thin, crisp shells gave way to the savory filling within – each bite transported me to every family gathering growing up, when these would disappear, to the international nights at school when my mother would introduce my classmates to Filipino food, to that progressive party after a rough year in grad school, to that phone call to my aunt to ask her for her recipe, this one, that I share with you today. Wrapped up like little gifts, I present it to you, and hope you do try it one day for a little taste of home. My home.
Lumpiang Shanghai - Filipino Spring Rolls (Lumpia)
There's a reason why Lumpiang Shanghai are the hit of every Filipino family gathering! These Filipino Spring Rolls (Lumpia) are filled with pork, shrimp and vegetables, and are as much fun to make as they are to eat. Make a large batch and freeze some so you will have lumpia ready any time.
For the Lumpiang Shanghai
2 lbs ground pork
1 1/2 lbs 21/30 shrimp, peeled, de-veined and minced (cut lengthwise, then cross-wise, thin)
1/2 cup minced yellow onion
1/2 cup Chinese celery (or the heart of regular celery), cut into thin lengths then finely minced
1/2 cup carrot, minced
6-7 tablespoons soy sauce (I like Silver Swan brand soy sauce in this)
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
125 5" square spring roll wrappers (I like Spring Home wrappers from TYJ Food in Singapore; they come in 50 count packs)
peanut oil for frying
For the Sauce
4 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 cups + 6 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons graulated sugar
2 tablespoons banana ketchup (Jufran brand, found in most Asian markets)
Pinch of salt
2 heaping tablespoons cornstarch
In a large bowl, mix the ground pork, minced shrimp, onion, celery, carrot, soy sauce, egg and a little salt and pepper by hand. If necessary, chop on a cutting board to ensure that it everything is fine and well incorporated. Heat a little peanut oil in a small frying pan, and cook a teaspoon of the filling to check for taste. Adjust seasoning as necessary. The filling can be prepared up to a day in advance and chilled in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container.
To roll the lumpia, I find that it helps to separate the wrappers in advance; cover with a damp paper towel to prevent from drying out. Take the wrapper and place on your work surface on a diagonal so one point is facing you. Place about 1 tablespoon of filling towards the bottom of the egg roll. Turn up the bottom corner and roll upwards. Fold in the left and right corners, making sure the filling is nicely packed, with no air pockets. Continue rolling. Dip you finger in water, pat it on the remaining corner and finish rolling the lumpia, sealing the edge. The lumpia should be about 1/2 inch in diameter. See the GIF in the post illustrating how to roll lumpia for reference. Continue rolling until your lumpias are done, there should be enough filling for about 125 lumpia.
Keep the lumpia covered in a single layer in the refrigerator with a damp paper towel over top until ready to fry, or freeze in an air tight container for later.
Make the dipping sauce by combining the vinegar, water, sugar, banana ketchup and salt in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil and stir. Lower the heat to a simmer, and cook until it becomes thin and clear, about 5 minutes. Take a few tablespoons of the liquid and create a slurry with the cornstarch, whisking until smooth. Stir in the slurry into the sauce, whisking constantly, to thicken the sauce. Set aside.
To fry the lumpia, heat the peanut oil in a deep fryer or deep sided skillet to 350 degrees. Working in batches, add the lumpia about 4-6 at a time, and fry until golden brown. You will know the the lumpia are ready when they are golden brown, and the filling is fully cooked; this should take about 4 minutes for freshly rolled lumpia, or about 6 minutes for frozen. Let the lumpia drain on a rimmed platter lined with paper towels - my Tito Alex recommends placing the lumpia standing up (like soldiers) so they do not get soggy.
Serve immediately with the sauce (it's also wonderful with Jufran Hot Banana Sauce).
This recipe comes from my dear Tita Leah, as she described it to me over the phone many years ago. It works like a charm every time.