Recipe: Shanghai Lumpia

But I ate that damn pig and went back for seconds. I could barely draw a full breath because of how full I was. – Charlie. From “The Woods” by Joan Reginaldo

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Shanghai Lumpia (Shang-high loom-pya) aka Lumpiyang Shanghai (Lego Gamora for scale)

…Though, according to the internet, this recipe doesn’t appear in Shanghai history.
This recipe, along with recipes for the other types of lumpias, came from Chinese immigrants who settled in the Philippines. Although lumpias can have different fillings depending on the region, the aspects unique to Shanghai lumpia are its smaller size and finely-ground meat-based filling.

It’s always a winner at Filipino parties and usually one of the first foods to run out (especially if I’m there. Seriously. I will fill up my plate with these. #YOLO #NORAGRETS)

For Halloween, you can make a batch and call them Savory Witch Fingers (not to be confused with the dessert/cookie witch fingers). Serve them with a little bowl of sweet and sour sauce mixed with banana-chile sauce and call it Gnome Blood (could be any mythical creature blood).

INGREDIENTS are super easy to remember: You need 1 of each, and all but two you can get from almost any grocery store.

1 medium carrot
1 onion
1 stick of celery
1 egg
1 pound of ground pork
1 pound of ground beef
1 Tablespoon of garlic powder
1 teaspoon of black pepper
1 teaspoon of salt
(this might be too much depending on what soy sauce you use and your own salt-sensitivity. I’d start with 1/2 teaspoon and add more for future batches if you find it bland.)
1 pack of spring roll wrappers (You might have to get this at an Asian foods market like Ranch 99. While you’re there, pick up some banana-chile sauce.)
about 1/4 cup of soy sauce. If you’re using low sodium, add a smidgen more salt and a dash more soy sauce.
Chopped garlic to taste (I do about three cloves)
A tablespoon of flour and enough water to make it the consistency of school glue
Oil for frying
Pot to fry it in. I like to fry mine in a dutch oven with enough oil from the bottom of the pan to where my middle finger joins my hand. DO NOT MEASURE THE OIL WHILE IT IS HOT, FFS. Estimate it.
For the sauce: combine store-bought sweet and sour sauce with banana-chile sauce, both of which you can grab while you’re getting the other ingredients. I say store-bought because, unless you already have some homemade sauces handy, it’s a pain in the butt to worry about making the sauces while you’re rolling these lumpia. It’s labor-intensive and time-consuming.

Here is a photo of the brand of spring roll wrappers I like because they hold their pliability the longest and fry up crisp.

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1. Open your bag of spring rolls. If you’ve purchased the brand I like, you’ll have to manually separate them. Do this now. Do not leave the spring roll wrappers exposed to air too much. They will dry out and become brittle, which makes them hard to work with because they’ll tear as you roll them. Once you’ve pulled them all apart, put them into a gallon-sized zip-closed bag or a large sealable container until you’re ready to use them. If you’re not using them for a while, you can store them in the fridge but they will get moldy after about a week.

2. In a small bowl, like a cereal bowl, combine the tablespoon of flour with enough water to make it the consistency of school glue.

3. Wash/rinse your veggies, dry them, then finely chop them. They should look like someone chewed them and spat them out. Or put them in your food processor. I like to process them one at a time, scraping them into one mixing bowl between each veggie. (If the veg are too chunky, it’ll be awkward rolling the filling into the spring roll wrappers.)

4. Finely chop or process the onion. The chopped chunks should be the same fineness as the veg but because of its higher water content, it’ll look like like white slushie. Scrape it into the mixing bowl.

5. Add the pound of pork and pound of beef. You may be tempted to go all pork or all beef but I’ve tried that and didn’t get a good mouth-feel. All pork was too mushy. All beef was too tough. You can try subbing in just a bit of ground turkey for some of the beef but I wouldn’t go more than half.

6. Sprinkle in the black pepper, the garlic powder, the salt, and chopped garlic cloves if you’re adding garlic. Again, consistency should look like someone chewed it up and spat it out.

7. Add the egg. It’s supposed to bind all the ingredients together. You can omit it if you’re out, it doesn’t affect the taste, but I feel like it makes the filling easier to work with.
Using clean hands or a heavy-duty spoon, mix all the ingredients together. I use my hands so I have more control over the mixing.

8. Now, make sure you have room to lay out a spring roll sheet flat in front of you, a dish or tray to hold your rolled lumpia, and access to hand-washing soap and water. You’ll be working with raw meat and it’s best to be mentally prepared and focused so you don’t contaminate other surfaces or eating areas.

9. Open your container of spring rolls. Take out about 6 sheets and put them where you can touch them with meaty hands without contaminating anything. Know that these 6 sheets are out and you’ll need to fill them before they dry out.

10. Lay one spring roll sheet out before you so the bottom edge is parallel to your waist.
Using your hands, place a roll of meat filling *near* the bottom of the wrapper, not *along* the bottom. Check the picture below. Imagine the wrapper is folded in half towards you, then in half towards you again. The meat should be the border between the third and fourth portions closest to you. In other words, it should be halfway across the bottom half of the spring wrapper.

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11. Tips for putting the filling down: Do not squeeze the filling and try to condense it into flavor nuggets. Conversely, do not put the filling in so loosely that there are gaps. It should be a continuous line of an almost spongy consistency, like soft serve ice cream. Though to me, it looks like cat puke. The filling should be about the diameter of my thumb, which has the approximate girth of a highlighter.

12. To roll the lumpia, bring the bottom edge of the wrapper, the edge closest to you, up and over the filling. Gently tuck that bottom edge under the filling while simultaneously pulling the filling towards you. If you’ve ever rolled a blunt or sushi, it’s the same principle of tightening the wrapper around the filling without making it *too* tight. You just want it tight enough that the filling doesn’t fall out when you’re frying it. (If you have experience rolling and sealing things, you can skip to step 18)

13. You should now have a firm log of filling trapped in the bottom portion of the spring roll wrapper. How firm? When you press on it with as much force as you would use on a fat baby’s thigh, you should be able to leave a shallow dent. If you don’t dent it, it’s too tight. If you leave a deep dent, it’s too loose. Continue rolling that filling up towards the edge of the spring wrapper farthest from you like you’re rolling a body in a large rug. Maintain some tension in the wrapper so it’s smooth on the roll. Sagging and wrinkles mean it’s too loose.

14. When you get to the last inch of wrapper, dip two fingers into that flour+water glue you made earlier and smear it along that top edge inch. This is to seal the wrapper against the roll so think of it like school glue: too much and it’ll ooze out, too little and it won’t accomplish anything. When you’re done, finish rolling the lumpia.

15. You should now have a long white log. Put this on your “finished rolls” tray or plate.

16. Continue rolling until you run out of wrappers.

17. Wash your hands with soap and water. Take a break. Drink some juice. Check Twitter. Eat a banana. Then take out 6 more wrappers and roll more lumpia. How often you take breaks is up to you but just make sure you’re washing your hands any time you’re not rolling lumpia, like when you’re taking more wrappers out of your spring roll wrappers container. I’m cautious about the hand washing because I have kids and old people in the house, and I don’t want to expose them to raw meat.

18. Five years later, when you’re done rolling all the filling into spring roll wrappers, you can start heating the frying oil. I use a dutch oven and pour frying oil in until it’s about 3 inches deep. I use the burner farthest away from me because of oil splatter, but you do you on placement. I set it to high heat because that far burner isn’t like my strongest one, which has the heating power of a white star.

19. While it’s heating, cut the long lumpias into quarters. Use clean scissors, which you’ll wash thoroughly afterwards. You can try to knife through several at once but then they get squished.

20. Once the oil is hot, put in a few of the shanghai lumpias at a time. How many will depend on your frying container and your patience. You can put in as many as will stay mobile. In other words, they have to be able to move and float around. Try a single layer, minus two. Fry and contemplate how you’ll never get these three hours back.

21. The shanghia lumpia are done when they float and the wrappers are the color of honey and the ends should be a dark, brownish reddish color, like scabs. Take them out and lay them on paper towels, which will absorb the excess oil.

22. Keep frying until you have however many you want to eat or serve. You can put leftover cooked lumpias in the fridge and reheat them in the microwave though they won’t be as crispy as freshly fried ones.

The rest of the raw lumpia can be frozen for later use. You can thaw them for about fifteen-twenty minutes and then fry them.

If this recipe seems legit time-consuming, it is. I’ve tried to streamline the process using gadgets and elaborate layouts, but the only way I’ve found to successfully decrease both time and labor, without sacrificing quality, is to have help rolling them and taking turns on fry-watch. The good thing is you can make a lot and freeze them for later, which usually doesn’t happen at my house because as soon as the smell of frying shanghai lumpia wafts throughout the house, people start migrating to the kitchen and nabbing them as soon as they’re cool enough to take!

The more you do it, the faster you’ll get. If you have any questions, you can always leave a comment or reach me on Twitter at @JoanWIP.


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