Lumpia has been a longtime favorite among Filipinos and Westerners alike. This familiar spring roll is done with a Filipino twist and served with sweet chili sauce (or salt and vinegar if you’re hard enough for that). My mom makes her own version and is surprisingly more particular about the technique of rolling than she is about what goes inside the lumpia. During my last visit home, she decided to teach me how to properly roll lumpia.
We began with a wok full of cooked beef, potatoes, green bell peppers, carrots, and raisins. This is a more typical filling for Filipino empanadas, but my mom likes to use this recipe when she sends me home with lumpia so I can freeze about 50 of them and ration them out to myself with rice (a throwback to my college days). A more traditional filling can incorporate vegetables like onions and cabbage, but these tend not to freeze as well. She firmly believes you can put whatever you want in there, as long as you wrap it well enough that they don’t break open in the fryer. This is the biggest fear of all lumpia crafters. I’ll explain how the paintbrushes help with this in a moment.
I forgot to take a photo of this step, but be sure to go through and carefully peel all your wrappers apart from the package and restack them before you begin. Otherwise, they may stick together and rip (so sad). Set them out in front of you in a diamond shape (see above). Then you can get rollin’.
Use either oil or an egg wash to coat the edges of your spring roll wrapper. My mom prefers to use olive oil. I don’t know why, and I don’t ask. I just do as she says. Be sure to coat the edges thoroughly so that your lumpia doesn’t break open during the frying process. A brush helps pick up more oil so you can apply it evenly and better saturate the wrapper. This can be done with your fingertips, but that’s messy (obviously).
Add a few spoonfuls of filling to the bottom third of the wrapper. Not in the middle. I know, it looks like the middle. I put it in the middle. She was not having it. Scoot the filling down below the halfway point so you have some actual space above the filling to create the roll.
Now to roll it, fold the bottom corner up and over the small pile of filling you’ve created. To wrap it tightly, pull the corner down past the filling, then use your top fingers to sort of push some of the extra wrapper down underneath the filling and gently tug it towards you (like the folks at Chipotle wrap your burrito, but this time tiny). It should be nice and snug, but not so tight that it rips.
Next, fold the sides in. Use the opposite hand to hold the filling in place while you fold the left side in. Pull it tight to be sure you’re not leaving air pockets in the sides of your egg rolls. They will fill with oil in the fryer and possibly burn (but more likely just taste bad) on the edges. Repeat this on each side and roll your lumpia up the rest of the way. Be sure the tail end sticks down to your newly formed egg roll so it doesn’t unroll in the fryer.
Good job! I’m sure it looks just as good as my mom’s photo. The final step is cooking these bad boys. You have a few options here. Traditionally, and what we’ve talked about so far, is frying them. This is a fully and truly terrifying adventure that will have to be its own article. For now, I’ll just give you the gist: Fry at 350 degrees until golden brown, then let drain on a paper towel. Let them cool for longer than you think you should to avoid burning your tongue.
Now in college, (who am I kidding? this is still true today) my mom used to send me home with 25 – 50 unfried lumpia to keep in the freezer. I was afraid to fry them on the stove (the grease be poppin’) so I would bake them in the oven. To do this, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Take out a baking sheet and lay down a thin coat of oil. Now line your lumpia up across the baking sheet and pop them into the oven for 12 – 15 minutes, or until the wrapper becomes crispy. The meat is already cooked, so you just want them to be warm inside.
Pro tip: I used to put the frozen lumpia in the oven while it was still preheating so they would defrost faster and then crisp up in the oven while I watched Netflix. They were like pizza rolls with a soul.
Realistically, you may want to freeze a few instead of cooking them. Wrappers come in sets of 25, so unless you’re throwing a party or have a really big family, plan on having some extras. This should be self-explanatory, but for those who might be confused: don’t freeze fried lumpia. Please. Just don’t do it.
Now go on and impress your friends with your newfound lumpia skills.