Everything You Need to Know About Lumpia
Crispy, crunchy, savory, or sweet, the lumpia is ubiquitous as a Filipino viand no matter the occasion. Fresh, fried, served by itself, or with a sauce, these easy-to-make and even easier-to-eat rolls are always welcome as a meal or snack.
What is Lumpia?
Generally speaking, lumpia is a fresh or deep-fried Filipino spring roll that has a savory or sweet filling, and is wrapped in a starch skin called lumpia wrapper. And when you're talking about Filipino food, there's no doubt that lumpia will come up in the conversation!
There are many kinds of Filipino lumpia, but by far, the most popular variant is the lumpiang Shanghai, a crispy fried roll filled with a mixture of ground meat, carrots, onions and spices. If you see "lumpia" on menus of Filipino-Chinese restaurants, or at buffets and parties, it's probably referring to lumpiang Shanghai.
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History and Origin of Lumpia
Lumpia as a dish was introduced by Chinese seafarers who traveled to the Philippines and traded with the locals. This was originally a soft crepe-like pancake wrapper that enclosed fillings made from local ingredients at the time. Eventually, we as a people adapted the dish to our own tastes, until it became the crispy fried, cigar-shaped roll we know today.
How to Cook Lumpia
The most common version of the lumpia is the lumpiang Shanghai. The basic lumpiang Shanghai is made with lumpia wrappers, which are commonly available in any grocery store, and a filling mixture, usually made with ground pork, chopped shrimps, onions, carrots, and egg as a binder.
To make lumpiang Shanghai, you'll need to prepare the filling first: mix all the lumpiang Shanghai filling ingredients together in a bowl, and set aside. Then, prepare the lumpia wrapper. These are usually stuck together when they come from the store, so peeling them off individually can make the rolling process more efficient.
Once these components are ready, the lumpiang Shanghai can be assembled. To wrap the lumpia, filling is arranged carefully in the center of the lumpia wrapper, and then it is tightly rolled. Wrapping lumpia well can be tricky, but it's easy to learn and master! Often, plain water is enough to keep the lumpia from unrolling but you can ensure it doesn't by using either a cornstarch slurry or an egg wash to more securely seal the rolls.
The lumpia can then be fried in oil or kept chilled or frozen for later.
How to Serve Lumpia
You've got to eat and serve lumpia freshly cooked, as this is the time when the crispy skin and juicy filling are at their peak. Most eat it with a sweet-spicy chili sauce, but any sauce or dip that suits your taste is fine as well.
Lumpia is of course best eaten with rice, especially Chinese fried rice. But you can't go wrong with a good pancit canton, too. Silog-style with a fried egg and garlic rice is also pretty popular, and probably the easiest to find when you're having the late-night munchies.
Store-bought frozen lumpia are also widely available in stores when dining out isn't possible and you have your lumpia fix now. Try wrapping it in a lettuce leaf before dipping it in sauce, for a fresh taste that balances the fat.
1 Lumpiang Shanghai Recipe
When there's a will, there's a way; and when the will is to eat lumpia, no matter what the filling, there's probably a way to make it! But before we explore the many, many ways you can make lumpia fillings, we think it's important to first master the most classic version: the lumpiang Shanghai.
2 Lumpiang Sariwa Recipes
For lumpiang sariwa or fresh lumpia, the fillings, a combination of fresh and cooked ingredients like carrots, pork, tofu, onions, green beans, and camote or sweet potatoes, are loosely enveloped by a soft crepe-like egg wrapper which is also prepared beforehand. This is a vibrant-looking roll, especially when you bite into it, revealing the colorful fillings inside.
3 Lumpiang Hubad Recipe
"Hubad" is the Filipino word for "naked," which is what this lumpia technically is: unlike other kinds of lumpia, lumpiang hubad is prepared and served without the wrapper. Much like lumpiang sariwa, it is also served with a sweet sauce and garnished with crushed peanuts.
Here's a great lumpiang hubad recipe for you to try.
If you want to kick it up a notch, you can also try this lumpinag hubad with lechon kawali recipe!
Regional Lumpia Recipes
1 Lumpiang Ubod Recipe - Bacolod
Lumpiang ubod is a type of fresh lumpia that originates from Bacolod. Ubod in English is heart of palm or coconut heart, and this is the main ingredient in this delicious lumpia from the Visayas region.
Here's a fresh lumpiang ubod recipe for you to try.
Once you've mastered making lumpia wrappers, you may also want to try this fresh lumpiang ubod recipe with green onion flavored wrappers.
2 Beef Lumpia Recipe - Laguna
What makes this particular beef lumpia from Laguna unique? Aside from the usual ingredients, Laguna-style lumpia also features kamote or sweet potato! The addition of the shredded kamote to the other savory ingredients in the filling gives this lumpia a sweeter, earthier bite.
Here's our Laguna-style beef lumpia recipe.
3 Lumpiang Buko Recipe - Nueva Ecija
If you like mixing sweet and savory, this lumpia from Nueva Ecija is for you. Aside from being vegetarian (yes, it contains no meat!) it also has buko or coconut meat, which adds a mild sweetness to the otherwise savory filling.
Here's our version Nueva Ecija's lumpiang buko recipe.
Other Lumpia Recipe Variations
1 Lumpiang Gulay or Veggie Lumpia Recipes
These vegetable lumpia or lumpiang gulay recipes may not contain any meat, but they are no less flavorful! These vegetarian lumpia are usually served with a vinegar dipping sauce that has chopped onions, garlic, and chili, and can be eaten with rice or enjoyed as merienda or afternoon snack.
2 Pork Lumpia Recipes
3 Beef Lumpia Recipes
Give your lumpia recipe a different taste by swapping out the pork with beef. These savory rolls can also have unexpected lumpia fillings that will leave you wanting more!
4 Fish Lumpia Recipes
Yes, fish lumpia are a thing. Combining fresh, flaky fish with the crunch of the golden, crispy lumpia wrapper creates a contrast in texture and makes for a hearty bite.
5 Cheesy Lumpia Recipes
If it can have cheese, we're adding cheese! These cheesy lumpia recipes are going to be any cheese-lover's new favorite.
6 Turon or Dessert Lumpia
Lumpia are not limited to savory fillings; they can be made into dessert rolls, too! One of the most popular kinds of sweet lumpia are turon, which is filled with banana. But aside from this classic Filipino merienda treat, there are many other fillings you can use to make dessert lumpia recipes.
Tips For Making the Best Lumpia
1 Keep your lumpia wrappers covered.
Lumpia wrappers tend to dry out fast, and when they do, they can become too brittle to be rolled. To avoid this, keep them covered with a damp kitchen towel as you work. If the lumpia wrappers are particularly difficult to peel off, letting them sit for 5-10 minutes while wrapped in a damp kitchen towel can also loosen them up! Just make sure that the towel is not too moist, as too much moisture will have the opposite effect: it will make the wrappers clump together even more, making it hard to pull apart, or worse, become soggy.
2 Check if the oil is hot enough before you fry the lumpia.
This ensures the fillings will be cooked properly while keeping the wrapper from burning from excess heat or making it soggy from too little heat. To check if the oil is hot enough, you can dip a bamboo or wooden stick in the oil. If bubbles rapidly form around the stick, the oil is hot enough!
Bonus Yummy Tip: A trick you can do is raise the temperature at the last minute of cooking which makes ecxess oil drip out of the lumpia better after you remove them from the oil.
3 Place the lumpia on paper towels or oil-absorbing paper immediately after cooking.
Too much oil will make the wrapper soggy, and nobody wants soggy lumpia. If you don't have paper towels, you can also place them on wire racks to allow the oil to drip off the freshly-cooked lumpia.
Lumpia Storage Tips
1 Lumpia can be made in advance and kept in the freezer.
They're pretty much ready to cook when frozen, and you can pop them in the hot oil straight from the freezer. Just make sure to fry them at a lower heat level than you would when you fry freshly-rolled lumpiang Shanghai because you don't want the wrapper to get crispy and golden brown before the fillings are thoroughly cooked.
2 Reheat soggy lumpia to make them crispy again.
If the lumpiang Shanghai have been out for a while and become soggy, you can restore them in all their golden, crispy glory by reheating them! Dry, direct heat helps in evaporating the moisture they may have absorbed from the air, making them crisp again. You can do this with a toaster oven or an air fryer.
3 Extra lumpia wrapper is better frozen than refrigerated.
Refrigerating lumpia wrappers tends to dry them out, and they can become too brittle to be folded or rolled when you take them out. A better way to store them is by freezing them in an airtight container; particularly, placing them in a resealable bag and pressing as much air out as you can is best. When you need to use them again, simply defrost them at room temperature.
4 Lumpiang sariwa must be eaten as soon as possible.
The appeal of lumpiang sariwa is the fresh taste from all the ingredients involved, and since some of the ingredients are raw, these won't last long. If leftovers can't be avoided, they can be refrigerated in a sealed container for up to 3 days. However, they definitely shouldn't be frozen as this would damage the delicate textures of the filling!
Trivia About Lumpia
• Though Chinese in origin, lumpia's popularity (mostly lumpiang Shanghai) has made it synonymous with Filipino cuisine locally and abroad, like in the United States, where Fil-Am restaurants like Kasama feature it prominently on their menu.
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