Lumpia shanghai are those crisp, little egg rolls with a ground pork filling mixed in scallions, shrimps, carrots and more. Once you get your hands on a bunch, do not hesitate to dip them in the accompanying sweet sour sauce. Cherish the crunch in each bite, enjoy the punch of the Asian seasonings. This is a classic dish in every Filipino home. It’s probably one of the most recognizable Filipino dishes anywhere in the world.
Chinese influences in Filipino cuisine were apparent long before the Spaniards colonized the Philippines in the 16th century. Next to the “pancit” noodles, the “lumpia” (say ‘ loom-pyah’), the meat-filled spring roll is one of the most popular contributions of the Chinese to our Filipino menu. Typically, Filipinos call it ‘Lumpia Shanghai’, although there is no such item in Shanghai, the city ( as described in the book “Pinoy Umami, The Heart of Philippine Cuisine”).
I brought a platter of this crackling egg rolls to a neighborhood party, and within ten minutes of my arrival, they were gone. They were finished up by famished guests who kept asking me for more. This always happens every time I bring these little Lumpia Shanghai egg rolls to any event. And the more Americans there are in the room, the more these crisp morsels are popular.
“You’re Filipino? Do you make those crisp little egg rolls? Those are so good!” This is a question and exclamation of praise I often get when I meet Americans. Next to the classic Filipino adobo, the Lumpia Shanghai elicits so much excitement when I put it on the table.
It is not hard to make. Plan a day to make it all in a large batch. When my kids were growing up, I used to commission their help rolling up these egg rolls. Cooking is a family thing we do together. These egg rolls are no exception.
Make a batch and freeze it. Then pan fry a couple of egg rolls any day. They cook fast. As they sizzle in seconds, the delightful aromas of the pork combined with sesame oil, rice wine and Asian seasonings will draw everyone to the dining room. Serve these tiny crisp treats paired with sweet sour sauce, and an abundant serving of boiled jasmine rice. Or serve a plate of Filipino Pancit Canton alongside. It is a mouthwatering feast anytime!
For a semi-vegetarian option, try these crisp Vegetable Lumpia, egg rolls filled with bean sprouts, potatoes and veggies in a spicy vinegar dipping sauce. Need I tell you they’re just as divine?
Lumpia Shanghai are the classic Filipino egg rolls that everyone loves. These egg rolls are easy to make. Gather together the ingredients of ground pork, shrimps, scallions, carrots and the usual Asian seasonings which are staples in my pantry. The egg roll wrappers are readily available in large supermarkets. There are two kinds, the Lumpia wrappers, which have a Filipino brand are round shaped. The Chinese spring roll wrappers are square shaped, with a thicker,smoother texture. Both are in the freezer aisle and are good to use. I made 24 pieces of egg rolls, each measuring 8 inches long. When cut in half, the total amount of Lumpia Shanghai egg rolls made for 10 to 12 servings. A recipe for Pineapple Sweet Sour sauce follows below. This dish can be served as an appetizer, a snack or an entree and is versatile all year round.
- Egg roll wrappers - 1 package, around 24 pieces, thawed at room temperature
- ground pork - 1 pound
- fresh shrimps - 1/2 pound, chopped fine
- scallions - 1 cup, chopped
- garlic - 1/2 teaspoon
- soy sauce - 2 Tablespoons
- Xiao Xing rice wine - 1 Tablespoon
- eggs - 2 whole
- flour - 2 Tablespoon
- salt - 1 teaspoon
- black pepper powder - 1 teaspoon
- sesame oil - 2 drops or 1/8 teaspoon
- onion - 1/3 cup, minced, for sweet sour sauce
- fresh ginger - 1 Tablespoon, minced, for sauce
- rice vinegar - 1/2 cup
- pineapple juice - 1/2 cup
- birdseye chile - 1 piece, minced
- sugar - 1/4 cup
- salt - 1/2 teaspoon
- cornstarch - 2 Tablespoons
- water - 4 Tablespoons, for the cornstarch mixture
- egg - 1 whole, beaten, combined with 1-2 Tablespoons water, for egg wash
- boiled jasmine white rice - for serving
- vegetable or corn oil - 2 to 3 cups, use 1/2 cup at a time for deep frying
- Prepare the filling by combining in a large bowl the ingredients : ground pork, scallions, garlic, carrots, soy sauce, eggs, flour, rice wine, salt, pepper, sesame oil. Blend and incorporate the ingredients well. Cover with a plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to an hour, for easier handling.
- Thaw the egg roll wrappers at room temperature. Place them on a dry surface. They should still be cold, and not handled in an environment that’s too hot. I’ve found the wrappers melted and got pudgy,were difficult to separate from the rest, when left too long at room temperature.
- Place one egg roll wrapper on a flat, clean and dry surface. Take a level tablespoon of ground pork filling and place it lengthwise, shaped like a long stick in the middle of the egg roll wrapper.
- Roll the meat-filled wrapper, starting with the edge closest to you. Roll it away from you, shaped like a thin cigar. Tuck in the left and right edges, and keep rolling. Seal the edges with egg wash.
- Make several egg rolls and keep them in plastic freezer bags with resealable tops. Portion the egg rolls in bags according to how many your family consumes in a meal. This makes it easier for you to thaw the egg rolls during weeknights for quick meals. For eg., for 2 to 4 servings I place 8 to 10 uncooked egg rolls in a plastic bag in the freezer, and repeat according to how many meals we plan to have it.
- To cook the egg rolls: In a large skillet, over medium high heat, add half a cup of vegetable oil. Make sure oil temperature is hot enough, but not burning. If the oil is not hot enough, the egg rolls will NOT be crisp. (Tip: Heat the oil until it reaches 350 degrees F on a deep-fry thermometer.*)
- Deep fry the egg rolls a few at a time. Try 6 to 8 pieces in a large 10-inch skillet. Do not overcrowd the egg rolls or they will not be crisp. For this quantity in a skillet, it will take 2 to 3 minutes for the egg rolls to fry evenly. Use tongs to move them around the skillet. Turn them around every 50 seconds to 1 minute.
- When cooked, drain the egg rolls on paper towels or parchment paper to remove excess oil. This also will maintain the crispness in the egg rolls. Cut the 8 inch egg rolls in half with a sharp pair of kitchen scissors, for tinier servings.
- Continue to deep fry the next batch of egg rolls. If needed, add a little more cooking oil, for a total of ½ cup at a time. Maintain the correct high heat of the cooking oil to get the desired crispness from the egg rolls.
- To cook the Pineapple Sweet Sour Sauce : Combine the ingredients in a medium saucepan – onion, fresh ginger, rice vinegar, pineapple juice, birdseye chile, sugar, salt. Bring to a simmer in the saucepan for about 5 minutes. Separately stir the cornstarch dissolved in water till there are no lumps. Slowly add this cornstarch-water mixture to the pineapple-vinegar sauce simmering. Simmer until the sauce coats the back of the spoon, in about 5 minutes. Turn off heat. Serve with the freshly pan fried Lumpia Shanghai. Cooking tip: this sauce can be made ahead and refrigerated. Make sure it is room temperature or reheated before serving.
- COOK’S COMMENTS: Some Filipino lumpia recipes use a combination of ground pork and beef. The Asian ingredients used in this recipe like the egg roll or lumpia wrappers, soy sauce, rice wine, rice vinegar, sesame oil, jasmine rice are available in Asian markets or large supermarkets. If frozen, uncooked Lumpia Shanghai will last upto a month, kept in plastic ziploc bags.
- Acknowledgements: Pineapple-Sweet Sour Sauce recipe adapted from “Memories of Philippine Kitchens” by Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan. My Lumpia Shanghai recipe is adapted from several sources and my mom’s old recipes. *Thanks to “The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook” by Patricia Tanumihardja and to “The Philippine Cookbook” by Reynaldo Alejandro. Reference for Chinese influences in Filipino cooking from “Pinoy Umami, The Heart of Philippine Cuisine" book concept by Nonna Nanagas.