Here’s a lean, mean lumpia shanghai recipe:
Beat an egg in your mixing bowl; beat with a generous shot of rich soy sauce and some fresh cracked black pepper. Add bamboo shoots (strip), waterchestnuts (chopped into matchsticks), about half a sweet onion, diced, half a pound or so of cooked salad shrimp (rinsed in beer, if you like) and a pound or so of ground pork. (Secret: ground turkey tastes good too). Mix it up with your hands!
Make a cornstarch paste in a sawsawan with some water; not too runny, and not to pastey either. Go for the consistency of 2% milk.
Separate you lumpia wrappers. You can use the crepe style, the spring roll shells, or that spongy kind, but do NOT use pastry. Cover your separated wrappers with a damp cloth.
Place the lumpia wrapper on the board in front of you. Brush the far end with paste. Put a spoonfull or two of filling on the near side. You can smooth it out now into a clean line using three fingers, or you can try to squeeze it into place using the wrapper as you roll it. In either case, fold the nearside end of the wrapper over the filling and pull it tight, so that there are no air bubbles trapped inside. Fold in the ends and roll the wrap completely, so that you have one long, skinny lumpia. Fix the shape, and dab extra paste where necessary. Place the roll seam-side down on a board and let it dry as you roll up the rest.
When you’re done rolling everything, take a break. Wash your hands. Put stuff away, start heating the oil, go to the bathroom, do something else. Let your lumpia shells dry a little.
When your oil is hot, slice the lumpia in half. I only like to drop seven or eight at a time, because whenever you drop something into the oil, the cooking temperature takes a dive. When the skins turn golden blonde, pull them out. If you made your lumpia a little fatter, you’ll have to cook them until they’re brown.
If your lumpia starts to stick together in the oil, leave it alone. It’s better to separate them once they’re fully cooked.
Anyway, drain the lumpia vertically in a tall bowl over paper towels. They will taste best in about 20 minutes, so tell your guests to back off.
NEVER COVER YOUR LUMPIA WITH PLASTIC OR FOIL, DAMMIT! You’ve just busted your ass to give it a hard protective shell, and covering it will make it soggy. If your house is so dirty you’re afraid disease will settle on your lumpia if you don’t cover it, you should a) clean your house, b) not serve food, and c) talk to your psychiatrist. Soggy lumpia makes me ANGRY.
Ok, if you are going to walk through a dusty construction sight or are traveling by horse or something, cover your lumpia with a fresh paper towel. AND THAT’S ALL.
My favorite sawsaw is garlic vinagre, but you can also use banana ketchup or that roast chicken sauce. If you have enough soy sauce and a good onion, though, you’ll only use saw saw as a correction.
If you have left over lumpia, DON’T WRAP IT IN FOIL OR PLASTIC unless you want me to punch you. Wrap it in paper towel and eat it when you get home. Tomorrow, it will be a soggy grease slick.
Do you have vegetarian friends? Make banana lumpia. Buy regular bananas, slice each half banana into four even sticks (think veggie sticks) and wrap them in a lumpia WITHOUT any sugar or anything, just plain, ripe banana. Fry them to a very light blond color, and you’re done. Actually, do the banana lumpia first, as it fries cleaner and will not be “contaminated” by meat or shrimp, in the oil or on the rolling board.
Don’t serve any sauce with your banana lumpia. It is sweet enough with ripe banana.
Stay tuned for a boneless arrozcaldo, and a rich chicken adobo. I don’t have a pansit recipe per se, just a set of principles. I’m thinking about working on a fat leche flan, a rellenong manok, and a mussels sinigang. We’ll see.