Remembrance of lumpia past

  • Finished lumpia. PHOTO BY LEIGH BULLARD

  • Racquel Creus with her lumpia. PHOTO BY LEIGH BULLARD

  • Ingredients for making lumpia. PHOTO BY LEIGH BULLARD

  • Assembling the lumpia’s filling. PHOTO BY LEIGH BULLARD

  • Spreading the lumpia’s filling. PHOTO BY LEIGH BULLARD

  • Folding the lumpia’s sides. PHOTO BY LEIGH BULLARD

  • Sealing the lumpia. PHOTO BY LEIGH BULLARD

  • Rolling the lumpia. PHOTO BY LEIGH BULLARD

For the Recorder
Published: 1/25/2022 2:34:07 PM

The French expression “une madeleine de Proust” (“a madeleine of Proust”) refers to a sensation — a taste above all — that reminds one of one’s childhood. It’s based on a significant vignette in Marcel Proust’s multi-volume work, “Remembrance of Things Past.”

Proust’s narrator tastes a madeleine cake dipped in tea and is suddenly, unexpectedly, transported into the past in what is called involuntary memory.

I experienced a Proustian madeleine moment recently when I was visiting my brother and sister-in-law in Florida. We were invited to a get-together at the home of their neighbors, Racquel and Gino Creus.

Racquel and Gino are both of Filipino descent. I spent two years as a child in the Philippines. I made many close friends (I’m still in touch with some of them) and enjoyed being warm all year and being surrounded by lush greenery. I also savored the many local festivals and the delicious local food.

My time there was my first exposure to another culture and to the ways in which American culture spreads throughout the world.

As denizens of a developing country, particularly one that was occupied by the United States for almost 50 years in the early 20th century, my Filipino friends knew a lot about my country’s history, music, and literature. I knew nothing about theirs. Fortunately, I learned a lot while I was there.

I managed to speak some Tagalog, sang songs in that language, and even mastered the folk dance known as the Tinikling. In it, dancers maneuver between moving bamboo poles, all the while maintaining perfect posture. My classmates in school could of course out-dance me, but they never rubbed in their superior skill.

I felt completely at home in the rural community of Los Baños. Nevertheless, when I returned to the United States at the age of 9, I adjusted to life as an American girl once more.

I wrote to my Filipino friends, but my time in the Philippines faded from memory … until I tasted Racquel Creus’ lumpia. I was flooded with recollections of our screened-in house and of singing and playing with my schoolmates.

Lumpia are a cross between a spring roll and a dumpling. They arrived in the Philippines in the 19th century from China; many Filipinos are of Chinese descent. In the Philippines, they are prepared with a wrapper that is made with egg, rather like a crepe.

I remember them as lovely fried concoctions, although I gather that they can also be made without frying. Racquel’s lumpia were fried and filled with a light, flavorful combination of pork and vegetables.

She used store-bought egg roll wrappers, which are sturdier than the Filipino variety. Of course, I asked for the recipe, which she happily provided. She even supplied the wrappers.

Lumpia are standard party fare in the Philippines. My family managed to eat almost half a recipe all by ourselves, making our own party. The lumpia were surprisingly easy to make and very satisfying. Below I’m sharing the recipe with you. I have a piece of advice about preparing lumpia first, however.

This is an activity best done by several people. It takes time and patience to detach the egg roll wrappers from each other and to roll the lumpia just right. It also takes a while to fry the batches of lumpia, particularly if you decide (as we did) to use a saucepan rather than a frying pan to minimize the amount of oil needed.

And, of course, you’ll need several people to eat the final product. Lumpia are best eaten warm. If you want to save some for future use, I suggest rolling out the lumpia and placing the uncooked individual rolls on a sheet in the freezer, spaced apart.

When they have frozen, you may pop them in a bag together to fry in the future. The pre-freezing keeps them from sticking to each other.

Your lumpia may not bring back childhood memories, but they will create new culinary memories for you.

Racquel’s Lumpia

I should note that I used my 3-cup mini-chopper to chop the garlic, onion and carrots. You don’t have to use a chopper. It does make the whole process easier, however. The vegetables should be finely chopped.

Ingredients:

1 package egg roll wrappers (50 square wrappers, about 4 inches in diameter)

1 pound ground pork

3 cloves garlic, minced

½ cup onion, chopped

½ cup green onion, chopped

1 teaspoon grated ginger

½ cup minced carrots

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1 egg

Canola, peanut or vegetable oil as needed for frying

Separate the egg roll wrappers gently and carefully. This isn’t difficult, but it does take concentration.

Combine the other ingredients, except for the egg and the oil, in a bowl. Mix them well with your hands. In a small bowl, whisk the egg together with a splash of water.

To form your lumpia, dip a finger in the egg mixture and dab a little of the egg wash just inside the edges of each wrapper. Spread about a tablespoon of the pork filling inside the egg-wash border.

Fold both the left and the right sides of the wrapper in. Roll the wrapper down toward you to enclose the filling completely. Put a little more egg wash on the top of the wrapper to seal the lumpia.

Pour a couple of inches of oil in a sturdy saucepan and heat it to 350 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer to measure the temperature, put a kernel of popping corn in the oil. When the kernel pops, the oil is hot enough.

Fry the lumpia a few at a time, turning them as they cook to brown them. Try to keep the oil at about the same temperature as you cook.

Place the fried lumpia on a rack above a sheet of paper towel or parchment paper to drain as you continue frying their cousins. If you fry them properly, they won’t be greasy.

Serve the lumpia with sweet chili sauce for dipping. Makes 50 lumpia. This recipe may be halved or doubled.

Tinky Weisblat is the award-winning author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook,” “Pulling Taffy,” and “Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb.” Visit her website, TinkyCooks.com.


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