My girlfriend, Melissa, invites my family over to dinner fairly often. She cooks all sorts of meals, but being of Cantonese decent, a lot of her meals focus on Chinese elements. Knowing this, I asked her if she’d be willing to teach me how to make something simple, yet fairly authentic.
Growing up, Melissa learned a lot of her cooking from her Chinese grandmother and her aunts. They taught her a variety of dishes that she enjoys making for her own family. After putting some thought into it, she told me that she’d invite me over to make egg rolls and lumpia since she was planning on making some anyway. Now lumpia is not a Chinese dish, it is Filipino, but Melissa grew up in a fairly large Filipino community, so lumpia became something she would enjoy often at gatherings with friends. Since the concept of making egg rolls and lumpia are extremely similar, Melissa started picking that up and making them too.
Some might argue that egg rolls aren’t an authentic Chinese dish, but in doing some research, there are 300 year old Chinese cookbooks that list a dish that is similar to what we would call an egg roll. Some say the difference between an egg roll you would typically find in the US and one you would find in China, is the wrapping. In China, they tend to be thin and crispy and are commonly referred to as spring rolls. Whereas here in the states, you’ll find some egg roll wrappers to be thick and a bit chewy, though spring rolls have become a lot more popular here. Melissa’s egg rolls tend to be a bit more like a spring roll. She uses thin wrappings that tend to be light and crispy after they are fried.
Over the years, Melissa has found that she tends to favor chicken egg rolls and pork lumpia, so that’s what we made. She told me that you always want to make sure the meat in your filling is cooked through, cooled, and drained of excess liquids before rolling it up into your wrappers, or they could get soggy and tear. Also, you need to wrap quickly because the wrappers can dry out, making it harder to wrap your eggroll or lumpia and once again, tearing.
There are many different fillings you can put into your rolls. Some people like to put in things like carrots, celery, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, cabbage, etc. Melissa likes to stick with simple ingredients (ensuring her whole family will eat them, especially small children). We added julienned carrots, cabbage, green beans, and onions to our meat mixtures, along with the seasonings of ginger, black pepper, kosher salt, granulated garlic, minced garlic, onion powder, and soy sauce. Here is a simple recipe for egg rolls and lumpia that you can try at home.
CHICKEN EGG ROLLS OR PORK LUMPIA
2 lbs diced cooked chicken (ground pork for lumpia)
About 1 cup each of julienned carrots, cabbage, green beans, minced onions, etc.
Powdered ginger, black pepper, kosher salt, granulated garlic, minced garlic, onion powder, and soy sauce to taste.
Egg roll or lumpia wrappers
1 egg, beaten
Directions: Cook all vegetables together with seasonings, to taste, until done. Drain all juices and mix with cooked diced chicken or ground pork. Place 1/2 cup of chicken mixture or three heaping tablespoons of pork mixture diagonally near one corner of each wrapper, leaving a 1 1/2 inch space at both ends. Fold the side along the length of the filling over the filling, tuck in both ends, and roll neatly. Keep the roll tight as you assemble. Moisten the other side of the wrapper with the beaten egg to seal the edge. Cover the rolls with plastic wrap to retain moisture.
Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add about 1 to 1 1/2 inches of oil. Cook egg rolls or lumpia on each side until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and serve warm.