I was reading the very interesting comments in this old fried lumpia post, and had a hankering for fried lumpia. With the unusual purple kamote or sweet potatoes on hand, I decided to try a fried lumpia version with julienned kamote as part of the filling. I also decided to hit “two birds with one stone” and simultaneously experiment with single and double frying, which bettyq, and others pointed to as a must for firm, crisp lumpia. Here are the findings… :)
The fleeting nature of crisp vegetable lumpia is ONE THING I would like to fix, before I ever wrote THE RECIPE for lumpia a la Marketman. A few minutes after frying and sitting on a serving platter, our vegetable lumpia goes limp, for the lack of a better word on the bottom side of the wrapper. The moisture from the vegetables within makes the crisp wrapper soggy. This is less of an issue with meat filled lumpia, where there is less moisture. At any rate, here’s what I did.
In a large wok I put over high heat, I added a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil, added in a cup of chopped up leftover pork belly, and sauteed for a few seconds. Next, I added in the sliced white onions and the kamote, which I figured needed the most time to cook and soften. Toss vigorously like a Chinese Chef on moderate amounts of crack.
Add in the carrots and marvel for the color combination for a second or two…
…add in the french beans sliced on the diagonal, cabbage, bean sprouts and keep tossing vigorously. Season with some patis (fish sauce) and/or light soy sauce and cracked black pepper if desired. Taste the veggies, they should not be bland.
Drain the veggies in a colander to remove excess liquid (which you can turn into a dipping sauce if you like) and let this mixture cool. Some Chinese recipes suggest you chill this in the fridge before using. I can’t imagine that is an old, old trick. Perhaps more likely the frigid winterish conditions in some parts of china meant the filling would chill on a kitchen countertop rather quickly…
I used square lumpia wrappers, a little thicker than the round versions that are nearly see-through. These are wheat flour wrappers, not rice flour. Place a few tablespoons of cooled filling on one corner of the wrapper, roll it up carefully, tucking in the sides, and seal the end corner with some brushed egg white. These three pieces were fried in low temperature oil for a “first fry” that was meant to remove even more moisture and set this up for a second high heat frying just before eating. These were set aside to cool slightly.
The rolls were fried a second time in hot oil and they yielded the lumpia on the right in the photo above. Freshly made lumpia fried ONLY ONCE appear on the left side of the photo above. My conclusion? Forget the double frying for vegetable lumpia. The filling is so filled with moisture from the vegetables that the first frying doesn’t seem to accomplish anything other than adding oil to the finished product. This is a method perhaps better suited to meat fillings, which will cook through and lose moisture in a preliminary fry followed by a second bath in very hot oil. If you notice from the photo above the single fry lumpia have a nicer more consistent golden color, and they tasted better. I might try the ngohiong trick of dipping the lumpia in a cornstarch slurry before frying the next time. As for the taste of these lumpia, pretty much a supreme fail. :) Just when I thought I was having a long streak of delectable experiments… this filling was heavier, less tasty, less fresh, less appealing than I had expected. The purple kamote was a downer in this dish, and the incredible purple pigment rendered all of the veggies a lavender hue that frankly, wasn’t appetizing to look at. I liked the idea of sweet potato in lumpia, but maybe it’s just not for me. Back to the drawing board… or is it the kitchen for me… :)