Quintessential street food in Cebu. Sit down on a stool at a streetside eatery (pungko-pungko) and sink your teeth into freshly fried lumpia seasoned with five-spice powder (ngo yong) with whatever dip(s) your purveyor has on offer. Students, manual laborers, jeepney drivers, office workers, etc. all know what this dish is. I am somewhat ashamed to say, I had never known about it, nor eaten it before and when an acquaintance of Mrs. MM asked her about it, she too had never tasted this type of lumpia… so hmmm, obviously our curiosity was piqued. Even a check with the crew resulted in a few quizzical looks, as it turns out they are from the province of Cebu, but hadn’t spent much time in the city, where this delicacy has gained popularity in recent decades… A little googling, a little sleuthing, a few calls to Cebu and I decided to make my own version despite having never tasted the dish before! So consider this recipe a work in progress, I will have my fill of Ngo Yong on my next trip to Cebu, but even though this was a maiden attempt, the lumpia tasted pretty darned good! :)
While I suspect that economy is one the tenets that made this such a successful street food… I opted to go for flavor with less emphasis on keeping it as cheap as possible. Into a heavy pot over medium heat, I added 3 tablespoons of pure pork lard, my secret weapon for mouthwatering flavor. Next I added some chopped onions and a bit of garlic and sauteed that until soft and fragrant. I added in about a half kilo of ground pork and sauteed for a few minutes. Next, freshly peeled and chopped shrimp was added to the pot, roughly 250 grams worth, though up to half a kilo of pre-peeled shrimps would have been nice too. Add in roughly 700 grams of julienned ubod or heart of palm, and roughly 150-200 grams of julienned singkamas. Seasoned this with salt and pepper, some kikkoman soy sauce and a teaspoon or more of five spice powder. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Once the ubod is soft and everything is cooked through, “drain the filling” and keep the juices for the dipping sauce. Let the filling cool before you wrap up the lumpia. Make relatively large lumpia. Make a slurry of roughly 1 cup cornstarch, 3/4 cup water, 1 egg and some salt and five spice powder and beat until well mixed.
Heat up some vegetable oil in a wok (I considered lard, but I think that would be TOO MUCH) over high heat. Briefly soak the lumpia in the cornstarch slurry, remove the excess, and deep fry until a light to medium golden color.
Meanwhile, make a dipping sauce by taking the remaining sauce you set aside earlier, adding some water and brown sugar, kikkoman and cornstarch and additional salt and pepper. Add some water to dilute the intensity of the sauce if it is too intense or too thick. We added two chopped siling labuyo to the sauce. Taste until you get it to your liking… sweet, salty, meaty, spicy and appetizing. Prepare a second dipping sauce of vinegar and garlic or something acidic and sour…
The ngohiong were DELICIOUS! An extremely crisp wrapper yielded to a delicious filling that was clearly flavored with the distinct five spice powder. The five-spice was in the filling, the wrapper and the sauce and while obvious, wasn’t overwhelming. The filling was meaty, but not overly so because of the ubod and singkamas. It was moist and crisp at the same time… I can see why these would be a street food favorite!