Ngo Yong or Ngohiong (Cebu Style Lumpia with Five Spice Powder) a la Marketman

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!

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71 Responses

  1. Sorry MM, but I can’t make up the 3rd photo? What is this process and what is it?

    Any kind of lumpia is a house favorite… specially when really crunchy!

  2. The cornstarch slurry dip is brilliant!I will do this tomorrow.Looks very crunchy and appetizing!

  3. For those interested, Ngo Hiang is Hokien for five spice powder.

    Never came across this type of egg roll in Manila although they are quite popular in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Did not see it either when I vacationed in Cebu a few years ago. I can see myself doing this since I am really fond of fried vegetable lumpia. In fact, I shall test it if a quick bath in a light batter can extend the short-lived crunch of my normal lumpia.

    The constructed sauce above looks delicious and I suspect, will rival my favourite dunking sauce, vinegar, garlic and black pepper.

  4. been thinking about this street food a month ago.it has been ages since ive eaten such…will make it soon…the photos are so tempting! want to eat them now..

  5. Wisdom tooth…since we both live far from kabihasnan, you can sub TARO in place of ubod or singkamas. ….makes excellent Vietnamese style NGO HIONG! …like our lumpia shanghai but made with lots of grated taro, lots of onions and carrots, ground pork and shrimp, 5 spice, salt/pepper, eggwhite/cornstarch, etc. …rolled like finger size lumpia, fried till only beige in color, cooled. When ready to eat, dip in the slurry and fry to golden brown. So, you have 4 food groups included, wrap the finger size ngo hiong in lettuce leaf and eat it like that. I don’t feel bad eating a lot of it when wrapped in lettuce!

  6. We used to make and sell these in our restaurant in Manila. We used beancurd wrapper called taupe. The veggies were chopped rather than julienned. Your version looks very crispy inside and out. Looks delicious.

  7. Although jicama is available now in Toronto, julienned rutabaga, turnips or celery root should be a good substitute for it. Tinned hearts of palm are also available but I simply avoid using them since I get a surfeit of it when traveling in Brazil where it feels as though it’s a patriotic duty of every Brazilian to incorporate it in anything they serve that is meant to impress.

    @Joseph, wrapped in taufu skin (tau pian) like your version was how I encountered them in South East Asia. And its crisp lasted longer it seemed.

  8. We love lumpia! Be it filled with vegetables and tofu or the meaty kind, it’s always a hit! I learned something new today from your recipe. The drippings after draining can be used as a sauce .. never tried that! Thanks for sharing, MM!

  9. The puffed batter almost looks like the acupunctured zubo skin. Looks very “cripsy.”

  10. Footloose…I have used Lo bak too in place of singkamas. try the baby taro which I prefer using!

    So, you must cook a lot of fresh lumpia ubod in Brazil, no? Do you bring your crepe make with you? Since it is usually summer in Brazil when it is the dead of winter here, do you also maked Ubod punch or Ubod Sangria?

    Bean curd skin is traditionally used in Malaysia and usually steamed first before deep-frying.

  11. dear mm,

    the best ngohiong i’ve tasted in cebu was the one from guadalupe. there’s this house there that sells and accepts tons of orders of ngohiong .. somewhere near the church if i’m not mistaken. this was the suki of my friend’s family in cebu

  12. there is really something about fried food that makes it a comfort food across people of different social statures. there is this hankering for it even with supermodels I guess, hehehe…

  13. ngohiong!!! one of my favorite street food. the best I had tasted so far is from Cheavers Fried Grill here in Mandaue. :)

  14. I think you could bring this in from the street to the restaurant MM! What about a version with lechon inside? It wouldn’t be the first time street food goes upmarket…

  15. @BettyQ, what kind of Taro do you use as a substitute? Is it the small variety or the large (bluish) ones? Frozen Ubod is available here but very prohibitive in price, also the bag is filled mostly with water.

  16. Josephine, you were reading my mind, three batches of experiments already completed… with some surprising results, actually… :)

  17. I remember hearing about Ngo Hiong and seeing the menu item which showed lumpia at a fast food joint during my trip to Cebu almost 2 years ago. It was a “huh?” moment for me because the ngo hiong I know is the 5 spice powder my mom uses in our meatballs :P

  18. Ted, buddy! I prefer using the small ones for it is really starchy than the big bluish ones that once you make hampas against the sides of the bowl, your mixture becomes sticky that you don’t even need the eggwhite/cornstarch to bind it. However, I grate them using the big holes of box grater.

    BTW…try the Pancake recipe, Ted… the boys have been having pancakes for 3 days in a row now…even for late night snack! Usually, I do not finish an entire litre of buttermilk…but now, 1 litre is gone in 3 days!

  19. Isn’t the one wrapped with taupe or tofu skin called kekiam? We have always had kekiam but not ngohiong the way it is done here. But we call our kekiam ngohiong because of the use of 5 spice which is the term in Chinese. Confusing? Whichever, it sure looks very good and worth a try.

  20. Ngo Hiong can also be added to liempo marinade…at least that’s what my dad does and it tastes delicious!

  21. Wow, I wonder how it would taste with diced lechon meat inside with the ubod. It could be a hit in your resto!

  22. I remember ngohiong in the 70’s when it became popular. We use to line up at our high school’s fence during break to buy from the street vendors outside. We use to eat them with puso (hanging rice). Each vendor had their own sauce concoction (usually spicy). I vaguely remember them having some ground pork and not shrimps however (I wouldn’t be around today if it had shrimps then…bad allergy).

    In the 90’s a popular ngohiong house in mabolo was called Atek’s.

    I think a zubuchon ngohiong would be awesome too!!!

  23. My grandma makes ngohiong by filling beancurd skin with a pork and vegetable filling (spiced with five spice powder, of course!) before cutting them into inch and a half long pieces and frying them. It was her mother’s recipe. Always a bestseller at our parties or dinners.

  24. hmm, NGO HIONG? i had that in my high school days in the 80’s, but i think it fizzled out in my province because i never saw it again during my college days, or probably my taste bud was leaning towards our lumpia shanghai, that i never notice it was still there.

  25. This is so interesting! Among Amoy families, ngo hiong is a special kind of sausage. One that is becoming so rare nowadays as this seemed to be a recipe of our A-mas (grandmother) and Anchos (great grandmother). In my past corporate life, I remember going to Cebu and our Sales team brought me to this place called Ngo Hiong House where I was surprised to find a different version of ngo hiong (very close to what you did, MM) and it was also my first experience with puso. I wonder if this place still exists.

  26. we eat “ngohiong” with out the five spice,hehe. just plain, ubod and singkamas filling with this hot sauce that a carenderia called chinese ngohiong serves. they have branches near UC, UV (back of Gaisano Main) and USC Main (at Junquera St. near PCGS gate). every now and then, i just have that craving.

  27. another great addition to my recipe book!!!! i love any kind of lumpia, too. (except the the giant commercial-tasting eggroll from greasy-spoon Chinese take-out)

  28. we have ngoyiong lumpia here in Davao City, somebody claimed in cebu that their ngoyiong or balamban liempo is copyrighted to theirs.. O_O

  29. Lightbulb moment for me, the slurry!!! I will try to use the slurry even on lumpia shanghai just to see how this goes. Thanks again MM!

  30. @Natie, I was once drawn to a Western Chinese restaurant famous for their giant egg rolls, I assume, just like the ones you detest. In this case, the locals (Canadians) adored them. Went there with my gang and found the place hilarious. They featured a Chinese Western singer complete with fringed cowboy outfit singing country favorites like You Chose a Fine Time to Leave Me Lucille in a very thick singsong Chinese pronunciation. We fell off our chairs laughing.

  31. Yum yum! Whenever I am in Cebu, Ngo Hiong is a must ear. Cheaver’s has the best ngo hiong I have tasted so far. Ma try nga iton MM version. Looks good.

  32. @Footloose–that’s too funny–I’d probably go back there just for laughs..I can just imagine !!!

  33. Oh dear! That is seriously good looking food and I have no doubt that it tasted that good. Just the looks of it makes you drool. hahaha… I miss Filipino food so much since I don’t have access to a Pinoy store from where I am at in Kansas. Darn it! That just makes me hungry. I just had some turon the other day, but mine was a banana plantain turon and my family loves it. So good! New follower of yours for sure. :)

  34. I luv ngo hiong. Fave ni nako. We used to eat in Ngo Hiong House and of course, sa pungko-pungko outside our school.

  35. It’s a marketmanila feast for us today!I just made this crunchy ngo hiong lumpia and MM’s chili crab version for lunch! Meanwhile, MM’s pinoy BBQ version is marinating inside the ref for dinner tonight!Yum-yum!

  36. haven’t tried this version but when i was in legazpi city, i was able to sample a lumpia just like this from graceland restaurant. The filling used carrots, ubod and singkamas,without the slurry coating. Yummy while still hot.

  37. I was introduced to this wonderful form of lumpia in the early 70s. I believe the originator of the Ngo Hiong was a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in downtown Cebu called D’Xela Ngo-Hiong House, then located at the corner of P.Lopez and A Borromeo Sts. The owner, Mrs Felipa Te, was my Aunt’s weekly Mahjong partner. She always brought a shoebox full of Ngo Hiong whenever they had a “session”. As kids, this always bought our silence and cooperation. I believe this original Ngo Hiong was vegetarian and contained no meat.

  38. i just have to try this recipe. i’m so excited, because a friend just gave me a 5-spice powder.

  39. Yay! Finally a nyo yong post! Brother in law worked and lived in Cebu City for a year some time ago, and he always brought a kilo (or so) of these home, along with lechon (of course!). Every time I ask friends who have been to Cebu City about it, they just look puzzled. If even you (MM) had to look it up, I suppose it’s not as famous as I thought.

    They sell a version of it in Eng Bee Tin, but those seem different from the ones BIL brought home. It could be my faulty memory, though.

  40. I have been chasing this recipe for the LOOOOONGEST time!!!! I can’t thank you enough, marketman.

  41. this is what we call ubod lumpia in Bacolod ( fried or fresh) I grew up with this kind of lumpia it is not a street food though usually sold by the manog libod in bilao.

    manog libod – person who goes around selling kakanin( delicasies) mostly from Silay City, in a bilao in her/his head or by carrying a basket. hope my explanation is correct.

  42. My boyfriend and I always eat ngoyong when we’re in Bohol. 5 pesos apiece is really cheap ulam :)

  43. MM you could add sotanghon noodles or rice noodles pwede din ala vietnamese version to sop up the juices sa gisa and includethe noodles along with the fillings sa lumpia. that way more juicy sya since the noodles will hold the flavor in.

  44. Love love love ngo hiong! We used to eat at a ngo hiong place across from the original Cebu Doctor’s Hospital, some 3 decades ago. I wonder if it’s still there? You’ve inspired me to try and make my own, MM!

  45. I’ve never had ngo hiong before. Looks so good! Even my colleagues who tries to look over my shoulders when I go to my web sites are requesting for “lumpiah’.
    Betty q, it’s been a while (sorry, MM). You know I follow your instructions to the letter. I will try this using ingredients na pang malayo sa kabihasnan. TY… New email, Betty q?

  46. We can buy a version of this in a Vietnamese Restaurant here but definitely will try this version.

    MM – for the dipping sauce, does it need to be cooked in slow heat or is it just mixing all the ingredients without heating? Thanks.

  47. i guess the street version of ngo hiong started like this, but slowly deteriorated to its present version. it’s nothing but a glob of cornstarch paste (glue) with a few vegetable shreds, wrapped in lumpia wrapper.

    your version looks yummy…will definitely have to try it. ngo hiong is really the name of 5-spice powder, but the term was also used to refer to que kiam (kikiam) only since it was flavored with the spice mixture.

  48. my vacation in Cebu is never complete without eating ngo-hiong! we can take the family out to some rather pricey eating joints, but when the husband and I are alone on dates, we always have the ngo-hiong or the maki at Manila restaurant. ah, i miss Cebu!

  49. i like your fried lumpia, but can you design a version of the recipe for lacto vegitarians pls. i am one kasi

  50. I am truly delighted with this website now! Thank you for featuring ngohiong! A favorite of mine. Usually I would have this with either puso or “pork steamed rice”

  51. i am very very love ngohiong!truly im inlove sa ngohiong.every time na pumupunta ako ng cebu talaga hinahanap ko yan!!!! kya nga hinanap ko ito sa internet. kasi gusto ko sana mag negosyo dito sa amin dito sa leyte tacloban.ask sana po ako pa ano mka order nyan.please contact me. dito sa no# na ito 09303502752.saan ko ba kyo ma dapat ma contact?please asap tawagan nyo ako.gusto ko sana by first week maka pag simula na ako.mag open nyan dito. thanks!!!!asap po please twag kyo.

  52. Just visited Cebu with my friends.We went to a house with a small eatery that serves ngo yong and its so good.I check the internet to find the recipe and I’m so lucky to find your recipe.Thank you.

  53. saan ba ang factory nang ngohiong..gusto ko sana mag tinda dto sa bukidnon.tnx’pls txt 09361471122

  54. i am a food lover, i really love to eat viands most especially with spicy salsas, since NGOHIONG has been a hot issue in here, i would highly recommend this store, i am always there every now and then, i have been a regular costumer since i was in Elementary up until i finished University and even now i am working and i really do swear ’twas the most delicious NGOHIONG I’ve ever eaten not to mention their spicy sauce….this store is located just right across The Sacred Heart School, General Maxilum Avenue, Cebu City….a must try!!!

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