Filipino food is Asia’s last epicurean frontier. It has the (false) reputation of being greasy, uses processed meats in weird places (mmmm—hot dog spaghetti), and touts “sourness” as its signature flavor. Lately, however, the Philippines’ cuisine has been at the forefront. In March The New York Times gave two stars to a pair of Filipino restaurants, and a Top Chef: Seattle finalist showcased Filipino fusion. Riding the South Pacific wave is Marvin Gapultos of L.A.’s short-lived Manila Machine truck and author of The Adobo Road Cookbook (Tuttle Publishing, $20).“Filipino food has so much to offer,” says Gapultos. “It takes influences from years of U.S. military presence, the period of Spanish rule, plus bits of Africa, India, and Mexico.” Gapultos hopes to keep pushing his culinary heritage forward, and he’s banking on please-all recipes like this one for lumpia—the Filipino spring roll— that’s as easy to make as it is crispy.
Recipe: Classic Pork Lumpia
Makes about 2 dozen
2 tablespoons high-heat cooking oil, plus more for frying
1 small onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground pork
1 tablespoon fish sauce
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup grated carrots
1 cup mung bean sprouts
½ cup frozen peas
25 square spring roll wrappers (8×8 inches), thawed
Heat large wok or sauté pan over high heat. Swirl oil into pan. Add onions and stir-fry until they begin to brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook until just browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in pork, and cook for 1 minute. Add fish sauce, pepper, carrots, bean sprouts, and peas, and stir to combine. Cook mixture until meat is cooked through and vegetables are tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer mixture to fine-mesh sieve over large bowl and set aside, allowing it to drain and cool completely. Discard any liquid accumulated in the bowl, and transfer mixture to same bowl.
On clean, dry surface, place one wrapper in front of you like a diamond. Put one heaping tablespoon of filling just under the midpoint of the diamond point closest to you. Roll corner up and over filling until half the wrapper remains. Fold left and right corners over filling. Using fingers, dab edges of remaining wrapper with water and continue to roll toward last corner. Repeat procedure until filling is used up. Fill large frying pan with at least ½-inch oil, and place over moderately high heat until oil reaches 350°. Fry lumpia in batches, being careful not to overcrowd, and turn occasionally until golden and crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to paper towel-lined plate to drain.