Like most Asian mothers, my mother’s Powers of Nagging are magnified a hundred-fold when in the kitchen. Likewise, my sensitivity to her nagging is proportionally heightened – which is why I haven’t attempted to cook anything in her kitchen since the great Turkey Debacle of 2002. It’s another story for another time, but I quickly want to give a sampling of my mother’s “constructive criticism” from that night:
"Why is your turkey in a bucket of water? Do you know what you’re doing?”
“We don't eat cranberry sauce, why are you making that?”
“You're gonna make rice aren't you?”
“Are you gonna be much longer, your Dad's already falling asleep.”
“This drumstick is still pink inside!"
And on and on she went.
Praise isn't a concept my family quite understands, but they are masters of criticism - especially my mother. After that night, I swore I would never, ever, cook anything again for my family - especially my mother.
(Wait, what’s that you say? A vendetta taken too far? Against my own mother? Listen, Ass, you try cooking up some white-people-food for an impossible-to-please-hungry-Filipino-family and get back to me about vendettas.) Ahem. Uh, anyhoo…
Five years later, that promise to myself is getting harder to keep, especially now that I’m wanting to learn more about Filipino food. I can't exactly cull Filipino recipes from my mother without having to cook with her. So, I put my kitchen blood feud against my mother aside, at least for one day, and asked her to show me how to make lumpia – a fried (generally speaking that is, lumpia can also be prepared unfried and fresh) Filipino appetizer similar to a spring roll.
And you know what? It was a pretty good experience.
After my mother cooked the filling, she, my wife and I, all sat down at the kitchen table to fill and roll out a mess of lumpia. The three of us at my mother’s kitchen table was a strange scene indeed. I thought for sure my mother would either A) drive my wife to tears with backhanded remarks about her lack of lumpia-rolling skills, or B) drive me into a frenzied rage with backhanded remarks about my lack of lumpia-rolling skills, resulting in me dropping a deuce in a lumpia wrapper, frying it up, and feeding it to my mom. Thank God, none of that happened; Dad would have been pissed.
Not only did things remain civil, but I also got to learn some things about my mother that I probably wouldn’t have bothered asking about in other situations. I discovered that she learned a lot about cooking from my dad’s aunt of all people. I found out that she was a secret Kali assassin for the Philippine government in the early ‘70s where she earned the nickname of “Lightning Lumpia.” And I also learned that my mother is an OK gal, and a pretty good lumpia-wrapping teacher. Good times.
I'm not going to post an exact recipe for the lumpia we made with my mother, because she just threw everything for the filling together without measuring. Also, using pre-cut, pre-packaged carrots and green beans cuts down on the prep time (no, my mother is not a fan of Rachael Ray). The most important thing to note is the actual rolling of the lumpia:
Lightning Lumpia’s Lumpia
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 small onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs. lean ground beef (ground pork, or heck, even ground turkey can be used)
1 cup (approx.) julienned potatoes
1 cup (approx.) julienned carrots
1 cup (approx.) julienned green beans (can be frozen French-cut)
1 cup (approx.) bean sprouts
Salt and pepper to taste
1 package lumpia wrappers (these can be found in Asian markets)
Water for sealing wrappers
Vegetable oil for frying
Heat the vegetable oil in a large pot over medium high heat,
1-2 minutes. Add the onion and sweat
until translucent, 5-8 minutes. Add the
garlic and cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Add the ground beef to the pot and cook until completely browned
Add the potatoes, carrots, green beans, and alfalfa sprouts to the
pot, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are cooked through. Season with salt and pepper.
Transfer the filling from the pot to a colander or
sieve. Drain and set aside until filling
is cool enough to handle. Transfer
cooled filling to a large bowl.
How We Roll:
Repeat steps 1-5 until all the filling is gone, or until you run out of lumpia wrappers (like I said, this recipe isn’t exact).
This recipe makes a lot of lumpia, so you can place the extras in a freezer bag and then into the freezer for future use.
To cook the lumpia, heat some vegetable oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add lumpia (freshly made or frozen) to hot oil and fry until golden brown on all sides.