Lumpiang Shanghai: Building Layers to Get to the Good Stuff


A plethora of crisp, party-tray ready lumpiang shanghai. Gobble! Photo by AppleGuy / CC BY-NC

“It’s like being trapped in between layers of crisp lumpia sheets (paper-thin flour and egg crepes).”

This particular line of thought prompted the idea that, somehow, I’ve found myself in yet another ‘middle ground’ – the proverbial land of being someplace where you’re in between opposing goals you’d like to reach, or in between two relatively distinct factions of your personality that you find you’re forced encouraged to grow, or risk drowning in that perilous sea of uncertainty.

In concrete terms, this means that I currently find myself with three clear goals – two of which matter far more than the third. (My top priority involves spending time with two boys whose conversation I’m currently part of is about how a Minecraft element called “dorite” can be turned into virtual Doritos.)

My second priority revolves around this project, which as should be put to type, is something I would really like to see happen in the next year or two. I would love to begin working on a book about regional Philippine cooking – and I gather that working in the evenings for good pay, and setting aside time to write in the mornings, would be a good place to start making that happen.

On the recipe front, I’ve been trying to find out more about the history of lumpia…of a documented source to its first published reference in print, perhaps from an old newspaper clipping, marketing campaign, or diary from an American or Japanese ex-pat living in the Philippines at its estimated time of birth. Filipinos love lumpia to incredulous extremes – taking the lowly lumping shanghai (which incidentally, has nothing to do with the Chinese city of Shanghai) to every corner of the world they live and celebrate sharing meals with people in.

Lumpiang shanghai, in its essence, is a fried egg roll filled with meat and minced vegetables. Nothing fancy with the ground meat filling – often comprised of ground pork, sometimes beef, with minced carrots, onions, garlic and a variety of vegetables, from cabbage, water chestnuts, green onions, and irreplaceable to cooks from my lola’s generation, kinchay – which, depending on your source, could be either Chinese celery or parsley. 

I’ll have to spend an afternoon making lumpia with my grandmother soon.

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