John D. Ivanko
April 10, 2013

Lumpia with Sweet-and-Sour Sauce - Photo by John D. Ivanko/ (
Photo by John D. Ivanko/

As Lisa brought out her first batch of lumpia, a Filipino appetizer, this week and placed them in front of our son, Liam, his mouth watered over the piping-hot delicacies and he made a rather astute observation about restaurant dining: “Sometimes it’s a good idea to eat something at a restaurant first before trying to make it at home. Might as well make sure you like something and then go for it big time in your own kitchen.”

That’s exactly what instigated our lumpia experiment, resulting in the recipe below. We first tasted lumpia at Castaway Waterfront Restaurant and Sushi Bar during our Florida Keys wanderings this past winter, thanks to the Filipino heritage of restaurant co-owner Arlene Mirabella. With Chinese roots, variations of lumpia can be found throughout Asia, but it’s perhaps best known as the Filipino version Arlene makes: fried, crispy spring rolls filled with seasoned meat and served with sweet-and-sour sauce.

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We fell in love with the lumpia at Castaway and came back to our farmstead kitchen with a mission to create a homespun version of this exotic fare. To Liam’s point, it does make sense to taste new dishes at restaurants during travel before researching and purchasing hard-to-find exotic ingredients. We used the same principle when developing our Japanese Pan-fried Noodle recipe: We tasted the dish a few times at the restaurant and then tried making it in our own home “test kitchen.”

The one ingredient in lumpia that might require a trip to the Asian market, depending on where you live, is the wrapper: You’ll need spring-roll wrappers made from wheat flour. These packages can be found in the refrigerated or freezer section and might be labeled “lumpia wrapper” or “spring roll pastry.” Regular egg-roll wrappers will also work. Lumpia wrappers dry out quickly, so keep a clean damp cloth over them as you fill.

It is easiest to make the filling the night before and let it cool before wrapping. We love our version of lumpia with the sweet-and-sour sauce recipe below, but regular soy sauce makes a decent dipping sauce in a pinch. The wrappers typically come in packages of 25, which is enough for one batch. Our family of three can eat an entire batch for one main meal. These lumpia taste best freshly made, but if you have leftovers, reheat them in the oven.

Recipe: Lumpia

Yield: 25 rolls


  • 3 T. olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 carrots, shredded
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 3 T. soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 25 lumpia wrappers (one 12-ounce package)

In large skillet over medium heat, heat olive oil and sauté onions and garlic until soft. Add carrots and sauté until they’re crisp-to-tender. Add pork, breaking into small pieces, and brown. Remove from heat, and stir in soy sauce and salt. Cool.

Separate wrappers one at a time, covering unused stack with clean, damp cloth.

Lay one wrapper on a sushi rolling mat or clean, dry countertop. Place about 1/8 cup of filling near the edge closest to you. Moisten edges of wrapper lightly with water. Roll edge closest to you toward middle. Fold in both sides and continue rolling to end, moistening opposite edge with water to seal. Repeat with other wrappers. You can freeze the lumpia on a cookie sheet at this point and then place frozen lumpia in a freezer bag until ready to use.

Deep-fry at 375 degrees F (or higher) until golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes on each side. Use paper towels to drain. Serve with sweet-and-sour sauce (recipe below).

Recipe: Sweet-and-Sour Sauce

Yield: About 1 cup


  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 T. cornstarch mixed with 2 T. water

In small pot, mix ketchup, water, vinegar, soy sauce, sugar and salt. Bring to boil for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add cornstarch-water mixture and boil 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Sauce will thicken as it cools.

Savoring the good life,

John and Lisa's Signatures

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