There were quite a few culinary tastes I developed while stationed in CA with the Navy. New Orleans is truly one of the most fabulous places in this country to grow up for a multitude of reasons, a good number of which have to do with food, of course. San Francisco runs a close second.

Unlike New Orleans, San Francisco doesn’t have a signature cuisine. The Asian influences have remained distinctly Asian, the Mexican distinctly Mexican (sweet mother of mercy, what I wouldn’t give for a carne asada burrito from that tiny Mexican grocery in Mountain View) and there just isn’t a particular theme to the food for which San Francisco is known best. Sourdough, of course, is out of this world and not as good anywhere else, but … really, that’s sort of it. Great restaurants, but low on theme.

Luckily, I don’t need a theme.

Go pretty much anywhere with the Navy and you’ll find yourself among Filipinos. We have bases in the Phillipines and there’s an agreement between our country and theirs allowing for a certain number of Filipinos to enlist and eventually become naturalized citizens of the United States. Many sailors also married Filipinos, and I’m ever so grateful, because I don’t know that I’d have ever learned to love lumpia if that weren’t the case.

Pancit and lumpia showed up at almost any get together. My successful relationship with anything resembling an egg roll had long been established, but lumpia leapfrogged over every other incarnation with my very first taste. They’re made with more meat, giving them a solid filling more like you’d encounter in a dumpling, and the flavor …

… Lord above.

I have trouble finding the super thin rice paper wrappers here in my little town far far away from the city by the bay, so I adapted a bit. I use won ton wrappers and leave the ends open. It’s easier to roll them this way, and much faster. You’ll be done with the lot of them before you know it. As with most things, there are a great many schools of thought as to what goes inside. Some people cook the meat before filling the rolls, some don’t. This is my favorite version, taught to me by the wife of one of the sailors with whom I was stationed.

They’re supposed to look like this:


Hers did. Mine totally don’t.


  • 1-2 pounds lean ground pork (depending on how many you’re feeding, of course. Also depending on how many you plan to eat before you even get to the party.)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 onion
  • peeled fresh ginger … about an inch long and not too thick.
  • 1 normal stalk of celery with leaves – OR – several of the amazing pale green center little baby stalks, chopped fine (you totally have to include the leaves.)
  • 1 large carrot
  • 2-3 handfuls of angel hair cabbage (total shortcut … get the bag meant to make coleslaw and save yourself some choppin’)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce (yeah, right … like I measure.)
  • Pepper to taste (I dig me some pepper)
  • 50 (or more) won ton wrappers (unless you live where you can get lumpia wrappers, in which case I am insanely jealous.)
  • Peanut oil for frying

Take everything that resembles a vegetable and toss it into a food processor. Pulse it until it is nicely minced and well mixed. Dump everything except the wrappers in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Heat a little oil in a small pan and cook a bit of the filling to taste for seasonings. Adjust as necessary. Cover the bowl and shove it in the fridge for a few hours (I usually go overnight with it.)

Place a small amount of filling toward the bottom edge of the wrapper. Roll it up tightly, sealing it with a bit of water. Place the rolled lumpia on a tray. If you end up with more than one layer, be sure to put a piece of parchment paper, plastic wrap, or aluminum foil between the layers, or the wrappers will stick to one another. (Guess how I figured THAT out.) They can be frozen at this point if you’re not cooking them right away.

Fry in about 1/2″ of oil over a medium high heat until golden brown. Serve with Thai sweet chili sauce or hot mustard : ) I make my own, and I’m sure I’ll be posting those recipes at some point. When I do, I’ll set up some linkage for you.

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