At Filipino gatherings, towering stacks of small, crisp lumpia Shanghai can be found next to party favorites like pancit. I often bring a large tray of lumpia to potlucks in my neighborhood, and I’ve made many friends thanks to the tiny egg rolls’ crunchy appeal.
Lumpia Shanghai are deep-fried, bite-sized egg rolls filled with pork, shrimp, and vegetables and served with a spicy sweet-sour sauce. They are so scrumptious they’ll be gone from the platter in minutes, whether served as an appetizer at a party or main course at a family meal.
What Are Lumpia?
Fried egg rolls are of Chinese origin and are popular in Asian cooking. The Filipino lumpia (pronounced loom-pyah) comes from Chinese Hokkien words—lun pia, meaning sliced vegetables in spring roll wrapper. “Lun” means spring, and “pia” is pastry. In the Philippines, there are two basic versions: a crepe wrap called lumpiang sariwa, or fresh vegetable lumpia, and pritong lumpia, a fried version that has several sub-varieties with different fillings.
According to the late food historian Doreen G. Fernandez, lumpia Shanghai were introduced into Filipino cuisine by Chinese merchants who migrated to the Philippines and later opened panciterias (restaurants). Although Filipinos popularly call the dish lumpia Shanghai, there is no such egg roll in the Chinese city itself. A few years ago, The Shanghai News featured lumpia Shanghai and I’m proud to say they thanked me in the newspaper.
The Best Wrappers for Lumpia
Lumpia wrappers are paper-thin, crepe-like, and made with a combination of wheat flour, water, and oil. They are usually store-bought, but there are Filipino vegetable lumpia recipes (not deep-fried) that call for made-from-scratch egg wraps.
There are two kinds of store-bought wrappers I use to make lumpia, and either will work for this recipe:
- Filipino brand lumpia wrappers are round, white-colored, and used for wrapping meat, vegetables, seafood, and even fruit fillings. They are sold in the frozen section of Asian supermarkets.
- Chinese brands, called spring roll wrappers, are crepe-thin, beige-colored, around 8-inch squares, and sturdy. They’re also found in Asian markets and large supermarkets.
Leftover wrappers are best stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 to 3 days and tightly wrapped in the freezer for up to 1 month. Do not thaw in the microwave, but let the wrappers come to room temperature before using.
Tips for Deep Frying
- For deep-frying, I use 1 1/2 to 2 inches of oil in the pan; this is about 3 cups of oil for a 14-inch wok.
- I recommend vegetable oil, which has a neutral flavor and a high smoking point, but peanut oil is a good alternative.
- Fry the lumpia in batches. Do not overcrowd the wok or skillet, or it will bring down the oil temperature.
- In Asian homes, a wok is the common vessel for deep-frying. A flat-bottomed, 14-inch wok works for electric ranges, while a round-bottomed wok is good for gas cooking. An alternative is to use a heavy 12-inch skillet.
How to Store and Freeze Lumpia
Wrap the lumpia Shanghai egg rolls ahead of time. Store them in the freezer, uncooked, in airtight plastic containers or resealable plastic bags. Keep the lumpia frozen in the desired serving amount for family meals. On busy days, you can simply take out one plastic container of lumpia to deep fry for dinner.
When ready to serve, deep fry the lumpia straight from the freezer. In fact, I recommend making a double batch and freezing them. They always disappear quickly.
Crispy Appetizer Recipes
- Fried Pickles
- Crispy Shrimp and Chive Dumplings
- Fried Spring Rolls
- Potato Croquettes
- Fried Mushrooms
Prepare the wrappers:
Thaw the egg roll wrappers at room temperature. Gently separate the pieces and have a large, dry surface ready for wrapping. Cover with a dry kitchen towel so they won’t dry out.
Prepare the filling:
In a large mixing bowl, combine the ingredients for the filling: the pork, chopped shrimp, whites of the green onions (set the green parts aside), chopped onion, carrot, egg, flour, soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, sesame oil, salt, and pepper. Mix well with clean hands to combine.
Begin assembling the lumpia:
In a small bowl, prepare the egg wash by whisking together the egg and water. Place one wrapper on a dry surface. If using a square-shaped wrapper, position it like a diamond, with a corner pointing towards you.
Place 1 heaping tablespoon of the ground pork mixture horizontally on the center of the wrapper, spreading it in a thin, roughly 6-inch-long line.
Use a pastry brush to brush egg wash on all 4 sides of the wrapper.
Fold the lumpia:
Fold the wrapper over the filling to form a triangle or half-moon shape. Press the edges down.
Fold and tuck in each side on the left and right, to look like an envelope. Brush egg wash as needed to seal the edges.
Roll the wrapper away from you, tightly, shaping it thin and long. Seal the edges with egg wash. The lumpia should measure about 4 to 5 inches in length and 1 inch in diameter. Keep the rolled lumpia thin, so it can be crisp and the filling cooks thoroughly, when deep-fried.
Repeat with the rest of the wrappers and filling.
Freeze the wrapped lumpia on a baking sheet or in airtight plastic containers for at least 1 hour (or up to 1 day) before deep frying. Freezing the egg rolls keeps them firm and manageable so they don’t flop around in the skillet.
Prepare to deep fry:
Take the frozen lumpia out of the freezer and set aside for about 10 minutes, giving them time to defrost just enough so that you can separate the pieces if they are stuck together. It is okay to deep fry them slightly frozen. Do not thaw in the microwave or the lumpia will clump together.
Line a large platter or tray with paper towels and set aside.
In a deep wok or heavy skillet, heat 3 cups of oil over medium-high heat to 350°F. If you don’t have a thermometer, plunge a wooden chopstick into the oil. If bubbles gather at the bottom, the oil is hot enough.
Fry the lumpia:
Using a pair of long tongs, gently slide some lumpia into the oil, one at a time.
Deep fry a batch of 6 long lumpia (or 12 or more cut lumpia), making sure there is enough room for them to move freely. The lumpia should be immersed in oil. Fry the lumpia for about 5 to 6 minutes on each side till they are evenly golden brown and pork filling is cooked completely, flipping the pieces using the tongs.
If needed, use a splatter shield to protect you from any oil jumping out of the skillet.
Remove the lumpia with the tongs or a slotted spoon. Place them on the platter lined with paper towels to remove excess grease.
Repeat with the remaining lumpia.
It is best to serve lumpia when newly deep-fried and they are still warm and crisp. If desired, serve with steamed rice and a side of sweet-sour sauce for dipping. Garnish the Lumpia platter and sauce with chopped green scallions.
Store uncooked and assembled lumpia in the freezer. Keep them in airtight plastic containers, or resealable freezer bags, for up to 1 month.
Leftover cooked lumpia can get soggy if kept in the refrigerator overnight. Reheat in a toaster oven, air fryer, or oven at 350°F for 3 to 4 minutes.
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