My Failed Attempt at Vegan Filipino Egg Rolls

A step-by-step guide on a new way to make the popular Filipino dish, with a twist.

Filipino food isn’t known to be big on vegetables — in my experience.

Growing up, my home-cooked meals consisted of saucy beef, chicken, and pork dishes, always served with white rice. While others enjoyed pancakes or waffles on weekends, spam and sunny-side up egg on rice was my jam.

But it wasn’t until I watched the documentary Earthlings in 2007 when my journey to eat a plant-based diet started.

My father laughed at me when I first talked about my lifestyle change, recalling the days when he was taught how to slaughter goats on his family’s farm in the Philippines. Chicken adobo and baked salmon were eliminated from my cooking regimen while vegetable pancit (noodles) was the only Filipino recipe that was kept. White rice was even replaced with quinoa and other types of brown rice.

In April 2018, I made the decision to finally go vegan. Before this time, I had stopped eating meat but my only exception was the staple pork lumpia (egg roll) that constantly gets served at family celebrations.

Now that I’m getting older, I’m yearning for all of the old Filipino comfort foods but I’m determined to make plant-based versions of it. After all, millennials are driving the vegan movement, and I believe that we don’t have to sacrifice animals for that nostalgic taste of childhood.

PanlasangPinoy.com has several recipes for lumpia, but I used the one that made 4 servings of Lumpiang Shanghai, which had more vegetables. It didn’t specify which type of wrapper to use — only “spring roll wrapper” — so I bought rice wrappers, which was the only kind available at my grocery store.

PREPPING & COOKING

To prep, I diced a small yellow onion, ¼ cup green onions, ⅛ cup parsley, and grated one carrot. I prepared a flax egg, which I often use to replace real eggs when baking, by mixing 1 tablespoon of flax meal in 2.5 tablespoons of water.

All photos: Sandra Nomoto

Next, I cut up two 200-gram packages of Uptons Naturals’ jackfruit before dumping it into my mixing bowl, along with the vegetables and spices.

The final mixture looked awesome, so I was pretty confident at this point.

Having only used rice wrapper once, I knew how tricky it is to maneuver because it gets sticky when moistened. So I expected the rolling part to be a challenge.

My rolls were a bit thicker than usual because I was using a full 1 ½ tablespoon for each, instead of just 1 tablespoon.

After rolling the first few, I began to get the hang of it, and only double-wrapped one roll that had ripped. By the end, there were 17 rolls, which weren’t going to be the petite, four-bite-sized rolls I’m used to.

After putting the first five rolls in hot canola oil, I noticed there was air bubbling inside, making me wonder if I had wrapped them tight enough. I also expected to cook the rolls five to six minutes per side, but at around the four-minute mark, I noticed the filling start to burn — so I flipped them.

Realizing that the white rice wrappers weren’t going to have that golden brown colour, I searched online and found that lumpia can be made with several types of wrappers. The most commons ones are the true egg roll wrappers, which makes sense that the dish is called “egg rolls.” Simex seems to be a popular wrapper brand, and luckily, it’s vegan.

THE TASTE TEST

Despite the use of the improper wrapper, I was hoping that the flavour would redeem my misstep. Unfortunately, I just didn’t get the same salty pork taste as the original.

Also, the jackfruit was still pretty chunky, meaning I didn’t shred it as much as I thought. Normally, the inside of a lumpia is soft while only the outside is crispy.

My husband and I tested the final product with some Asian Family’s Thai sweet chili sauce which proved to be the one redeeming quality that provided a familiar flavour. Sweet and sour sauce, plum sauce, or banana ketchup can also be used as a dip.

TIPS FOR NEXT TIME

Despite my disappointment in failing to recreate that traditional lumpia flavour, my first attempt wasn’t all that bad, and provided clues at how I could make it better next time:

  • Use Upton’s barbecue-flavoured jackfruit instead of the original.
  • Use 1 tablespoon of the mixture per roll (making about 24 total).
  • Wrap the rolls much tighter.
  • Try a different vegan wrapper than the rice one, such as Simex.

My husband also suggested I use shiitake mushrooms instead of jackfruit. Porcini can taste meaty too, but I would need a good recipe on how to cook the mushrooms to get the right texture out of them.

From start to finish, the process took almost two hours and the wrapping part was the most time consuming. It’s no wonder most people don’t make this at home, and buy frozen rolls from the store instead.

Now, I just have to figure out what to do with all these leftover rice wrappers.

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