Lumpia (Popiah)


There are certain food experiences that remain with you forever, indelibly branded into the far recesses of your brain.

For me, I’ll never forget the first time I tried street food in Singapore.

I was in high school. My family was taking one of our first family trips to Asia, complete with stops in Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

In Singapore, we were overwhelmed by the countless night markets that stayed open all night long! Singapore is seriously a night owl’s dream, with readily available food stalls open ’til the wee hours of the morning.

I remember walking around these street food areas where rows and rows of stalls appeared to go on for infinity. We tried some really fresh fruit smoothies. We snacked on tropical fruits. And then  . . . for the first time in my life, I tried a lumpia.

It was the most amazing combination of flavors I’d ever had.  Fresh cilantro, juicy pork, fresh ground peanuts, carrots, all wrapped up in a soft egg-roll skin. The memory of those bites stayed with me for a long, long time.

It wasn’t until about a decade later that I finally learned how to make them myself.
Lumpia Ingredients
A lumpia (or popiah as it is also called) is a fresh spring roll common in Singapore, Taiwan, and Malaysia. It originates from the Fujian region of China and became popular in Southeast Asia when Chinese immigrants from Fujian settled there.

The hardest part in making fresh, homemade lumpia is probably the crepe-like wrapper. I did not attempt to do this because you can purchase frozen wrappers at Asian supermarkets. However, if you are ambitious, you can always try to make it yourself.

Once you’ve got the skin, a lumpia is really not hard to make. The biggest challenge is the time that it takes to prepare and gather up all the components. I think lumpias work great at parties where you can let guests each make their own. People can custom-design their lumpias, adding as much or as little meat, cilantro, sauce, etc. that they want.


So What Are the Components?
Components vary from region to region. In the most general sense, lumpias have meat, eggs, and vegetables. The classical Taiwanese version incorporate sautéed pork, preserved radish, carrots, cabbage, cilantro, crushed peanuts, and shredded egg omelet.
Crushed Peanuts
Crushed peanuts can be easily made in a food processor. Alternatively, you can make them the way my mom used to make them (pre-convenience days!), with a mortar and pestle. If you want your lumpia to be more Southern Taiwanese style, add sugar to the peanut mixture before grinding it up.
Eggs
The fried egg omelette is pretty straightforward. I basically followed the technique that I used for making tamagoyaki, except that I did not add the Japanese flavoring ingredients. Slice into 1/4 inch strips.
Preserved Daikon
Preserved turnip is a bit harder to find in ordinary grocery stores. You can find them in most Chinese supermarkets. They usually come vacuum packed, and may or may not be pre-chopped. These are pretty salty, so you may want to soak them in water for a bit. If you do that, they will absorb water and expand, thus becoming less salty.
Pork
I usually like to stir fry some lean pork loin strips. If you want more fat and flavor, you can stir fry pork butt or shoulder instead. Alternatively, chicken, beef, or any other protein should work as well (though my mom always uses pork). Marinate the meat with a bit of soy sauce, corn starch, and sesame oil. Stir fry and set aside.
Cabbage and Carrots
For veggies, cut up cabbage and carrots into thin strips and stir fry until soft and cooked. Optionally season with a bit of salt and pepper.
Fresh cilantro is important to have on hand, as the crisp, bright flavors of the cilantro work well in offsetting the savory pork, strongly flavored hoisin sauce, and the salty turnips.

You can also blanch fresh bean sprouts and add them as well.

WRAPPING
Assembling your own lumpia is not too hard. If you’ve ever made Mooshu pork before, it’s pretty similar. Start by adding just a small bit of hoisin or Sriracha sauce (I think I’ve actually put a little too much in the photo, but it’s all kind of subjective). Next, add your sugar peanuts. Then slowly layer on whatever ingredients you want to add. I personally think it tastes best with everything on it. If you’re using a lot of hoisin sauce, I would recommend skipping the sugar in the peanuts, because it makes the entire lumpia a bit too sweet.

Enjoy!

Lumpia or Popiah
Serves approximately 4

Prepare all the different components and put them in separate bowls. Allow guests to roll their own lumpias based on the instructions above.

Please note: this “recipe” is very flexible, and the amounts I have written are approximations that I have made.  Think of this as more of a guide, not so much a precise recipe. Feel free to alter the amounts based on personal preference, dietary restrictions, what you might have at home, etc.   


Components
Cabbage + carrot stir-fry

1 T canola oil
1/2 head of cabbage, cut into 1/4 inch strips
3 carrots, julienned

Add about 1 T canola oil (or any vegetable oil) to a heated wok. When the oil is hot, add cabbage and carrots. If necessary, add a bit of water and cover. Stir fry for about 5 minutes until the cabbage and carrots are softened. Optionally add salt (about 1/2 tsp or to taste).

Pork Loin

1/2 lb pork loin, cut into strips
1 T soy sauce
1 tsp corn starch
1 T vegetable oil (or sesame oil)

Cut pork loin into thin strips. Marinate pork in soy sauce, corn starch, and vegetable oil for about 20 minutes. In a heated wok over medium high heat, stir fry pork until it is no longer pink. Remove from heat.

Omelet
3 eggs

Using a fork, mix together three eggs in a bowl. Over medium heat in a nonstick pan, add a thin layer of the egg mixture and cook until it is no longer runny (see this post for pictures and details). Slowly scroll up the egg omelet into a cylinder. Remove from heat and slice into thin strips. Set aside.

Preserved Turnips
3 oz preserved turnips, soaked and rinsed

Cut up the turnip into small cubes, about 1/4 inch wide. Set aside.

Cilantro
Wash cilantro and optionally chop into 4-6 inch long pieces

Peanut Sugar
Using a food processor, add peanuts and sugar at a 3:1 ratio (peanuts:sugar). Grind these two together until you have a sweet peanut powder.

Additional Components

Hoisin sauce
Sriracha sauce (or chili sauce)
Lumpia wrappers
Wrap and eat!
Enjoy!
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Comments

  1. says

    I love lumpia! It is also a very popular food in the Philippines. I’ve only attempted fried lumpia, not yet the fresh type like this, but I will someday :) Thanks for the recipe!

  2. scrapper al says

    I never knew there was a fresh version of lumpia. I’ve only seen and tasted the fried version from Filipino restaurants, although I had something similar to what you’re showing in Taiwan.

  3. Tiffany Wang says

    Thank you Jen. Reading this makes me miss my childhood, every Chinese New Year we would go back to Southern Taiwan, my aunt always prepare this for the whole (extended) family. Where did you buy the lumpia? Do you have a brand that you prefer? 

  4. Oldcar 90720 says

    My gradma used to make it every year on special occasions.  She passed it down to my Mom.  It is really an Amoy, Fukien food.  Both my sister, Jean, and I love it.  In the US, the real wraping is not readily available.  We sort of forgetting it until I see your posting.

    In a certain way, it is almost like the typical egg role without frying.  However, the ingradients are totally different.  Your recepie is about 80% similar my grandma’s.  She added shrimps, oysters, and some other seafood.  Ground peanut helps absorbing the juice so that the wrap doesn’t broke.  Otherwise, you need to eat using a bowl.

    In Taipei, it was available in the night food court.  However, it was never like my grandma’s.

    Thank you for bringing my memory back.

  5. Old Car 90720 says

    Lumpia wrap is available in the frozen food section of large Chinese grocery stores such as 99 Ranch Market in California.  However, they are not as good as the freshly made.  I have not seen any store or food stand selling the fresh kind.  :-(

  6. Grace N. says

    Jen, my husband and I are faithful followers of your blog, and we constantly comment about how it feels like you would be a close friend of ours…and this blog post just confirms it.  Lumpiah is my FAVE taiwanese snack (ren bing), and relatively obscure enough in the rest of the world that my jaw dropped when I saw this post.  THANK YOU!  I never dreamed that I’d be able to try to make it at home.  Apparently, we have tons of friends in common, and it’d be amazing to meet you and Brian at some point.  :)

  7. jentinyurbankitchen says

    Awww, thanks so much! I still haven’t ever tried a lumpia in Taiwan yet. I HAVE to remember to do that the next time I go!

    Hope we get to meet some day! :)

  8. jentinyurbankitchen says

    Thanks for the tip! I’ve found in here and there in markets in the Boston, but it’s not super common!

  9. jentinyurbankitchen says

    Hi Tiffany,
    I don’t really have a preferred brand. It’s a bit hard to find here in Boston, so if I find anything close, I typically just grab it@af6187ef410f50a7855b189bc57e73a7

    Maybe someday I’ll try making my own skins!

    Jen

  10. jentinyurbankitchen says

    Yes, I think the version I’m posting is pretty Taiwanese in nature, since it’s the style that my mom always makes!

  11. Mimi says

    This post brought back memories of my fav Taiwanese street food, pork chop rice. The wrap looks fresh and delicious, I have got to look for it. Which Chinese supermarket did you go to? My new mission is to find them! Thanks for posting, I am definitely making it soon.

  12. jentinyurbankitchen says

    Yummy! I love pork chop fried rice! Believe it or not, I think I actually found these wraps in a Korean store! It’s possible the Chinese markets have them too, I’m not sure!

  13. Tammy Hui says

    oh goodness, pohpiah!  I’ve been wondering for forever where to find the wrappers–now I know … I love this stuff.

  14. SingaporeFoodie says

    Hi Jen, I like your food blog and great work with it! This Taiwanese version is very interesting and I’ve yet to try it! It is quite different from how the traditional Singaporean popiah is made. The Singaporean version uses actual turnips or “baung kwang” (not preserved turnips) and the turnips are are cooked with with carrots (no cabbage) in shrimp stock which adds the unique flavor you taste in the popiah. Sweet sauce is also used instead of Hoisin sauce. So this is very interesting to me. Will try it out sometime to see how it compares to the Singaporean version! :)

  15. MsLike2Travel says

    In Malaysia, we typically use bangkuang, aka jicama here, instead of cabbage. You’ll find that you get a different flavor and crunchiness with jicama, though I’d suggest cooking it. You can probably eat the jicama cooked or uncooked.

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