This time I got the recipe I wanted. Funny, though. So I asked the gal, R, for the recipe a couple of times. Really what I did was strongly hint that I would like to be invited to her house to learn to properly make lumpia in all its Filipino glory. I believe I said something like, "I would love to learn how to make these. Sam likes them so much. I think I would need a tutorial because yours are rolled so nicely, and they look hard." That's a pretty obvious fishing expedition, I think. But my hints went unrecognized. I then emailed R asking for the recipe. I got no response! I thought maybe it was a family recipe and she didn't want to, or was forbidden to, share it. I was going over all the reasons in my mind, really trying to steer clear from the high school-ish She just doesn't like you reason.
Then I talk to my friend EB, who is friends with R, goes out with R, socializes with R, has tea and crumpets with R and her husband, G, who is a lovely man, by the way. Turns out, R gave EB a strange photocopy of a recipe, written in haste, on binder paper. I assume that this was for me ... or maybe the original went to EB because she wanted it and she made me a copy because she knew I wanted it. Hmmmm. The piece of paper has the "recipe" plus parts of two other recipes and a scratched out shopping list. Huh? As I mentioned before, it's not really a recipe. There is an ingredients list and the instructions say three things: marinate overnight, cut the lumpia wrappers in half, keep a wet cloth over the wrappers to prevent drying out. What was missing from the instructions was whether or not I cook the meat before stuffing. I have a total of three lumpia recipes and two say to cook the meat, while R's says nothing. I do know that one can make potstickers and wontons without cooking the meat ahead of time. And I thought that not cooking it makes sense because R's lumpia are solid rods of meat and how could she get them to be like that if she was stuffing with cooked meat? I erred on the side of cooking. I mean, I guess you wouldn't say "don't cook" in instructions, but I thought it was weird. And, since R clearly does not like me, vis-a-vis bizarre recipe-sharing demeanor, I knew that emailing or calling (not that I have her number or would be authorized to get it) would probably get me nothing.
They were delicious anyway! My meat marinated for two nights because ... I have a toddler. They took me a couple of hours to assemble, and I assembled close to 60, I think. I had 1&1/2 lbs. beef, which doesn't look like very much in a bowl. When you realize you are only spooning a couple of teaspoons into each one, however, you know you're in it for the long haul.
In comparing this second set of lumpia with the first, I learned what makes a difference. First, marinate the meat, etc., overnight in a generous amount of soy sauce. R's recipe is 1/4 cup and the others I have only call for a tablespoon with as much meat. Not enough flavor and seasoning. Second, lumpia wrappers are awesome! Imagine a crepe; now slice it horizontally and you have the thin thin lumpia wrapper. I found them in the frozen section and spent I don't know how long just pulling them apart before stuffing them. Much much thinner than wonton wrappers, and that makes all the difference in the crunch factor. Third, egg is superior to water as a sealant. Fourth, and most importantly, Who needs a stinking fryer? You can totally do anything in a wok!
I bet I need to make my own wrappers to be declared Honorary Filipina. I'll work on that.
Next ethnic dish that requires a ridiculous amount of time: pastizzi. It's Maltese!