Learning through Lumpia

By Diane Bui, MD Middle School Program Coordinator
Photos Courtesy of Diane Bui

Growing up in my household, there were two guarantees: smiles were easy to come by and the food was always delicious. My parents came from the Philippines and Vietnam, and one sure way to always get mine and my sister’s attention was through food. This is how I first learned about my culture, and it’s still my favorite way to learn. One staple whenever we attended any Filipino gathering was lumpia, or Filipino-style egg rolls. There are tons of variations of lumpia depending on family preference and which one of the 700 islands a family comes from. But my mom’s lumpia has always been my favorite. She would never expose her secrets to anyone while we were younger. The lumpia simply appeared and were golden brown, crispy, and delicious. Recently, my mom finally showed me how she makes her famous lumpia, which I was given the chance to share with the youth at Roberto Clemente last week. It was a great way to learn about Filipino culture and give the students an opportunity to learn the art of rolling egg rolls.

So what is this secret recipe you may ask? Well, I can’t tell you that. But below is a very similar recipe on how you can make your own lumpia to share!


1 pound ground chicken

1/2 cup minced carrots

½ cup chopped celery

½ cup chopped yellow onion

2 garlic cloves

Salt and Pepper to taste

Vegetable Oil for frying

30 lumpia wrappers (square wrappers work best)


Cooking Directions:

  1. Heat a bit of oil in a large pan or skillet. Cook the chicken thoroughly and break up as much as possible. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from pan and set aside to cool. (Pro tip: After the chicken is cooled, it becomes easier to break apart. This makes sure no one gets giant clumps of chicken when they bite into the lumpia)
  2. Drain the grease from the pan and cook the garlic and the onion in the pan. After two minutes, add the carrots and celery. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Combine the chicken and the cooked vegetables and stir until properly combined.


20151117_170839Wrapping Directions:

  1. In one corner of the wrapper, place 3 tablespoons of the filling diagonally with a 1 ½ inch space at the end. Fold the bottom corner over the filling and continue rolling forward.
  2. When you reach the middle of the wrapper, fold in both sides and continue rolling. Make sure to keep it tight as possible!
  3. When you reach the last corner, apply water to the edge to seal it together.


Frying Instructions:20151117_170828

  1. Heat a skillet and add vegetable oil (you do not need to go crazy but it helps if there is a bit of depth in the oil)
  2. Once hot, gently place lumpia in the pan making sure they are not too crowded.
  3. Let one side fry for a minute or two until they are golden brown, then flip.
  4. Drain on paper towels.

Lumpia is best served immediately while still warm and crispy.

Many youth at Clemente have had egg rolls before, but were unaware of just how varied they could be. This led to a great conversation about the variations of food from the youths’ respective cultures, and how much fun and important it is to share our culture with others. Two Filipino youth, Francine S. and Rechelle F., had incredibly different ingredients in their own lumpia, from bean sprouts to pork. This was a great way to showcase just how varied food can be, even if hailing from the same country. I’m excited to bring the idea of culture sharing through food to our youth, giving me the opportunity to learn more not only about my own culture, but about the youth’s cultures as well.

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