Wrapped Up In Lumpia
There’s a popular saying in the foodie world that everything tastes better deep fried, and who could argue with that when it comes to the drool-inducing allure of crispy fried chicken or the golden, crunchy goodness of french fries?
Lumpia also stands out as one of the most beloved fried foods, providing a most satisfying crunch to anyone biting into those hot, bronzed layers of pastry wrapper that segue into sumptuous sweet or savory fillings. In fact, I can distinctly remember the first time I ever tried banana lumpia as a kid: The taste bud-mystifying contrast of ultra-crisp shell and soft, caramelized, sweet-fruit interior is one my palate hasn’t been able to forget.
This classic Filipino pupu, which is an offshoot of the Chinese spring roll, can be found in abundance here in the Islands, and the following lumpia nibbles run the gamut from traditional to local-style, and everything delicious in between.
TAKE YOUR PICK
Seeing as the lumpia rolls we know and love come from the Philippines, it’s only natural to seek out an authentic bite of them at Hawaii’s haven for Filipino cuisine: Max’s of Manila. At both of the Hawaii branches — by the Costco Iwilei complex and in Waipahu Shopping Plaza — patrons may scrunch away on four types of divine lumpia.
For more familiar flavors, start with Lumpiang Shanghai ($8.75), presenting a quintessential mix of ground pork and vegetables inside the deep-fried dumplings. But what makes Max’s Lumpiang Shanghai special — besides the fact that they’re bite-sized, meaning every bite has maximum crunch — is the fact that they’re still made by hand in the traditional style, according to manager Elizabeth Joven. “Even the sauce is not an instant sweet-and-sour sauce; it’s something that we also cook here,” she adds.
To try some lumpia you don’t see every day, go for Lumpiang Ubod ($7.95 per order), served up fresh or fried. “Ubod is heart of palm, and this is actually a signature lumpia of Max’s,” explains Joven. The heart of palm is blended with veggies, pork, shrimp and crabmeat before it is formed into large-and-in-charge lumpia. And, if you choose the fresh wrapper, you’ll enjoy a nice, thick crepe-like blanket that’s made in house. To finish it all off, peanut sauce or vinegar garlic dip are perfect for dunking.
Last, but not least, Max’s also offers delectable Turon ($5.25) in the style of banana lumpia for dessert. “To give it a little twist, we added macapuno (coconut) and ube (purple yam) ice cream on the side,” shares Joven.
All things lumpia aside, if you visit Max’s during the current Lenten season, Max’s will be highlighting a number of non-meat dishes, including tofu, seafood and vegetable options, for those refraining from eating meat.
Max’s of Manila
Costco Iwilei Complex (and in Waipahu)
801 Dillingham Blvd., Honolulu
FRIED TO PERFECTION
First-time diners at Shiro’s Saimin Haven always are excited to try the long-standing restaurant’s 60-plus types of saimin, filled with soul-soothing house-made wonton and noodles, as well as a slew of other mouthwatering ingredients. Those same customers are in for a treat, however, when they find out that Shiro’s extensive menu doesn’t only apply to its iconic soups.
The Waimalu Shopping Center mainstay also dishes out a wide range of local favorites shining with Korean, Hawaiian and Filipino flavors, just to name a few. Additionally, the eatery offers catering — and if there’s one menu item sure to be a hit at any party or special occasion, it’s Shiro’s lumpia.
You can’t go wrong with the restaurant’s Kalua Pork and Cabbage Lumpia, presenting an island spin on the classic meat-and-vegetable recipe. These savory rolls get a nice kick from the accompanying chili-pepper vinegar as well. Shiro’s also offers Shanghai Lumpia fried up with a pork-and-vegetable filling and served with sweet chili sauce.
What gives these lumpia selections that scrumptious flavor and homemade appeal is the fact that they’re prepared fresh in-house.
“They are popular, and they’ve been gaining in popularity more recently,” adds general manager Bryce Fujimoto.
Shiro’s customizable lumpia catering orders are priced at $1.50 per piece, and if you’re dining in at the restaurant, look out for these tasty treasures on the special’s board, where they pop up every once in a while.
And let’s not forget that any meal at Shiro’s is best when ended on a sweet note with Banana Lumpia ($1.25 apiece). Though the dessert also is a special, Fujimoto says the kitchen tries to have it available as much as possible.
Shiro’s Saimin Haven
Waimalu Shopping Center
98-020 Kamehameha Hwy., Aiea
Restaurant and catering: 488-8824