Sariwa! (Filipino Fresh Lumpia)

I stand corrected!
Thank you to reader Ezra Antonio for his comments regarding the correct spelling of this dish (see his comments below). I’ve edited this to reflect this spelling with an “R” instead of how our family mispronounces it with an “L” — some of us are still working on the “P” and “F” thing, too! I love it when there’s a dialogue about something you see around here — thanks to everyone who de-lurks! ; )

No doubt many readers are familiar with the Chinese eggroll, the Vietnamese fried springroll, or (if you’re really lucky) the Filipino lumpia. They are all deep-fried packets of vegetables and/or meat beloved the world over as tasty, easy-to-eat parcels of exotica. Fewer readers may also be familiar with the Vietnamese fresh springroll — a noodle, herb and cooked shrimp filling wrapped in translucent rice paper. Definitely saves on calories (no frying) with no sacrifice of flavor. Now raise your hand if you’re also familiar with the Filipino fresh lumpia called Lumpia Sariwa, or Saliwa. Anyone? Anyone??

I think it’s a tragedy that this wonderful Filipino dish is not better known, so let’s change that. Sariwa is full of healthy ingredients, fun to assemble, and oh-so-onolicious. The vegetable and meat filling is spooned into lettuce and a lumpia wrapper, rolled, and eaten with a sweet vinegar sauce and fresh garlic. How can it get better than that? And each diner assembles her own wrap at the table, so everyone can adjust the garlic and sauce to their taste. Have you ever had mu shu pork/vegetables, or fajitas — it’s just like that.

Perhaps the single defining feature of sariwa is the raw garlic garnish. Finely minced raw garlic is added to each mouthful, along with a spoonful of vinegar sauce. It packs a powerful punch, but pulls together the flavorful filling and the bland wrapper and lettuce beautifully. If you prefer to assemble the rolls ahead of time for your family or guests, wrap the assembled rolls in plastic wrap, individually or in 2s and 3s, to keep the delicate flour wrappers from drying out and splitting.

Maybe the trickiest part of making sariwa at home is finding the lumpia wrappers if you don’t have a grocer that stocks Filipino products. While you can substitute other types of eggroll/springroll wrappers when deep-frying, the thicker yellowish square wrappers labelled for Chinese eggrolls won’t work in this recipe because I don’t think you can eat those wrappers raw. The ultra-thin crepe-like wrappers necessary for sariwa are made with flour, water and salt only. There is a locally (Hawaii) made brand, and a couple imported from the P.I. All brands are available frozen (Don Quijote on Oahu carries a couple of types; but the Philippine grocery, Pacific Supermarket in Waipahu, has the most variety). Remove the frozen wrappers from the plastic, and wrap in a barely damp clean kitchen towel to thaw about 30 minutes. Before placing at the table, carefully separate the wrappers (they’re fragile and will stick together a bit) before stacking again in a damp towel to keep them from drying out.

Sariwa is usually part of a larger meal, but we often will have just this and a bowl of rice as a full meal. It’s perfect hot weather food, and a nice change of pace from a main-course salad.
The title of this post is a tribute to my dear husband who always speaks in exclamation points whenever he mentions this dish…

Serves 4 as a main course
For the Sauce:
3/4 cup (180ml) apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup (120ml) water
1/2 cup (100g) brown sugar or 2/3 cup (130g) raw sugar
1/2 tsp. sea salt
3 tsp. (10g) cornstarch, dissolved in 3 TBL. water to make a runny paste

Combine vinegar, water, sugar and salt in small saucepan. Stir vigorously to dissolve salt and sugar. Bring to boil over high heat, then immediately reduce to simmer. While stirring constantly or whisking, pour in cornstarch slurry and combine. Cook over low heat, stirring, until starch is cooked through, about 8-10 minutes, or until the sauce thickens and loses all opaqueness. Pour into small serving bowls (one for each diner) and allow to cool.

For the Filling:
1/4 lb. (110g) shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 whole chicken breast or 3 chicken thighs, deboned and skinned
1/4 lb. pork shoulder
1 onion, finely diced
4-6 cloves of garlic, finely minced
ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. fish sauce (patis)

Cut shrimp and meats into thin slivers, no more than 1″ long. Heat oil in wok over medium heat, then add onions, cover and allow to cook until onions are translucent, about 8-10 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Increase heat to medium-high and add chicken and pork. Season with pepper and patis, and cook for 5 minutes. Add shrimp, stir through, and lower heat back down to medium, and cook for another minute. Immediately pour out all contents of the pan, including any liquids, into a bowl and keep aside. Do not wash wok and return to stove.

1 small head of cabbage, green or Napa (about 1.5 lb/600g), shredded
1 large or 2 medium carrots, julienned in 2″ pieces or shredded
1/4 lb. green beans, cleaned and julienned or sliced on a sharp diagonal
1 medium potato, peeled and julienned in 2″ pieces
1 small can of water chestnuts, julienned (optional)
1/2 cup of julienned bamboo shoots
3 pieces of Chinese black fungus (mok yee), rehydrated and sliced thin (optional)
ground black pepper
2-3 tsp. patis
1/4 cup chicken broth or water

In same pan that the meats were cooked, heat 2 TBL. oil over medium high heat, and add all the vegetables. Stir through, add pan juices from cooked meats and chicken broth or water. Cover, reduce heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes. Add pepper and patis, and stir through again. Continue cooking until all vegetables are just cooked through, then raise heat to medium-high and add back the cooked meats. Stir well to combine all ingredients, and cook uncovered for another 10 minutes to evaporate most of the liquid in the pan. Taste and correct seasoning.
Remove filling from pan, leaving behind as much remaining liquid as possible. Allow to cool completely before serving.

To Assemble:
1 packet of lumpia wrappers, thawed and separated, and kept under a damp kitchen towel
2 heads of Romaine lettuce, or 3-4 heads of leaf lettuce, washed, dried and separated into leaves
1-2 heads of garlic, peeled and finely minced in a serving bowl

Lay one wrapper on a plate and a Romaine or other leaf lettuce on top of the wrapper, with one end of the leaf just over the left or right edge of the wrapper (so it will peek out the top when it’s rolled). Put 2 tablespoons of filling down the center of the leaf, fold the leaf around filling. Holding the leaf in place, fold the long end of the wrapper (nearest you) around the leaf & filling. Now bring the bottom of the wrapper over the leaf to close up tha end. Start rolling away from you until you reach the end of the plate. Use plain water to wet the edge of the wrapper to seal.

To eat, just pick it up burrito-style, garnish with garlic and sauce, and enjoy! (“Pass the mints, please”)