By Nathaniel T. Dela Cruz
True Filipinos know: lumpia knows no season. And yes, you don't need a reason to indulge in this classic Filipino dish!
That crispy, crackling sound when there is a handaan (feast) could only be one of three things: chicharon, lechon skin, or lumpia. That sound is an instant head-turner, even before this whole ASMR thing became a fad.
The sound of crispy-fried lumpia wrapper breaking apart after you bite into that sweet or savory goodness brings back mouth-watering memories - but which one, exactly? Lunch during a fiesta? A birthday of your kin? Turon for a late afternoon merienda? Christmas dinner perhaps? It doesn't matter, really. What's important is lumpia taking its rightful place as an essential Filipino grub; a table without it is very un-Filipino. Leave out lumpia in the menu and expect murmurs of discontent from hungry guests expecting to be greeted by trays of this crispy, savory treat. Indulge them, and expect your platter picked clean as soon as guests are invited to eat.
This love of lumpia among Filipinos - wherever they are in the world - is evidenced by what happened at the Philippine Fest's Lumpia Festival.
Filipinos gathered at Canal Street Market in New York City to celebrate the Lumpia Festival, coinciding with the Filipino-American History Month celebration in the US. Stores open at 11 am, just in time for lunch. Delicious food and drinks were served till 7 pm, here in this corner of the world that became lumpia heaven for two days.
Lumpiang shanghai, turon, lumpiang sariwa – all the Filipino classic favorites are front and center, and vendors tapped into their creativity and showcased new versions of lumpia that pushed aesthetic and flavor boundaries. Call it Lumpia 2.0 if you must. Or lumpia as we've never seen them before. All that matters is that every item on display is hands-down delicious, like the sweet and flavor-packed Lumpia Musubi, a special menu for the Lumpia Festival from Kabisera NYC, a Lower East Side Filipino Cafe. There's also Chef Daniel Corpuz's sophisticated take on turon, a merienda favorite among many Filipinos. So Sarap NYC's well-plated Filipino-style lauriat with lumpia as the star of the dish looks straight out of a restaurant with a Michelin star.
While there is no question that the crunchy lumpia is king, fresh lumpia also made quite an impression at the Lumpia Festival, thanks to vendors like Greenhills Diner and their fresh lumpia filled with lettuce, adobo-braised tofu, atchara (pickled papaya and ginger), and (surprise surprise!) kamote cue (sweet potato) in caramelized sugar. Definitely a must-try for anyone who marches for Team Lumpiang Sariwa!
Everyone who came here came ready to feast. There is lumpia on a plate with pancit and grilled chicken. For dessert, try turon with espresso, hot coffee, or iced coffee. Lumpia is not the only food in abundance, but many different all-time Filipino favorites, thanks to vendors who participated in the event, like Kapamilya Resto, Sugarcane Daddy, Kasama rum (a female-founded rum company brewing authentically and ethically in the islands), Pandayo NYC, Patok By Rach, and LechonBAE (Lechon Before Anything Else), which was there to remind everyone the tempting crunchy sound of lumpia can only be matched by lechon skin, which is another Filipino favorite.
So yes, there is nothing to do here but eat, eat, and eat! Especially if they are giving away free lumpia! And if you were lucky enough to get picked for the Lumpia Eating Contest, win or lose, you are going home a winner. The chance to eat as many lumpia in one sitting will put a smile on anyone's face, that's for sure!
Here, lumpia is not just food, it is also a theme.
Narra Studio, purveyor of handmade and handwoven items from the Philippines - earrings, bracelets, necklaces, fans, Philippine flag pins, and the iconic terno and an assortment of Filipiniana outfits - got into the spirit of the Lumpia Festival with its cute Lumpia Is Life keychain - a testament to the wearer’s obsession with spring rolls. Narra Studio also sold bookmarks, perfect for when you are reading Lumpia Lane by Julia Caitlin C. Wu and Grace D. Chong, illustrated by C.R. Chua, also available at the Narra Studio booth.
Katte Geneta, Narra Studio Founder
There is also an assortment of shirts, prints, mugs, and bags from DIU. And if you were there and heard live, groovy music, thank Boogie Mind!
Lumpia Festival also promoted the very funny lumpia comic book-turned-movie Lumpia With A Vengeance!
October 1 was a tasty prelude, and the festival got more exciting the following day.
Lumpia vendors returned for another busy day. Day 2 visitors witnessed the lumpia cook-off. They also helped in picking the best lumpia at the Lumpia Festival. The day ended with more food, drinks, and laughter, thanks to Banana Ketchup, a comedy show featuring Fil-Am performers. Ai Vy Luu, Alex Kim, Dylan Alder, Garri Madera, and Mariel Jimenez took the stage and treated the guests with a much-needed dose of Filipino humor.
The vision of Philippine Fest and its founding members (VJ Navarro of So Sarap NYC, Augelyn Francisco of Kabisera, and Paulo Manaid of Hatzumomo) has been successfully realized: a series of festivals that are very Filipino; a place where Filipinos in New York and the US can come together to celebrate Filipino culture and heritage. An opportunity for Filipino-American small business owners to showcase their products, and a chance for Pinoys in the US to stay connected with their roots through authentic food and other Filipino products.
That’s a wrap for the Lumpia Festival - for now.