Despite what their name might suggest, water chestnuts are not tree nuts! The water chestnut is actually an aquatic vegetable that grows in marshes, underwater in the mud with tube-shaped leafless green stems that grow to about 1.5 metres. Water chestnuts are safe to consume for people with tree nut allergies. Phew!!
Why is this important? Water chestnuts are one of the main ingredients in Filipino Lumpiang Shanghai (or lumpia), fried spring rolls, and I had a strong craving. Once a craving pops into my head, it lingers there until I finally feed it. A few weeks ago my sister started talking about lumpia and I haven’t stopped thinking of them since.
Lumpia is basically ground pork, vegetables and spices held together with a beaten egg and wrapped in wonton paper. Different regions across the Philippines use different spices and methodologies, but my baseline is my mother’s recipe, which in my biased opinion is the best I’ve ever tasted. After a quick tutorial with my mom, I realized that I needed to do some research and make some HypeFoodie modifications before I could enjoy lumpia with my gluten sensitive and dairy, egg, peanut and tree nut allergic child.
I had already determined that the recipe was nut-free, but eliminating the egg took a little bit of thought. The original recipe used an egg as a binder for the ground pork and vegetable filling. I considered using applesauce or cornstarch as a replacement, but since the lumpia are so small (the size of a finger) I decided to just eliminate it from the recipe and allow the wrapper to hold the filling together. It worked, and it also didn’t make a huge difference in taste or texture.
The wonton wrappers also needed to be replaced, as they are made with flour and eggs. I decided to use rice paper that is traditionally used in Vietnamese style spring rolls. They were just as easy to roll as spring rolls made with wonton paper. The most important thing to note is to make sure the finished spring rolls don’t touch each other, because they stick together (I learned this the hard way).
I tested two different methodologies when cooking the lumpia: deep frying and pan frying. Both worked well, but I found that deep frying made the rice paper too crispy. Pan frying succeeded in making the outer layer of the wrapper crispy, but the inside layers remained a little soft which worked well with the meat filling. It also has the added bonus of being healthier because I only used a tablespoon of oil in a non-stick pan.
The final result was a delicious and authentic tasting Gluten-free Egg-free Nut-Free Lumpiang Shanghai (Filipino fried spring roll) that my entire family could enjoy.