My wife Tezzy loves to make homemade lumpia, and many of our friends here in Costa Rica can’t seem to get enough. However, availability becomes a problem here in Costa Rica. Many people wonder what lumpia is. Lumpia is a Filipino word that comes from the Chinese word referring to a spring roll with vegetables (like cabbage and carrots) and meats (usually pork). Tezzy always makes ours nice and crispy with ground chicken and serves it as an appetizer or finger food with a sweet and sour dipping sauce. You can also make lumpia with seafood or shrimp as the filling.
Almost every country in Asia has its own interpretation of spring rolls. Tezzy is Filipina, and in the Philippines, spring rolls are called lumpia. Making lumpia requires vegetable oil, a pound of ground chicken, crushed garlic cloves, chopped onion, minced carrots, chopped green onion, sliced green cabbage, black pepper, salt, garlic powder, soy sauce, and lumpia wrappers. The most challenging aspect of preparing lumpia in Costa Rica is finding lumpia wrappers. Tezzy often relies on her Filipino friends visiting Chinatown in downtown San Jose to pick up some lumpia wrappers for her.
But today we visited Chinatown in San Jose for the very first time. San Jose’s Chinatown is about an hour away from where we live in Grecia, and a friend of ours who happens to love Tezzy’s lumpia suggested that we go with her. Our day started promptly at 9:10 am, when Gerardo arrived to pick us up. We headed out along with two other friends in search for the elusive lumpia wrappers in Chinatown. After stopping at La Bordega in Alajuela, we arrived in Chinatown among heavy traffic at about 11:00 am. Chinatown stretches for six city blocks, from Avenidas 2 through 14, and includes restaurants, art galleries, Chinese groceries, and other stores. We stopped at a grocery store called Ancyfer Market that our friends knew and found the elusive lumpia wrappers. Our quest was finally over!