One of the things that I love about our semi nomadic lifestyle is that we are exposed to various cultures and neighbors from different backgrounds. I love designing and making my dolls…. but cooking is definitely my other love. Do you have a friend who you think could teach you one of your favorite cultural dishes? What's keeping you from asking them for a cooking lesson? Maybe you have a dish or family recipe you think they would like in return. Today, a very friendly Filipino neighbor of mine, Maxi, came over and spent the afternoon teaching me to make lumpia and pancit. YUM!These are particularly favorites of my husband and myself. I tend to not be a very shy person when it comes to learning new things. Especially when it comes to sewing and food. Ha! Since we move every few years, I have opportunity to get to live next to and meet some amazing cooks. I had asked a week or two earlier about if Maxi had the time to possibly show me how to make them and that I'd happily supply the ingredients. Luckily I already had most of what we needed. Here's what we did…
We split the raw ground beef and seasoned one bowl with just salt, pepper, garlic powder, and raw. The dry ingredients were to taste. In the other bowl, we used the same ingredients but added in carrots and celery that I had put through the food processor. We set the bowls aside and let everything marinate while we started on the pancit.
I started by opening the thin rice noodles, specially used for pancit. Maxi had me rinse the noodles in a strainer under cold water, just to soften them up a bit. I let those sit as I began on the chicken, slicing a single breast thinly and adding salt and pepper. Maxi thinly sliced and chopped carrots, onion, garlic, cabbage, and more celery. In a large skilled, when the oil had heated, I sautéed the onion before adding in the garlic. When it was just cooked enough, Maxi poured in the veggies (minus the cabbage) and allowed them to cook for about a minute. Oh man, it was smelling good!
Next, she added enough water to just go over what we already had in the skillet and some soy sauce for flavor. Once the water began to boil, she added in the softened rice noodles and tossed them gently with some tongs. When I make this again by myself, I might read the bag first and measure out how much water to use but Maxi just eyeballed it. I'm sure she's made this enough times to just know. The noodles didn't take long at all to cook and the thinly chopped cabbage was then mixed in. The amount of water we had was perfect! Some additional mixing was all that was needed before we were finished! The still pale color of the noodles meant we probably needed some additional soy sauce but it's best to have too little than too much, right?
For the lumpia, we used some egg roll wraps (which need to be kept in the freezer until you're ready to use them). Maxi peeled them apart and cut off the dry edge they seemed to have. She showed me how to turn the wraps like a diamond, dish out about a spoon full about an inch or two from the bottom corner, and spread it into a thinner line. Gently but making it compact, I rolled the corner meat like a thin burrito. We used water to dampen the top corner and seal it together.
With the skillet still hot from the pancit, I added in enough olive oil to cover about half of the lumpia rolls. When it was good and heated, I added a single layer and cooked both sides. With the raw meat mixture being thin enough, it didn't take long for it to cook through and the wrap to turn a crispy golden brown.
I can tell you that this was our lunch… it will be our dinner… probably a late night snack… and lunch again tomorrow. Before Maxi left, I was giving her enormous hugs of gratitude! She really was so sweet and generous with her time. I sincerely enjoyed our conversation and her company.
The moral of the story is that you should never be afraid to ask a friend or neighbor how to make a local dish. We chatted a lot about being moms and learned more about our backgrounds and parenting customs. It was a great time and I learned a new dish that I usually pay someone else to make for me.