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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

No. 50: Lumpia from Hapa SF

Posted By on Tue, Mar 8, 2011 at 11:56 AM

Pork-filled lumpia Shanghai from Hapa SF, $7. - JUN BELEN/JUNBELEN.COM
  • Jun Belen/junbelen.com
  • Pork-filled lumpia Shanghai from Hapa SF, $7.

SFoodie's countdown of our 92 favorite things to eat and drink in San Francisco, 2011 edition.

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Lumpia Shanghai are the Pringles of the Fil-Am buffet table. No Filipino party would be complete without somebody's tita (auntie) having made hundreds of the pork-filled, deep fried mini spring rolls ― so many that you eat without noticing, stabbing at the shallow bowl of sweet-sour dip, talking while you cram. Later, after you've stuffed yourself with egg-studded pancit, lechon (roast piglet) with leathery-crisp skin, and oxtail kare-kare, you reckon how many lumpia you've eaten by the dozens. And yet, there always seems to be a foil pan heaped with lumpia leftovers in the kitchen, stacked between layers of paper towels, as if the sprawling, daylong party hardly damaged the gross tally, so everybody has to take some home.

Lumpia, in other words, are totemic.

No surprise, then, that lumpia Shanghai are pretty much the symbols of the new style of Filipino cooking William Pilz is hawking through the window of his Hapa SF food truck. These are lumpia redesigned for a generation that aspires to the Cal-Cuisine minimalism of a Judy Rodgers at Zuni, say, yet moored firmly to Pinoy tradition. Pilz sources shoulder from naturally raised hogs; grinds and blends it with onion, garlic, carrot, water chestnuts, and Thai sweet chile sauce; and rolls up spoonfuls in Asian spring roll skins (not egg roll wrappers, which Pilz finds too coarse ― he buys the ones his mom used). They're fried on the truck, to order, in rice-bran oil ― it has a higher smoking point than other oils, meaning you can fry at a hotter temperature. "Lumpia needs to be fried really fast, really hard, and really hot," Pilz says.

Are the skins too thin? One of SFoodie's Manila-born friends thinks so. Other cooks resort to double-wrapping lumpia, but, Pilz says, even though Hapa's have edges that tend to scorch a bit, his aim overall with nuevo Filipino is to let the essential ingredients shine. That means lumpia with a very pointed delicacy, served with a sweet-and-sour dipping sauce that adapts to seasonal fruit, but often turns up with mango and fresh pineapple.

"It's like bouillabaisse," Pilz says of lumpia. "Everybody has their own method." With apologies to titas everywhere, Hapa SF's method yields some of the best anywhere.

Hapa SF: Truck parks at various locations in S.F.; follow it on Twitter at @HapaSF.

Dishes in our series so far:

92: Goat tacos from El Norteño

91: Faux shark's fin soup at Benu

90: Esperpento's alcachofas a la plancha

89: Poco Dolce's olive oil chocolate bar

88: Decantr's chicken-liver mousseline

87: Outerlands' levain bread

86: Fraîche's frozen yogurt

85: Gyro King's spinach pie

84: Tandoori fish from Lahore Karahi

83: Braised oxtail and daikon from Namu

82: Golden Gate Bakery's custard tarts

81: Commonwealth's cured foie gras with umeboshi purée

80: Star Stream's Liège-style waffle

79: Mexican hot chocolate from La Oaxaqueña

78: Meatball sandwich from Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe

77: Cheesecake from Zanze's

76: Chicken pepian at San Miguel

75: Macau iced coffee at Vega/Special Xtra

74: Comstock Saloon's Pisco Punch

73: Hai Ky Mi Gia's duck leg noodle soup

72: Sauerbraten at Walzwerk

71: Boudin noir at Cafe Bastille

70: Blackstrap molasses gingerbread at Lotta's Bakery

69: Plow's crispy potatoes

68: Prospect's Catcher in the Rye

67: Pork banh mi from Little Vietnam Cafe

66: Nakaochi at Ippuku

65: Sidekick's chocolate spritzer

64: Farmhouse Culture's horseradish-leek sauerkraut

63: Destination Baking Co.'s challah

62: Cotogna's roasted carrots

61: Hard Knox Cafe's chicken and waffles

60: The Rebel Within from Tell Tale Preserve Co.

59: The Slanted Door's Whiskey Cocktail

58: Carnitas burrito from Taqueria San Francisco

57: Sakura mochi from Benkyodo

56: Birria at Gallardos

55: BBQ pork skewers at Fil-Am Cuisine

54: JapaCurry's katsu curry

53: Vegan flan at Gracias Madre

52: Cinderella Bakery's pelmeni

51: Locavore's maple andouille sausage

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook. Contact me at John.Birdsall@SFWeekly.com

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