It's a common scene at any party: lumpia all lined up in neat little rows or piled up on a platter for everyone to grab with fingers or tongs to easily munch on. Lumpia or spring rolls are commonly wrapped in homemade wrappers that become shatteringly crisp after frying, which is a fantastic textural contrast to the juicy meat filling that you'll find inside.
However, did you know that there's another kind of lumpia wrapper that doesn't even need to be cooked? These are called rice paper.
What is rice paper?
Rice paper is basically edible paper made from cooked rice. Cooked rice is made into a paste, formed into thin sheets, and then dehydrated to create these translucent sheets that are easy to use for fresh spring roll recipes.
Where do you find rice paper?
You can find rice paper in the international section, Asian section, or even in the chilled or refrigerated section where the lumpia wrappers are sometimes stored, too. (Some people may not know that rice paper is actually a shelf-stable ingredient, unlike the more common lumpia wrappers.)
How do you use rice paper?
These rice paper wrappers are quite easy to use! The tricky part is learning how to manipulate the sheets so that they will not tear before you've wrapped your filling. However, to make it pliable, these sheets need to be hydrated again. To do that, you literally need to dunk the stiff rice paper into water to soften the wrapper into a sticky and flexible lumpia wrapper.
While it won't be the same as the common lumpia wrapper, these wrappers do not need to be cooked once softened, especially if the filling is already cooked. This makes it the best kind of wrapper when you don't want to do more cooking over a hot stove.
Need a step-by-step guide on how to use rice paper? Follow these steps:
- 1 Prepare your filling ingredients and position these around your work area and chopping board within reach for easy access. Place a shallow plate near your work area that is around the size of your rice paper sheets, and lightly fill with enough water to dunk the sheets into. Position this nearest to your work area. Have another plate nearby for your finished rolls.
- 2 When ready to make your rice paper lumpia, quickly and lightly dunk the rice paper into the water. Place this on your chopping board. The rice paper sheet should begin to soften.
- 3 Working quickly, add your filling.
- 4 Using damp fingers, roll the softened wrapper around the filling. (Careful! The softened rice paper wrapper will be sticky so wet fingertips will help you roll.) Since the rice paper is sticky once softened, use its stickiness to seal the roll.
- 5 Repeat with remaining filling ingredients and rice paper sheets.
You did it! You made rice paper rolls! While these sheets are great as no-cook lumpia wrappers, you can actually fry these too just like the Vietnamese fried spring rolls or Cha Gio which result in crispy rice rolls. Yum, right?
Want to give these altnerative lumpia wrappers a try? Here are recipes to test your new skills on: