Our take on pancit lumpia for a cooking class at the Free Library. Photo: Neal Santos

Since we started Poi Dog Philly about three years ago, winters have proved themselves to be especially interesting. There was the polar vortex our first winter as food truckers, which we mercifully escaped to run South Philly Meets Kaka'ako, a month-long series of pop up dinners at the now-shuttered Taste in Honolulu. We made it a point to not serve plate lunches or musubis in Hawaii, but rather emphasized the loose American-Mexican-Filipino influences on our menu (we made tacos. There was lumpia). Nowadays "Poi Dog" refers to both mixed-breed dogs and people. There isn't a better term to describe my own background and the vision of our food truck (we also think of it as being globally Hawaiian and rooted in the local food of Hawaii, which has been heavily influenced by the cuisines brought by Filipino, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Okinawa and Korean plantation workers, but that's a bit wordy).

The first phase of preparing bagnet at 9 Sisters in Vigan. Photo: Kiki Aranita

This winter will take us to Mexico City, Oaxaca, Hong Kong, Cebu, Manila, Yangon, Bagan and down the coast of Vietnam, from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City.

Last February, we made our way through Bangkok, the Philippines (Vigan in Ilocos Sur, Pampanga and Manila, where we stayed with two of my dearest friends from high school, Christina and Brandon), Macau and ended up in Hong Kong to celebrate Chinese New Year with my Chinese side of the family.


Frying bagnet at 9 Sisters Longanisa & Bagnet in Vigan. Photo: Kiki Aranita

In all those places, we took cooking classes and throughout the Philippines, our friend Camille talked our way into the kitchens of very surprised fishmongers, longanisa-makers and various street vendors peddling empanadas and okoy.

I'm fairly certain these impromptu teachers were thoroughly entertained by mine and Chris' attempts to do what they do and that Camille is capable of smooth-talking her way into any place ever. My lone contribution to our kitchen-barging escapade was Thessie.


Getting a lesson in making Filipino empanadas in Vigan. Photo: Chris Vacca

Thessie lives on the outskirts of Manila and she is best cook in the whole world. She cooked for my family in Hong Kong when I was young (I grew up in New York, Hawaii and Hong Kong and love all these places equally). I hadn't seen her in over a decade. For our visit, she prepared her fantastic pancit-filled lumpia and the creamiest dinuguan any of us had ever tasted.

Thessie's pancit lumpia and dinuguan. Photo: Kiki Aranita

I approximated Thessie's pancit lumpia (at least in concept -- stuffing spring rolls with fried rice noodles) for a Poi Dog x Pelago cooking class at the Free Library last month.

Pancit Lumpia

makes many, many lumpias


  • ½ lb ground pork

For the pork marinade

  • 2 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 2 tbs sesame oil
  • 1½ tbs sugar
  • 3 tbs shoyu
  • ½ cup onion, diced small
  • 2 scallions, sliced fine
  • 1 egg

For the pancit

  • cooked vermicelli
  • 2 carrots, cut into matchsticks
  • ½ onion, sliced
  • ¼ small green cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • fish sauce to taste
  • shoyu to taste


lumpia wrappers

egg wash (in a blender, put eggs, a splash of water and a pinch of salt)

canola oil

For the dipping sauce

  • cane vinegar
  • fish sauce
  • thinly sliced Thai chilis

Mix the marinade together and then incorporate the ground pork. Marinate covered, in the refrigerator, overnight.

Follow the instructions on the package of vermicelli (boil in salted water for however many minutes, strain and set aside.

In a wok, heat about two tablespoons of canola oil and fry the marinated ground pork until thoroughly cooked. Set aside. Add more oil to the wok and fry sliced onion, ginger, garlic for about two minutes, then add vermicelli and sliced cabbage. Fry all these for about 3-4 minutes, tossing constantly with either long wooden chopsticks or tongs that won’t harm your wok, then add ground pork and carrot, making sure everything is well-incorporated. Add fish sauce and soy sauce to taste and sprinkle with scallions. Set aside pancit in a large bowl (or just start eating some of it for lunch).

Place a heap of pancit in the middle of a lumpia wrapper (as much as will comfortably fit without bursting the wrapper), brush the edges of the wrapper with egg wash and roll.

Pan fry in a few tablespoons of canola oil until golden brown.

Wrapped lumpias will keep in the fridge up to 24 hours. Pan fry them at your leisure.


About Poi Dog

Poi Dog serves Hawaii-style plate lunches, fresh ahi poke, musubi, snacks and mochi flour desserts at our counter-service restaurant, located in the Rittenhouse neighborhood of Philadelphia on South 21st St between Chestnut & Sansom. Everything we serve is made or baked in-house and for our poke, we only use fresh, sushi-grade ahi. Our Philadelphia catering services include luaus, birthday parties, office parties and casual weddings. When weather permits, our food truck can be found serving a less traditional menu of Hawaii-inspired rice bowls, tacos and street food at the Headhouse Square Farmers' Market, Clover Market, Art Star Craft Bazaar and many other seasonally-determined locations and events.

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