Amid all the typical foods I ate as a kid—hot dogs, burgers, tuna sandwiches, giant tubs of Breyer's ice cream—was lumpia. This type of savory spring roll, originating in China but popularized in the Philippines and Indonesia, stood out because it came from my Filipino aunt, who married into the family and brought with her some of her customs and foods. Lumpia was the most visible of these, as they were served at most family gatherings.
I reacquainted myself with lumpia while searching for groceries at Cherry Foodarama, which opened earlier this year off Main Street near NRG Stadium. In a shopping plaza that includes Filipino burger and chicken chain Jollibee and the Manila Mini-Mart, Cherry Foodarama offers daily wares for the community and those looking to bring some Filipino food into their regular routine.
Inside Cherry Foodarama (the former Pugon de Manila) is the small café Original Pinoy Meals. Original Pinoy Meals serves up large plates (two entreés, rice, and soup of the day, on most days beef nilaga ) with a variety of proteins in a quick-service setting. There's beef and pork menudo (tomato stew with carrots and potatoes), beef and pork kaldereta (tomato and liver paste stew with carrots, potatoes, peppers, olives), pancit (noodles), and lechon kawali (fried pork belly), among other delights. Pork is tender, and the stews are rich with just enough acidity. These are hearty, filling meals going for less than $10—a steal.
But I was sold knowing Original Pinoy Meals carried lumpia. You get six pieces for $2, and they're beautifully golden brown—flaky and crispy on the outside, warm and savory on the inside, filled with a mix of ground pork and chopped veggies.
I devoured the lumpia before I even began my platter, and I could've ordered another two or three servings. There are other places in town to get lumpia, but having this option inside the loop is a godsend when I need a quick nostalgia trip to some fun family gatherings. And I'll definitely add some pork menudo to that order.