Ngohiong recipes seem to call for singkamas (jicama) or ubod sa kawayan (bamboo shoots). But when I found out you could eat the top-most part of the coconut tree hidden behind the coconuts and coconut palm leaves, I was curious. So when we found a few felled coconut trees on our neighbor’s lot, we took our “sundang” (Cebuano for a type of bolo or machete) and started swinging. We had found our ngohiong’s main ingredient.
It seems it doesn’t really matter what you use for your ngohiong, until of course you decide NOT to use ngohiong powder. That’s when the ngohiong spirits come and take your babies. Before we get into what’s inside ngohiong powder, let’s take a look at the “ubod sa lubi” or heart of coconut palm we finally hauled out of our neighbor’s yard without asking.
Ubod sa lubi is Cebuano for “heart of the coconut tree” (ubod ng lubi in Tagalog). Since I’m not a naturalist, I asked Google what it thought was the scient-ifical term for coconut tree hearts and it shot back this discussion indicating that what we had in our hands was the coconut tree’s “apical meristem“.
With that said my cousins sliced up these “apical meristems”, sauteed them with garlic and onions, rolled them up in lumpia wrappers, egg’ed and breaded them, and then fried them. In the end we had found that we made too many to fit in any container we had around the house that would enable us to send them off to a high school we promised them to.
I’ve only been in the Philippines for 3 months so my first gut reaction was “ok let’s buy something”, to which my family replied, “buy something? Hold your horses first-worlder, let’s slow down a bit and invent a container instead.”
My “American suburbian” instincts include “let’s buy it at Target/Walmart” or “find it on Craigslist”. But in the province neither of those exist, and thank goodness. I’m beginning to like the “if I don’t have it, let’s make it” mindset way better instead. Last I checked, that was called being resourceful.
Ngohiong ubod sa lubi
-1/2 kilo (1.1 lb) coconut apical meristems, julienned
-1 small garlic bulb, diced
-1/2 white onion, diced
-3/4 tablespoon ngohiong powder*
-salt and pepper
-30 lumpia wrappers, 6″
Makes about 30 ngohiong.
*Ngohiong powder, it turns out, is also referred to as Chinese 5-spice and consists of: star anise, cloves, cinnamon, ground fennel seeds, and sichuan pepper (or black peppercorns). Throw them in a blender to combine. You might be able to find “Chinese 5-spice” at your local Asian market. In the Philippines, ngohiong powder seems readily available in most grocery stores.
Sautee the onion and garlic and then throw in the coconut apical meristems (sorry, love the term so I’m using it forever). Sautee until soft and then throw in your ngohiong powder, salt, and pepper to taste.
Let cool and then roll them up in the lumpia wrappers. Two tablespoonfuls each makes about 30 pieces. Dip each one in egg and breadcrumbs and then fry.
Nothing trumps the cinnamon-savory flavor of these crunchy lumpia rolls. Go ‘git yo’self some Chinese 5 spice today! And check out Market Manila’s photos of his own unique batch. His recipe is way better than mine too. Probably should’ve mentioned that in the beginning.