This Hole-In-The-Wall Life

GEgg Rolls, Etc.

Photo by Matt OttoNaming a restaurant Egg Rolls, Etc., implies that the eatery specializes in various versions of Asia's preferred fried snack. This recently opened Orange establishment, however, creates but one kind—lumpia, the Filipino type that's bulky enough to wield for bruising purposes. Sold two to an order, they're stacked in tidy rows under a hot baking light, grease droplets glistening off their cornmeal-yellow shells. Fried as they may be, an Egg Rolls, Etc., lumpia is a paragon of healthy eating—crispy skin encasing a turgid slab of toasted tofu and juicy green beans, carrots and bean sprouts that ooze out of the lumpia after every bite like toothpaste. This bonny good meal justifies the first part of the Egg Rolls, Etc., moniker.

The "Etc." portion of Egg Rolls' name is more accurate, referring to the turo-turo ("point-point") cafeteria tradition of Filipino cuisine to which the restaurant adheres. You grab a tray, and out of a dozen steaming bins you choose whatever entrées the owners cooked that particular hour. To-go orders are crammed into a three-compartment Styrofoam box; dine in, and servers heap your food upon a sturdy cardboard plate. Next stop is a sauce station where jars of ferociously pungent fish sauce, vinegar and Jufran Banana Sauce await. The last condiment, a ketchupy, blood-red molasses, tastes nothing like banana—it's more like a sugary tartar sauce—but Filipinos slather their meals with it until each table looks like a crime scene. You should, too.

Lumpias, white rice and pansit bihon (miniscule egg noodles wrapped around shrimp, celery and carrots) are the only constants at Egg Rolls, Etc.; everything else is left to the staff's whimsy. Wait a while, though, and out will appear adobo, marshmallow-soft marinated pork suffused with enough garlic to fend off illness for a couple of decades. More palatable is laing, gooey taro leaves and chili peppers stewed in coconut milk, the ultimate down-home Filipino meal. Even more savory is inihaw na talong, an eggplant stuffed with egg, cooked like an omelette, and best accompanied by spicy, plump longanisa sausages.

Egg Rolls, Etc., might exhibit all the charm of an ethnic Norm's with its working-class offerings and mess-hall ambience, but even the snobbiest Zagat editor would rave about its rich halo-halo. In addition to the typical garden of sweet beans; figs; mango, pineapple and coconut slices; jelly cubes; condensed milk; and crushed ice that makes the Slurpee-like dessert celebrated among sugar fiends, Egg Rolls, Etc., tops its halo-halo with a lavender scoop of ude-flavored ice cream, a uniquely Filipino taste derived from a buttery yam. They also cram a heroically large slice of flan into the little halo-halo container. God never meant mortals to experience sweetness like this, so go blaspheme now.

Gustavo Arellano

 

Egg Rolls, Etc., 1710 W. Chapman Ave., Orange, (714) 937-0800.

 
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