Today, we are celebrating the birthday of my youngest brother, Udong (Placido in real life). Udong and I were used to be the babies among the five barako (all male) brothers. I am only two years ahead of him and I am almost 10 years younger than my third (precedent) brother. Being the two youngest in the family, we grew up chasing everyone else’s attention as we individually compete to become the apple of our family's eyes. It was really never easy striving to be like the center of attraction as one could not avoid and definitely would always tend to upstage the other. It was like playing tug of war, if you know what I mean. Rivalries, squabbling over a slice of cake, quarrels, no matter how petty or serious – have been always part of our everyday struggles of being an attention grabber. I think it is quite a pre-requisite process that every sibling, for that matter, should undergo. Well, who haven’t gone through it? But to quote a few memorable lines from Olivia Culpo (2012 Miss USA and Miss Universe), “You appreciate your siblings so much more when you are older.” True, indeed, and thankful because as we get older, we have become more and more generous, self-sacrificing and understanding of one other.
|Dinamita is a very popular Pinoy finger food usually paired with a bottle of beer.|
Since it is my brother's special day, his wife, Gissel is cooking something for him. They are not throwing a big party, just a simple dinner with their little cute and lovable Alexia. Of course, I have to sneak a quick peak to find out what is cooking inside the kitchen as I could already smell the aroma of the chopped coriander leaves and that peppery scent which I was having some uncertainty figuring out at first. And I was right; they are preparing one of our all time favorite appetizers, the dinamita. But whoops! Though I could nicely describe the dish as an "edible firecracker," we are not explosive-eating individuals and just a disclaimer: that no flammable materials were used in preparing this – only hot chilies. So to calm your nerves a bit, Lumpiang Dinamita or Dynamite Spring Rolls are crunchy and tasty starter dish made from long green chilies stuffed with ground meat and cheese, swaddled in lumpia (spring roll) egg wrappers and fried to golden brown. It might have derived its name on the way it is wrapped wherein the stem of the chili is left undetached and uncovered, protruding at one end (similar to the wick of a rocket). It has a flavor that would just explode inside your mouth with all the fieriness emitted by the chili to add to the succulence and creaminess of the cheesy ground beef filling. You can eat it as is or dip it to your favorite dipping sauce which could be anything from plain tomato ketchup to garlic flavored mayonnaise. It can be served at any occasion and is perfect as pulutan (finger food to pair with a bottle of beer).
|Jalapeño is a well-loved Mexican chili. Photo Credit: The Art of Manliness|
|Chili Picante or Long Green Chili is locally known as Siling Haba, Siling Pangsigang and Siling Tagalog.|
Alexia, being a certified foodie like her parents and uncle, would always want to munch anything just like what the adults do and she never wanted to be left behind. Since the little kid here is still too sensitive to endure spicy foods, we opt to lessen the spiciness of the dynamite spring rolls by removing the seeds and the core pith of the chili pepper. But if you are the bold type who finds delight on eating spicy and you are not bothered by all those burning sensations, then by all means, keep the entire chili unscathed to your mouth’s and stomach’s content. Besides, being fierce is just how the dish really adopted its name. Just to give you some quick trivia about this little fiery finger-like creature: siling haba (long green chili, finger chili or chili picante; other local terms, siling pangsigang, siling espada and siling Tagalog) is just one of the many varieties of the capsicum species. Along with siling bilog (bell pepper) and siling labuyo (wild red chili pepper or bird’s eye chili), green chili is commonly cultivated in the Philippines and used as an important ingredient to spice up a number of Filipino foods. You can frequently see it in dishes like pinaksiw (vinegar stew), pinangat (soured fish), ginataan (coconut based dish), dinuguan (pork blood stew) and the most legendary, sinigang (sour soup), hence the derivation of the name, siling pang-“sigang”. The fruit, usually bright to yellowish green in color and gets redder as it ages, can grow upto 6 cm. in length and 1.5 cm. in width. Finger chilies are less sizzling compared to the wild red chilies and believed to be the local counterpart of the Mexican jalapeño chili, while our bell peppers, which are rather eaten like any other vegetables, are more on the sweet side. Check out some pictures I borrowed from the internet. Photos courtesy of their real owners.
|Wild Red Chilies (Siling Labuyo) are much smaller than the Taiwanese Red Chilies. Photo Credit: Market Manila|
|Bell pepper is a sweet chili used as an ingredient along with other vegetables. Photo credit: AgMRC|
The first time I got to try dinamita was when my friends and I dined out at one of the popular restos in the city years back. At first, I thought they were just ordinary spring rolls but I was intrigued by that pointed thing similar to a burnt match at the tip of the rolls, only to realize that there was actually a stuffed chili inside. I was easily delighted and it turned out to be an on-the-spot favorite. This special appetizer was quite pricey if you are going to buy a single order (will cost you several bucks for only 6 to 8 sticks per order) from the menu so I decided to make my own back at home so my folks would get to try it too. And it never failed me as instantly, it became a box office hit. Everyone loved it, especially Udong. I can still remember preparing a huge batch of dinamita rolls during my niece’s 2nd birthday and since then, it has become the most requested appetizer in every occasion. I am glad that I was able to pass on the recipe to them with ease and simplicity.
|My bro and I share a common denominator when it comes to the choice of food.|
Dynamite spring roll is one of the things I could attest, that despite our differences and clashing personalities, Udong and I still share some similarities when it comes to food (our intestines throb for the same type of food, no doubt!). So before this day ends, I want to send out my greetings of “Happy Birthday” to my little brother, who is now literally taller and bulkier than I am, sealing it with imaginary hug and lots of flying kisses.
Dinamita (Dynamite Spring Rolls)
Yields 20 pieces of spring rolls
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 20 pcs. siling haba (long green chili)
- 20 pcs. lumpia (spring roll) egg wrappers
- 1 pc. carrot, finely chopped into small cubes
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small red onion, minced
- 2 tbsps. kintsay (Chinese celery or coriander leaves), minced
- 1 block cheddar cheese, sliced into strips
- ¼ tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. ground pepper
- cooking oil
- 1 tbsp. water
- In a medium sauce pan, sauté the garlic, onions, ground beef and carrots. Add the coriander leaves when the beef turns light brown. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside and let it cool.
- Wash all the chilies. Take each piece and using a knife, make a halfway slit at the base of the stem, keeping the stem intact. From the same spot, make a lengthwise incision down to the tip of the chili. Be careful not to cut it through. Unfurl the sliced area and scrape out the seeds and pith. (You have the option to keep the seeds and pith but be forewarned that your spring rolls will really be very spicy if these are not removed.)
- Fill the chili with sautéed beef and stuff with a slice of cheese.
- Place the stuffed chili on top of the spring roll wrapper, enfold the side of the wrapper on top and tightly roll over the chili through the other end. Seal the edge with a dab of water. Repeat the process until all the chilies are wrapped.
- Heat a generous amount of cooking oil and deep fry the rolls until golden brown.
- Drain on paper towel and serve warm with your favorite dip. Enjoy!
TIPS FROM ENZ:
- Always wear a pair of protective plastic gloves when handling chili pepper as it might burn the skin of your bare hands.
- You can also flavor the meat with 2 tbsps. taco seasoning, just if you want to add some Mexican touch.
- You can have minced pork, beef, chicken or fish for the fillings.
- Removing the seeds and white bud inside will lessen the spiciness of dynamite roll. But if you want your rolls really hot and spicy, you have the option to keep the chili with all the seeds and pith intact.
- You can have it dipped in ketchup, garlic mayo, honey mustard or sweet chili sauce.