Changing Old Favorites

Gluten-free Kal-bi

I’m going through some of my favorite foods and working on gluten-free versions.  Some of them are fairly easy.  The case of kal-bi was simply changing the shoyu (soy sauce) for gluten-free tamari.  By the way, did you know that not all tamari sauces are gluten-free?  There are tamari sauces out there with wheat in them.  If you are gluten-free or are cooking for someone who is gluten-free, make sure you check those labels.

A week ago, it seemed like the weekend to mess with local foods.  Local foods meaning local Hawaiian dishes.  Well, and Filipino dishes.  I did the pinakbet one night.  The next day I did the scrumptious kal-bi pictured on the left.  Then, I ended the weekend with vegetable lumpia.

Like I said, the kal-bi was a simple substitution.  The lumpia proved to be a challenge.

Gluten-free Lumpia

There are specific lumpia wrappers that are ultra-thin used in making lumpia.  They contain wheat.  So, I began a search online for spring roll wrappers that are gluten-free.  Sure enough I found some and even found them at the Korean market where we usually get most of our Asian foods.  It’s also the only place that sells the right cut of short ribs for kal-bi.

The challenge was in rolling and frying of the lumpia.  I used green beans, carrots, potatoes, mung bean sprouts, and garlic for the filling.  If anyone has used the spring roll wrappers made from rice, you know you have to soak them for a few seconds in water to get it to a workable state.  This is an extra step that isn’t needed for regular lumpia.  But, it was worth the effort to see if it would work out.  I set aside the first one I wrapped in order to wrap another one.  Once I had the second one wrapped, the oil was ready and I picked up the first one to put in the oil.  It was all mushy underneath from the water that was still on it.   That changed my strategy.  I had to roll them right before putting them in oil and not let them sit.  I was waiting for a golden color from them and then I remembered that fried rice noodles are white.  So, okay, watch for it to get white and opaque like fried rice noodles.  I had some trouble at first, but it got easier as I kept going and got the hang of it.

Lumpia Filling

There was no difference in the kal-bi taste when I made it since it was just a simple substitution.  The lumpia was a different story.  The filling itself was the same since I didn’t change a thing.  The wrapper was not only crunchy which made it feel just like the real thing.  Until I kept chewing.  And chewing.  And chewing.  It turns out that fried rice wrappers are quite chewing.  And it sticks to your teeth.  Worth the effort?  Yes.  Will I do it again?  Definitely.  Lumpia isn’t something I make often because of the time involved in it.  I’ll have time before the next time I decide to make it to see if there are any other wrappers out there that I can use that would be a suitable substitution.

I’ll leave you with some recipes in case your mouth is watering.


1/2 cup peeled, grated fresh ginger

8 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup raw local honey

1 cup sherry (use the real sherry, not the cooking sherry)

1 cup shoyu or wheat-free tamari (shoyu is for those of you who don’t need to be gluten-free

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 1/2 pounds thinly sliced beef short ribs (as pictured above)

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl to completely cover the meat.  Refrigerate 24 hours to 3 days.  Preheat a broiler.  Place ribs on a rack in a roasting pan and place 5 inches from the coils.  Cook both sides until well-browned and aromatic, about 5 minutes each side.  Or you can grill them.

Debi’s Vegetable Lumpia

1 pound string beans cut on a diagonal

2 carrots, julienned

1/2 pound potatoes, peeled and julienned (do these first and have them soaking in water while prepping other veggies, then drain before cooking)

1 pound mung bean sprouts, washed and drained

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon patis (fish sauce)

1 teaspoon salt (optional)

1 Tablespoon grapeseed oil (or other odorless oil)

1 package lumpia wrappers or gluten-free spring roll wrappers

Heat a large pot on medium and add oil.  Add in garlic and stir for a minute.  Add vegetables and patis.  Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add salt the last few minutes of cooking.  Lumpia wrappers are large and the lumpia is traditionally rolled long and thin.  There will be directions on the lumpia wrapper box.  The wrappers will tear and break, but don’t worry.  Just keep rolling.  If you are using the gluten-free wrappers, make sure you are following the directions on the packaging to soak before using.  Heat some oil in a wok and work in small batches.  I only had two lumpia in the wok at a time.  If you are using gluten-free wrappers, you’ll need to keep an eye on them in the wok.  The lumpia will float towards each other and stick together if you let them.  Fry on both sides.  If you are using traditional wrappers, you want a golden color.  If you are using the gluten-free wrappers it should be white and opaque – it may get a little golden, but you want to make sure the entire wrapper is well fried.  Remove from the wok and drain.


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