Lobak (Five-Spice Meat Rolls)
Lobak is a deep fried minced pork roll wrapped in beancurd sheet. It has a crunchy exterior with a soft and chewy filling. On the island of Penang, lobak is often made at home by the Straits Chinese as one of the main dishes during festivals and celebrations. At the food courts, it is eaten as a shared or side dish served with deep fried tofu, slices of cucumber, and sweet hoisin and chili sauce. In Kuala Lumpur (as far as I can remember) these meat rolls are also known as lobak but going south towards Malacca and Singapore, they are popularly called ngoh hiang.
There are many variations to this dish. Some like the filling to be “meaty” while others prefer it mixed with crunchy vegetables like carrots, water chestnuts, or jicama. Sometimes even shrimp is added to the filling. They are all tasty but I usually make mine with just minced pork, green onions, and carrots or water chestnuts depending on what I have on hand.
The best beancurd sheets are very thin and almost translucent in appearance. Fresh ones are the best if you can find them. The ones found here come in big round sheets that are folded and frozen. They tend to be brittle and break easily, leaving odd shape pieces that are not suitable for wrapping. I found an alternative as shown below. These come in rectangular sheets measuring approximately 18 inches by 9 inches. Halving the sheets gives two square sheets of 9 inches by 9 inches, perfect for use as wrappers. They may also be cut into three rectangular sheets of 9 inches by 6 inches each. These sheets are a little thicker but they work well and crisp up nicely when fried.
There are different ways of wrapping lobak. Usually the meat is place about an inch from the long edge of a rectangular piece of beancurd sheet and rolled. The two edges are sealed with egg white or cornstarch mixture. Alternatively, the short edges on both sides may be folded in before rolling. I like to wrap it spring roll style with the meat placed diagonally on a square beancurd sheet. The three corners are folded over the meat before rolling.
Instead of deep frying, I prefer to steam the meat rolls for about 12 minutes and then pan fry them.
- 2 sheets beancurd sheets
- 1 lb (450g) coarsely minced pork
- 1½ tsp five-spice powder
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- ¼ tsp pepper
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 2 tbsp canola oil for pan frying
- Egg white, lightly beaten for sealing meat rolls
- 2 green onions, finely sliced
- 1 small carrot, peeled and minced
- 4 water chestnuts, peeled and minced
Combine minced pork, five-spice powder, soy sauce, sesame oil, pepper, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Leave to marinate in the refrigerator overnight.
Cut beancurd sheets into four 9-inch squares. Set aside. Bring minced pork mixture out of the refrigerator. Add egg and mixed-ins** and blend until combined.
Divide meat into 4 portions. Shape meat into a log. Place each portion of meat diagonally onto beancurd sheet.
Bring a corner of the beancurd sheet over meat. Fold in the sides and roll neatly till the end. Seal with a little egg white.
Line a steaming rack with lettuce or cabbage. Place rolls in the rack and steam for 12 minutes over medium heat.
Remove and prick rolls with a skewer to prevent air bubbles from forming when frying. Pat dry rolls with paper towels.
Heat a non-stick pan with canola oil. Pan fry rolls on all sides till golden brown. This should take about 5 to 6 minutes.
Drain on paper towels. Alternatively, you can deep fry rolls without steaming.
Slice rolls on a diagonal and serve with your favorite sweet chili sauce.
**Mixed-ins are optional and one, two, or all three may be added.
My favorite chili sauce is Lingham’s Hot Sauce from Malaysia. I try to have a bottle in the refrigerator at all times.
I made these rolls for the Chinese New Year Eve Reunion dinner and did not have time to mince any carrots or water chestnuts as I was preparing many dishes at the same time. I also used store-bought ground pork which tends to be more finely minced. It still works but do coarsely mince your own if you have the time. I made a double batch and brought some of these rolls to the Korean Lunar New Year Feast we were invited to. They were the first dish to go. Kids love lobak!
Enjoy…..and have a wonderful day! 8)