Living in the suburb has its perks. Cleaner air, relative quiet, more open spaces… But the one thing I miss about living in the city is the variety of food. When we moved here 13 years ago, there was only one grocery store — Budget Lane. A few years later, Shopwise opened a branch. And, more recently, the omnipresent SM.
But that doesn’t mean that the local branches of supermarket chains necessarily sell the same food items sold in the city branches. The local Shopwise, for instance, has evolved to cater to the local market. When it first opened, I was so thrilled because it was just like grocery shopping in the city. But, after a few months, we noticed that certain items started to disappear one by one. Apparently, if an item or line of items isn’t popular to the rather provincial residents, it is discontinued and replaced by something that is more likely to get better patronized. That means no fresh mushrooms, no large selection of wines and only occasional good cheeses.
The local dining scene is not much different. Most restaurants here have the same traditional Filipino menus. A few cafes have sprouted but that’s about it. No Italian, no Thai, no Vietnamese… the only pizza place here is Pizza Hut, and Pizza Hut sucks. And no vegetarian restaurants at all. It wouldn’t have been a huge issue a year or so ago, but Sam turned vegetarian before Christmas of 2012. After that, whenever no one wanted to cook and we’d rather have food delivered, there was never anything for Sam. And that made me feel bad. I want everyone in my family to eat well. So, when Speedy and I discovered a stall selling all-vegetable lumpia, we were so thankful.
It happened by accident. We were at Shopwise doing our shopping, it was after 2.00 p.m. but we hadn’t had lunch yet. We knew we would be shaking with hunger if we waited until I could cook something when we got home. We were resigned to a lunch of sandwiches made with odds and ends when Speedy noticed the lumpia stall on our way out. Aboy’s Fresh Lumpia, it was called, and it offered lumpia in two varieties. One with the regular wrapper and the other with crepe-like egg wrapper. The filling was the same though. We ordered two with the egg wrapper and brought them home.
As the label promised, the lumpia filling had no meat. The surprise was the inclusion of crisp fried rice noodles in the filling. The little white bits added a delightful crunch with every bite and they provided a carbohydrate component too. The sweet-salty-garlicky soy-based sauce was good and the portion was generous. We agreed that when Sam came home, we would have her try it. And we did although she didn’t seem to enjoy it as much as Speedy and I did. Well, at least, there is now something vegetarian in our part of the hinterland. And that’s huge progress.
The price? Very inexpensive. At P55.00 per piece (a little over a dollar), the vegetable lumpia was well worth its price.