MONROE — If you’re craving crispy fried lumpia from Wrap ‘n’ Roll, your best bet is to get in line early and hope they don’t sell out.
Since starting her pop-up business in June, owner Jessica Aubert has cranked out thousands of Filipino-style spring rolls every week at farmers markets and events throughout Snohomish County. She sells lumpia and only lumpia, and with good reason.
The fried, crepe-like shell shatters in your mouth, while a wonderful savory, meaty center greets you next. She serves her golden brown lumpia with a sweet and spicy chili sauce that leaves a pleasant, warm tingling on your tongue.
Aubert often has to turn down events, even after organizers offer to waive vendor fees, because she’s so busy. She once sold out in 26 minutes, despite prepping 1,000 rolls.
The Wrap ‘n’ Roll tent is easy to find: Just look for Aubert, her big pot of hot oil and even bigger smile. She usually greets her many regulars with, “Hey friend!” When she’s not frying lumpia at events, Aubert usually has her baby, Theodore, snuggled to her chest.
“We like to say our lumpia is homemade and so is our baby,” said her husband Timothy Aubert.
Timothy recently left his job to join Wrap ‘n’ Roll full time. The couple met last year and instantly connected (Aubert knew Timothy was the one when he belted out “Bust A Move” in their car). They took a break from the fryer this past weekend to get married.
All in all, Aubert works about 80 hours per week, with the help of Timothy, her family and her best friends.
“I’m just the hands that roll the lumpia but it’s everyone around me that made this happen,” she said.
The day before an event, Aubert wakes up at 6 a.m. She does her “mom things”, then makes an ingredient list and heads to the market, where she buys 50 to 80 pounds of ground chicken, pork and beef, as well as veggies and wrappers. Working out of a commissary kitchen, she can roll 200 pieces of lumpia per hour — that’s eight pounds of meat. Those are then bagged, frozen and taken to events across Snohomish County.
Her lumpia are not only delicious: They often transport her customers to a different time.
“I haven’t had lumpia in 40 years, when I was in the Navy back in the Philippines,” she remembers one customer telling her.
“Years ago when our kids were born, my wife’s best friend would always make lumpia and stock our freezer with it,” another said while buying a bag to go. “But she’s passed away now.”
“Lumpia is the thing that glues everyone together,” she said. “That joy gets to go home with them.”
‘Half Filipino, 100 percent proud’
Years before launching Wrap ‘n’ Roll, Aubert began making lumpia while in the throes of an abusive relationship.
“I thought that was going to be my life,” she said. “I thought that those were just the cards I was dealt.”
The late night ritual was a form of escape from her abuser. She’d zone out for hours and hours, dolloping seasoned minced pork and finely chopped veggies into hundreds of paper-thin wrappers. Her hands moved freely in the dim light of her kitchen, rolling one lumpia after another.
Those nights brought her back to the Philippines as a young girl with her grandma, who taught her the art of mixing, wrapping, rolling and frying.
“When I rolled lumpia, I was in the safest place I could possibly be in my head,” she said. “I was sitting next to my grandma.”
Once she was able to leave her abuser, Aubert again leaned on lumpia, this time as an entrepreneur.
Lumpia is a happy food, Aubert said, one made of simple and inexpensive ingredients. It’s the type of snack that takes the longest to make and is the first to be gone at a party.
A celebrated tradition in the Philippines, lumpia usually requires an assembly line of family members and friends: A designated person separates the wrappers, another mixes an aromatic vat of meat, spices, garlic, scallions, carrots and other veggies. The veterans usually take on the task of wrapping each lumpia. The stuffed rolls are then fried and immediately scarfed down quicker than you can say, “Do you have any lumpia left?”
They are a significant part of Aubert’s Filipino heritage, a way to stay connected to her family across the Pacific Ocean.
The Filipinos in Aubert’s family have fair skin and freckles, features rooted in Spain’s colonization of the Philippines centuries ago. It’s something she has to educate people on daily. At least once a day at the Wrap ‘n’ Roll stand, someone will look at Aubert’s light-colored skin and tell her, “You’re not Filipino.” Or, “You don’t look Filipino. Why are you making lumpia?”
“It really hurts my feelings,” Aubert said. “We Filipinos come in all different shades.”
Aubert’s father immigrated from the Philippines to the United States, where he met and married Aubert’s mother.
“My mother was very racist. She would say things like, “We’re in America. Speak English,” Aubert remembers. “I was never allowed to learn Tagalog as a child. My father wasn’t allowed to speak his language.”
As she grew older, making lumpia became an act of reclamation.
“I’m half Filipino who is 100 percent proud to be half Filipino,” she said.
Aubert last saw her grandma, Carmen Quintos, in 2019. She’s 90 now. Aubert knew she wouldn’t see Quintos again after that trip to the Philippines. She keeps the memories of her grandma wrapped around her, all those days spent in the kitchen feeding loved ones and learning her Filipino roots, one lumpia at a time.
“I’ll never stop rolling them,” Aubert said. “I’ll roll till my hands fall off.”
If you go
Find Wrap ‘n’ Roll at farmers markets, festivals, breweries and pop-up events throughout Snohomish County. They will be at Monroe and Snohomish farmers markets this Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.
The best way to stay updated on Wrap ‘n’ Roll’s whereabouts is to follow them on Facebook @Lumpiawrapnroll: https://www.facebook.com/Lumpiawrapnroll/
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