Lumpia Recipe – How to Dice Onions and Prepare Water Chestnuts

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 19,882
    Chef Cliff Wharton demonstrates how to dice onions and prepare water chestnuts for Lumpia.

    Cliff Wharton

    Cliff Wharton didn't grow up thinking that one day he would become a chef. No, he wanted to be a rock star! But the road to rock and roll glory is a tough one. After several years in a band that made it to the top 10 in Kansas City, but didn't quite place on Billboard's hot list, Cliff decided that maybe he wasn't destined for a life in the music limelight. When a financially rewarding outlet for his creative restlessness wasn't apparent, he worked in kitchens to pay the bills. Little did he know this would be the opening act for a life as a culinary superstar: in fact, in September 2003, Chef Wharton was named one of’s Rising Stars. His familiarity with the kitchen began in Kansas City, Missouri, the place he called home from the time he was five. As Cliff will proudly report, prior to that the Philippines was home—his birthplace and the country from which his mother hails. In 1992, eager to leave Kansas City and experience the world, Cliff followed his brother to a naval posting in San Diego, California. There, he secured a job in Executive Chef Jeff Tunk's kitchen at Loew's Coronado Bay, working at the hotel's restaurant for a year under the careful guidance of Tunks, whom Cliff now regards as his mentor and the man to foster in him a serious commitment for the profession. But it was not long before Chef Tunks decided to venture to Louisiana to accept responsibility for the dining room at the prestigious Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans. Tunks requested that Cliff Wharton join him as sous chef. "It was then," says Wharton, "that I realized I had chosen the right career. My desire to prove myself in the kitchen grew. I started to take things seriously when Jeff acknowledged that I had talent." As the evening sous chef at the Windsor Court, Wharton learned how to manage a kitchen. Although he claims no formal training, he insists the three years he spent at the Windsor Court with Jeff were "a formal apprenticeship"—a time to refine the skills he learned on the fly as he made his way from kitchen to kitchen. From the Big Easy, Wharton journeyed to Washington with Jeff Tunks, opening the instantly successful DC Coast restaurant in 1998. "Putting in 80-hour work weeks was bearable,” he says, “because I really like and respect the staff. Jeff has taught me a tremendous amount, especially about decision-making. It's really gratifying to see what can happen when everyone pulls together." In August 2000, Wharton, the young man who wanted to be a rock and roll star, became the leader of the band, rising to the position of Chef de Cuisine at DC Coast's Asian-Pacific inspired sister restaurant, TenPenh. Cooking dishes familiar to him from his childhood, Wharton builds his meals around fresh vegetables and grains, deftly seasoned with vivid spices that are roasted, ground, and blended specifically for each dish. Indulgences such as juicy shrimp and creamy sweet accents provide an occasional lush counterpart. Behind that welcoming smile lurks a visionary ready to lead the band in playing the simple truth. Thanks to Wharton, locals have become acquainted with traditional delicacies from the Philippines such as lumpia, a crispy rice flour roll filled with cabbage, beef or pork, water chestnuts and bean sprouts; an elegant version of Chicken Adobo, a flavorful chicken dish that's slow-cooked with black peppercorns, bay leaf, soy sauce, and vinegar; and Pancit, a noodle dish containing vegetables, meat, and Longaniza (Philippine-made) sausage. Striving to prove his belief that "simplicity sells," Wharton prepares beautifully simple food with complex tastes taken from his native country, the Philippines, as well as Vietnam, Thailand, China, Indonesia, and Malaysia. TenPenh has garnered consistently rave reviews, and in October 2003 it was favored by Gourmet magazine in its Guide to America’s Best Restaurants, which specifically cited a “complexity” “beneath the surface of Chef Cliff Wharton’s Asian-fusion menu.” He is listed in The International Who’s Who of Chefs. And so, the Rising Star has arrived… and he’s rockin’ the kitchen.

    Hi, my name is Cliff Wharton. I am a Chef at TenPenh Restaurant. Today, we are making Lumpia. I am going to show how to dice an onion for the lumpia dish.

    Pretty much take an onion thats been washed; like to take the outside skin pretty much just peel all that away. There are couple of ways to do dice an onion. This is the way I do it I find it more uniform this way. Just take your time with it. You can cut into half and then you could do the whole this way, two cuts this way, but I would like to take it apart little bit, take the outer leaves, just cut them, do a nice julienne. Once, you get that julienne right there and turn, cut a dice out of it. Here you can control the width of the dice. So, you get a nice uniform cut right there. I will do that with all the whole onion. Once again you dont have to move this fast or cut it as fast as I do. Unless, you have done it many times before, but please take your time dont rush and what we do with the extra onion here at the restaurant we save them for a vegetable stock, which would be another class. I will just finish these up and that is how we dice an onion.

    Well, now I will show you how to chop some water chestnuts. Water chestnuts you can get fresh or canned. These are -- we have are some canned water chestnuts for as much as we use here, we try to use it fresh this is partly for labor and cost, but it is just as good it is very flavorful, adds a nice little crunch and texture to the spring rolls, so pretty much just run through it, think of a pie, what you are pretty much doing is julienne it and this is a rough cut julienne and thats how we do the water chestnuts.