A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
The first day I arrived in the Netherlands I was picked up at the airport by a very nice Dutch friend from the ISN Buddy Programme. We chatted a bit on our way to Leiden and at one point she told me “Oh, there’s a very nice place that sells loempia near your house!” and I was like “Okay.” I thought it’s just some kind of Dutch food. It was quite interesting that she didn’t really ask me if I know what loempia is; she assumed that I know. Only later I found out the place that she told me sell Vietnamese loempia (and it seems quite popular actually) and then I was like “Oh! It’s spring roll!”
After living here for a while I have noticed that loempia is quite a popular street snack that Dutch people seem to enjoy a lot. It’s sold everywhere, especially in markets and any kinds of outdoor events. But it bugs me a little bit that it is mostly known as Vietnamese food, while it is not! Technically it is also a kind of fried roll, but it is very much different from the spring rolls that I often have at home. I think it is closer to Chinese rolls, or probably more precisely the Indonesian lumpia.
Both the wrapper and the filling are quite different from the original Vietnamese version. Even though you can find that type of thick wrapper used in Southern Vietnam, we mostly use the very thin and transparent rice wrapper for the spring rolls. And while the filling of the loempia seems quite simple, the spring rolls have a lot more ingredients. It is a bit difficult to explain, so when my mom sent me some ingredients from Vietnam that I can’t easily find here I took the opportunity to demonstrate the making of the true Vietnamese spring rolls!
I’m not saying the loempia here is bad, I’m just very curious how it turned out to be that way and still gets called Vietnamese. It’s probably modified to suit the Dutch/Western palette better. But then everyone who tried my homemade Vietnamese spring rolls are totally in love with them! Maybe I should open my own loempia business 😛