Ready to Roll

Photo by Sondra Tarmoedji
Joanne Suavillo Lumpia Food Truck
Joanne Suavillo

Joanne Suavillo is no stranger to the art of making lumpia, the crispy Filipino spring rolls that are so addictive it’s impossible to eat just one. “Growing up, my parents had a catering business, and one of my first kitchen jobs was rolling the lumpia,” she recalls. “Dad was very strict that they all look the same. I would have to roll lumpia before I could go and play. Of course, I had no idea that experience was training me for today.”

Suavillo is referring to The Lumpia Truck, the mobile eatery she launched in 2019 showcasing the cuisine she grew up eating around the family table. “Our food is really like home cooking. I feel like everybody should be able to enjoy it,” she says. “Whenever someone walks in the door we say in Tagalog, ‘Hey, have you eaten already?’ Food always is something that brings people together.”

Judging by the number of customers swarming around the truck during a recent lunch hour, Suavillo is succeeding on that front. The lumpia—tightly rolled cigars filled with veggies, pork or chicken, fried to perfection and drizzled with a sweet chili sauce—is the obvious star here. Served on their own or over a bed of fries, the slender, flavorful rolls check all the comfortfood boxes. As Suavillo puts it, “There’s a reason why whoever brings lumpia to a party is the most popular.”

But don’t let the lumpia distract you from the menu’s other highlights, especially the lechon kawali—deepfried pork belly over rice—and the adobo garlic fried rice, with tender chunks of chicken adobo made from a family recipe.

While the large events that Suavillo depended on for business have largely dried up during the pandemic, she says The Lumpia Truck has earned a loyal following. “We really appreciate all the support from the community. Without them, we wouldn’t be here.”