Greetings from Lemoore, CA! What I call the armpit of California, with all due respect to Lemorons—someone who lives here told me it’s what they’re called—it’s because of the farmland, the location, and the weather. Anyhow, in case you didn’t know there’s a Naval Air Station there so I’m down here for a work trip.
The Navy has a large population—and a long history—of Filipinos serving. In 1901 President William McKinley signed an executive order allowing the Navy to enlist 500 Filipinos as part of its insular force. Later in 1952, on account of the Korean War more personnel were required in the Navy so an agreement was negotiated that up to 1,000 Filipino citizens could enlist in the U.S. Navy annually. In 1954, this was increased to 2,000 people. Also, with the Nationality Act of 1940, aliens who served honorably in the armed forces for three or more years could be naturalized as U.S. citizens without having to meet certain normal requirements of naturalization. This law was repealed in 1952 and replaced by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 which was essentially the same thing although it stated that they shall have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence.
Enough with the history lesson, this is after all a food column. I called a friend who lives in Hanford—just outside of Lemoore where another dear friend says the only thing there is to do in Hanford is die—and we decided to meet for beers at Plan B Taphouse. I guess there are things to do in Hanford besides die, like drink beer. He told me they didn’t serve food and asked if I could pick up lumpia at Zeny’s, a Filipino restaurant in Lemoore on my way. Lumpia is a Filipino spring roll made of thin crepe pastry skin and filled with chopped vegetables and meat. It is served with a sweet chili sauce. These particular ones were made with ground beef and shredded carrots.
So after work, I drove to the gym. From the car I called Zeny’s and placed an order for 25 lumpia, per my friend’s instruction but the nice Filipino man on the other end told me they only do orders by the dozen so I ordered two dozen. I went for a swim in the outdoor pool because the armpit of California is warm already. Feeling refreshed—and starving—from my swim, I went to Zeny’s and bought snacks for my eight-minute drive to Hanford. It’s one of those times when “my eyes are bigger than my stomach.” I bought garlic flavored crunch-covered peanuts, Thai iced tea (super sweet, unnaturally orange iced tea), the lumpia, and dessert.
Blasting country music on the radio I drove the flat highway to Hanford, drank Thai iced tea, and munched on crunchy peanuts. Life is good, I thought. I’m glad I had the peanuts because the smell of the piping hot lumpia was terribly tempting.
I arrived at Zeny’s and parked in the parking lot just to notice two big German Shepherds in the huge truck next to me. In case you don’t know, I have an irrational fear of German Shepherds. Maybe it’s rational because I’ve been attacked by dogs—on multiple occasions—but I’ll save that for another time. I took a deep breath and opened the door, the dogs both stood and started sniffing, the crack I had opened in the door had wafted out the delicious smell of lumpia…meat. Just then I saw my friend walk into the bar so I slammed the door closed and called him. He answered and I asked if he could come to the parking lot to help me. Within seconds he was there and per my pantomiming he opened the passenger door. I told him I was afraid of dogs and could he grab the lumpia. He laughed—or maybe he rolled his eyes, or both—and grabbed the lumpia and we went in for beers.
The lumpia were amazing. The outside crust is crunchy and the inside is warm, meaty, and salty. Dipping it in the sweet cold chili sauce is just perfect as the flavors go together really well. And of course, they went great with a cold beer and good company. If you ever find a Filipino restaurant serving lumpia order a dozen or two and enjoy with a friend. I don’t know for certain of any Filipino restaurants in the area but I believe there is a Filipino market in Seaside and a Filipino restaurant in Salinas.