foodFood & Drink

In the Kitchen With: Ping Coombes’ Five-Spice Pork Rolls

by Kristina Gill

Lor Bak by Ping Coombes

My most recent craving for food has turned to Malaysian cuisine, so this week’s recipe comes from one of my newest books, Malaysia: Recipes from a Family Kitchen by MasterChef UK 2014 winner Ping Coombes. Ping’s recipe for lor bak, or five-spice pork spring rolls, is an adaptation of her favorite street food version from her home city of Ipoh. It’s another great summer recipe that doesn’t require you to turn the oven on, and can be prepped and kept in the refrigerator, and cooked right before serving. Remember to leave yourself an extra day (or night) to allow the pork to marinate. —Kristina

Why Ping loves this recipe: This is one of my favorite dishes as the spring roll is packed with myriads of flavors and textures. Juicy, flavorful meat encased in crispy pastry, what’s not to like?!

Malaysia cookbook cover by Ping Coombes

Photography by Laura Edwards

Lor Bak (Five-Spice Pork Spring Rolls)

A “coffee shop” in Malaysia usually consists of several stalls selling their specialty, so there is a variety of food on offer. There is a coffee shop near my old house in Ipoh where I always order the lor bak from a sweet old man who deep-fries them to crisp up the skin. Traditionally they are wrapped with bean curd skins, but I use spring roll sheets as they are easier to find and store.

Makes 5 fat spring rolls

— 300g (10.5 ounces) pork loin, cut into thin strips (about 1cm or 1/2 inch thick)
— 2 tsp five-spice powder
— 1 tbsp tapioca flour or cornflour
— 1 medium free-range egg
— ½ tsp chicken stock powder
— ½ red onion, chopped
— 5 water chestnuts, roughly chopped
— 5 × 22cm (8.5 inches) spring roll sheets
— 500ml (2 cups and 2 tablespoons) vegetable oil, for deep-frying

For the marinade

— 2 tbsp sugar
— ½ tsp salt
— 2 large pinches of ground white pepper
— 1 tsp chicken stock powder


Place the pork strips in a bowl with the marinade ingredients, stir to coat, cover and leave to marinate in the fridge overnight.

The next day, discard the water that has come out of the pork. Mix the marinated pork with the five-spice powder, tapioca flour or cornflour, egg and chicken stock powder. Add the chopped onion and chestnuts. Mix well.

Place 1 of the spring roll sheets on a flat work surface in front of you, positioning it so that you have a diamond shape. Place some of the pork mixture horizontally 4cm (1.5 inches) up from the bottom of the sheet. Fold the bottom up over the mixture, fold in the two sides and roll up tightly, brushing the edges with water as you go.

Place the spring roll on a plate and transfer it to the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up. Repeat with the remaining spring roll sheets and pork mixture.

Heat the oil in a wok or a wide saucepan until it reaches 180°C (350°F) on a probe thermometer. Alternatively, drop a tiny bit of spring roll sheet into the oil to test if the oil is hot enough: the spring roll sheet should sizzle vigorously and quickly float to the top.

Deep-fry the spring rolls in batches of 2 or 3 at a time, for 8–10 minutes over a medium heat, until golden brown (too high a heat will burn the outside and leave the middle raw), then transfer to kitchen paper to drain.

Slice the spring rolls diagonally and serve with Plum sauce and Sriracha sauce for dipping.

TIP: If you use a wok, you can fry more spring rolls at a time (as the surface area is wider).

About Ping: Shooed out of the kitchen by her mum as a child, Ping only began cooking when she came to the UK for university, and she applied to go on MasterChef just after being made redundant. Crowned champion in 2014, Ping has returned to MasterChef as a guest judge and has become a global ambassador for Malaysian food — she has even addressed the World Economic Forum at Davos. When she’s not whipping up batches of steaming-hot noodles and baos at food festivals around the world, Ping can be found at home in Bath with her husband Andrew and her daughter Alexa. You can find Ping on Twitter and on Instagram.

Portrait of Ping Coombes

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  • I can’t wait to try this recipe. I love spring rolls and the idea of making a somewhat “manly” spring roll for the super bowl is right up my alley. Thanks for this recipe. I’ll be sure to let you know how it comes out.