Reading and Such

Nina Daza-Puyat whips up Lumpiang Shanghai, the children’s tale, the drama

The daughter of culinary icon Nora Daza has a story to tell—and recipe to share

Protagonist Pia is borne away by friendly birds


‘Book Haul’ by Cecil Robin Singalaoa, watercolor on cotton rag paper, 2020, 4×6 inches

Who doesn’t love lumpiang Shanghai whether as everyday viand or special party fare? First-time children’s book author Nina Daza Puyat certainly loves it to a degree that she has woven a delightful but sometimes sad tale in dual language (Filipino and English) about its imagined origin.

Author Nina Daza Puyat

In Ang Alamat ng Lumpiang Shanghai (The Legend of the Fried Spring Rolls), she tells of two leaders as different as night is to day: the arrogant, selfish Queen Carlota who rules Shang kingdom, and the kind, compassionate Captain Gabriel who lives in Hay town. Already there is contrast in their styles of leadership—as the leader is, so are their followers. Needless to say, the air is purer in Hay.

Cover of new children’s book

Carlota and Gabriel each has a child, she has son Loom, he has daughter Pia. The place and person names are a dead giveaway already on where the tale will take us. But we allow our imagination to be suspended to let the storyteller lead us to the meeting of Loom and Pia, the latter sent on a mission to try to get food supplies for her hungry townmates. She offers to the queen a basket of carrots, jicama, spring onions which she almost scoffs at until the better part of her, Loom, prevails on her to be generous.

Forgive us for being a spoiler, but the loss of Loom and Pia while crossing a rickety bridge on a stormy night is the trigger that unites Carlota and Gabriel. The humbled queen asks for his forgiveness. A stronger bridge is built in the children’s memory, in addition to the united kingdom and town inventing a special dish that resembles the bridge’s bamboo poles. Of course, the ingredients include finely chopped carrots, jicamas and spring onions with minced meat bound by beaten egg, all wrapped in sheets made from flour and water.

The author writes, “The story spread far and wide of how an unexpected tragedy brought two communities together, and how it inspired a dish symbolizing unity and familial love. That dish came to be known as Loom-Pia of Shang-Hay.”

Puyat being the daughter of culinary icon Nora V. Daza, it can’t be helped that the book ends with her recipe for lumpiang Shanghai, including the sweet and sour sauce that accompanies it best.

On the back page is a QR code that can be scanned for the curious person to find out how the characters of the 40-page book sound like.

Kudos also goes to Sean Erwin Santia for his drawings. We especially liked the picture of Pia with vegetable basket on her head being lifted by birds to get her across a flimsy bridge. It brought a touch of whimsy and magic to what seems a serious story.

We can’t wait for Puyat’s next fictional folk tale—what will it be? Champorado (a kid’s and adult’s favorite breakfast or merienda fare), pinakbet or kare-kare? In her hands we hope to see how she again combines syllables in a name to form a new “dish” or explain its origins.

The book is available at and

About author


She is a freelance journalist. The pandemic has turned her into a homebody.

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