Popiah is such a Malaysian thing that not many people know that it actually originates from China. Some say it’s from the Fuchien province while some claim it’s from the Teochew (Chaozhou) side. From China, its popularity has spread to the rest of Asia, so that’s why popiah nowadays is found not only in Malaysia but also in Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore, the Philippines, Vietnam and Myanmar. Of course there are various interpretations of this springroll in the various countries and are called by many different names.
The popiah wrapper is a thin soft crepe or pancake made from a mixture of wheat and tapioca flour. A wet dough is formed using the two types of flour. A thin layer of the wet dough is then “rubbed” onto a hot plate in circular motions forming a thin round crepe. It takes just a couple of minutes to cook a piece and care must be taken not to overcook it thus rendering it hard and inflexible.
Popiah is widely sold in many kopitiams and hawker centres here. There is not much difference between popiahs sold in the north (like Penang or Ipoh) and those sold in the Klang Valley or Johor. The ingredients used as filling for the popiah vary and it’s really dependent on the fancy and creativity of the seller.
The famous Sisters’ Crunchy Popiah stall in the Imbi Market, Kuala Lumpur
Typically, ingredients used as fillings for popiahs are cooked yambeans (jicama), carrots, french beans, beansprouts, beancurd, eggs, Chinese sausages and lettuce leaves. Sauces used to smear the popiah wrappers are usually a sweet sauce made from bean paste and chilli sauce for some heat.
For added crunch, some popiah sellers include fried cruellers and chopped peanuts. To enhance the flavours, fried shallots and garlic are sprinkled on the filling before rolling up the popiah.
Making your own popiah at home is not difficult and can be so much fun, especially with friends and family around. The next time you have a house party, why not serve popiah? Forget about making the popiah “skin” (crepe) – they are available in most local wet markets and are sold by weight. Prepare and cook the fillings and leave it to your guests to roll and wrap their own popiahs.
Here’s an easy-to-cook/prepare recipe for Popiah:
For the cooked filling:
3 tbsp cooking oil
4 cloves garlic – chopped
1 yam bean/jicama (about 600g-800g) – shredded
300g carrot – shredded
300g French beans – sliced thinly
6 pieces dried shitake mushrooms – soaked in warm water to soften, then sliced thinly
Salt, pepper & sugar to taste
1. Heat up the cooking oil in a deep pan for 2-3 minutes. Stir fry the chopped garlic.
2. Add in the yam beans, carrots, French beans and mushrooms; stir fry for another 3 minutes.
3. Pour in the water and seasonings.
4. Cover pan and cook for about 20 minutes till the vegetables are soft.
Instead of using bottled chilli sauce, I usually cook a special “Haebee” (dried shrimps) sambal.
Recipe for Haebee Sambal
4 tbsp cooking oil
200g dried chillies – soak in warm water to soften, discard seeds and blend finely
200g shallots + 30g belacan – blend together
300g dried shrimps – softened in warm water and blend coarsely
Salt and sugar to taste
1. Heat up the cooking oil in a wok.
2. Add in the blended dried chillie, blended shallots and dried shrimps. Stir-fry for about 5 minutes.
3. Add in the water and sufficient salt and sugar according to your taste and continue stir frying till the sambal is dry.
1 kg popiah skin
Sweet beanpaste sauce
Lettuce leaves – washed & dried
Beansprouts – lightly blanched in boiling water for about 3 minutes and then drain
Shredded egg omelette
6 pieces firm white tofu – lightly fried and cut into thick strips
4 pcs Chinese sausages – pan fried and cut into long thin strips
100g crabsticks – pan fried and cut into long strips
Deep-fried shallots and garlic
Cut the omelette into thin strips
Chinese sausages (lap cheong)
To assemble Popiah:
1. Smear some sweet beanpaste sauce onto a popiah skin.
2. Place a piece of lettuce leaf on the skin and place some blanched beansprouts on top.
3. Scoop 2-3 tbsp of the cooked jicama combo and arrange on top of the beansprouts.
4. Spread some egg omelette, tofu, Chinese sausage, crabsticks, haebee sambal, deep fried shallots and garlic on top of the beansprouts.
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This post was first published in HungryGoWhere Malaysia on 16 May 2014.