Mum’s Popiah is the Best!

Annie’s Mum is visiting us from Malaysia, which means that our house is tidier, the yard is straightened up more, and we are eating lots of tasty Malaysian food.  Mum is a great cook, and one of her signature dishes is popiah. Because everything in her popiah is handmade, you can taste the love.

Mum’s Homemade Popiah is the Best!

Mum's Homemade Poh Pia is the Best

Popiah (also spelled poh piah, poh pia, baobing (薄饼)), is a Malaysian / Singaporean dish that’s kind of like a fat Spring roll, only not fried.  Think of it as a "Malaysian burrito".  As with all burritos, the filling is what makes the dish so special.

Mum’s Homemade Popiah Filling

Mum's homemade Poh Pia Filling

Mum’s popiah filling is made from shredded cabbage, grated carrots, grated jicama, finely diced belly pork, finely diced prawns, diced long beans, and finely julienned (yes, julienned) tofu. All of the shredding, grating,  dicing and julienning (is that a word?) was done by hand, not in a food processor.  Mum insists on doing it this way, as the machine method will somehow result in a less tasty mess.  The filling is cooked down for a few hours in a large pot, until all the ingredients are soft and melted together.

Not only is the popiah filling hand-made, but the fixings as well.

Mum’s Homemade Popiah Fixins: Blanched Bean Sprouts, Julienned Cucumber, Chili Paste

Blanched Bean Sprouts, Julienned Cucumber, Chili Paste for Mum's Homemade Poh Pia

Here we have julienned cucumber, blanched bean sprouts, and freshly made chili paste.  Notice that the bean sprouts do not have that thin little "tail" that you normally see when you buy bean sprouts.  Mum picked each tail off by hand. Again, her insistence on doing it by hand is to preserve the quality of the popiah.

Mum’s Homemade Popiah Fixins: Prawns, Hard Boiled Eggs, Chinese Sausage and Minced Garlic

 Prawns, Hard Boiled Eggs, Chinese Sausage and Minced Garlic for Mum's Homemade Poh Pia

Additional fixings include parboiled prawns that have been shelled, deveined and sliced in half, perfectly hard boiled eggs that have been diced by hand, sliced lup cheong (Chinese sweet sausage), and minced garlic.

The only modern conveniences Mum used was the food processor to make the chili paste, minced garlic, and chopped peanuts (not seen). That, and the store-bought spring roll wrappers for wrapping the popiah.

Spring Roll Wrappers for Mum’s Homemade Popiah

 Spring Roll Wrappers for Mum's Homemade Poh Pia

Building the popiah takes skill and practice.  All of the ingredients are tasty, but you don’t want to put too much or you will over-stuff the popiah and then it will explode all over your plate once you try to bite into it.  Plus, the perfect popiah will have a balance of flavors.

Popiah Filled with Mum’s Popiah Fillings and Fixings

 Poh Pia Filled with Mum's Poh Pia Fillings and Fixings

Watch this video I made of Mum building and wrapping her popiah:


Mum’s Homemade Popiah Rolled

 Mum's Homemade Poh Pia Rolled

As you can see in the picture, this popiah has burst open.  Not because it was over-stuffed, but because the skin wasn’t freshly made.  A freshly made popiah skin is thin, pliable, and stretchy.  Unfortunately, you can’t find freshly made popiah skin here in San Jose.  If you want freshly made popiah skin, you’ll have to go to Malaysia or Singapore where the experts are.

Nevertheless, Mum’s popiah are the best.  I have had popiah from hawker stalls in Singapore and Malaysia, even in Penang, where you will find the best food in the world.  Mum’s popiah beats them all.  It’s a perfect combination of sweetness from the flour sauce, the savoriness of the pork and the prawns, the spiciness of the chili and the garlic, and the cooling vegetables.  It’s so yummy, you will gobble it down and hurriedly make another without even thinking about it.

Aloha, Nate

20 thoughts on “Mum’s Popiah is the Best!”

  1. >Nice. I’ve heard about Poh Pia but never tried it before. I think wrapping is always the hardest part of a dish when it calls for it.

  2. >Oh man! Oh man! Oh man! of all the things you have posted, this one is killing me. I want some sooo badly. I do wish I knew how to make those skins. What was mom’s reaction to the photo sessions?

  3. >Wrapping is not hard…it’s the preparation of the fillings that makes it hard to do…

    Yes…the best always tastes better when cut by hand bec if you use any appliances…chances are it’ll turn out to be a wet mess without the nice “bite” to it…

    looks really yummy the popiah…!!

  4. >It looks delicious. As with many foods, I’m amazed by the amount of labor and skill that goes into making one of these.

  5. >Woah! beautiful! home made = definitely the best! hehe … gorgeous photos … luckily I just had some popiah on Sat … but it isn’t half as nice as yours 😉

  6. >@Shao – it would have been easier with better skin.

    @Robert – Mum’s used to it by now. As are most of our friends 🙂

    @Mor Mor Bunny – welcome! Yes, the filling prep was the most work. Mum was really pooped after working so hard on it.

    @Jenster – All out of love. And you can tell.

    @Diana – thanks! Bookmarking / sharing is much appreciated!

    @Noobcook – thanks! I don’t think any hawker stall can beat Mum’s in flavor.

  7. >The pohpiah looks soo yummy!! I will definitely try it. BTW, this is not just Malaysian/Singaporean dish, we have the similar version (also called pohpiah) in Sumatra (Indonesia) – but most people do not put lapcheong and egg there.

  8. >It sounds and looks terrific, but where do I get a recipe for the actual filling? Would like to try the Kuih Pie Tee. I have a Swedish mould that is similar just a little larger.

  9. >@Erlin – Popiah is a Teochew dish so wherever Teochew people ended up, a variation was created.

    @Anonymous – we will put up the popiah filling recipe in another post. Stay tuned! I recommend subscribing by RSS or email so you don’t miss it!

  10. >Oh! So popiah is kind of like my grandmother’s lumpia. . .cool, very cool. We never make this because it’s so labour-intensive, but it’s always a hit when somebody makes it. Parties are scheduled for lumpia.

  11. >Hmm, yummy! One of my fav food when I visit home. Wish I cld just pop over at yr place and help you devour it 🙂 Send my love to your mom….you guys are so lucky to be pampered with food like this prepared with so much love and patience..:)


  12. >Another yummy dish. I am getting more and more hungry reading one post after another (I haven’t had my dinner btw).. I love Popiah!! Wish I could have some for dinner!

  13. Thanks to your site. We shall try on your recipe on popiah skin.

    We are contemplating visiting Sarawak, maybe we chance to meet.

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