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!
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 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
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
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
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
Watch this video I made of Mum building and wrapping her popiah:
Mum’s Homemade Popiah 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.