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Mom's Recipe for Popiah (fresh spring rolls) 棒棒薄饼

After watching Uncle Lim’s entertaining performance whipping the popiah dough onto the hotplate, I couldn't resist buying half a kilo of the thin Chinese crepe.  Having a basic idea of what ingredients go inside a popiah, but having never cooked it before, I made the call. 

"Mom, can you show me how to make popiah?"

"What, popiah?  That's a lot of work.  Aren't you busy with other things?"

This goes on for awhile.  When she realizes my determination, she tries one last tactic, "I forgot how to make popiah. So many things.  I...I don't remember."

The next day, I'm standing next to her in her kitchen, and she has all the ingredients ready and has already started cooking.  Trained or not, chefs are a difficult bunch...
A Hokkien/ Teochew style fresh spring roll, popiah is about layers of texture and a mix of flavors.  The juicy turnip filling, the faint sweetness of prawn and crab meat, refreshing Chinese lettuce, the combination of sweet sauce and spicy sambal and everything else in between.  No wonder popiah is the all-time favorite snack in Penang.  It’s our version of a tortilla wrap.
Here’s what we need to make some seriously delicious popiahs:


15 fresh popiah wrappers (or something similar - maybe a tortilla?  Or make your own crepe?)

  • 1 large turnip, grated (also known as jicama or locally known as bangkuang)
2 pieces of bean curd, diced into small pieces

  • 150g of small or medium shelled prawns (deveined and cut into small pieces)
  • 100g of crab meat, shredded - (This is optional.  My mom actually buys a whole crab from the market, and steams it.  This of course will add quite a bit more time to the preparation, so probably best to buy crab meat, or the imitation crab meat, from the store.)
  • 3 eggs 

  • 5 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
Fried shallots*
  • Fresh Chinese lettuce leaves, wash and drained dry (normal lettuce is fine too)
(Other vegetables such as french beans, bean sprouts or carrots can also be added to cook with the turnip filling.)

Seasoning for turnip filling:
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp white pepper powder

1/2 tsp sugar
1 cup water

1/2 cup Hoisin sauce or sweet sauce 

1/4 cup sambal* or chili sauce

*For fried shallots and sambal, Mom & I made them from scratch. To save time, you can get pre-made ones from the store.

  • In a wok, heat oil on medium fire, and fry two cloves of chopped garlic until fragrant, and then add in grated turnip. Add soy sauce, sugar and pepper for seasoning. Stir fry for the first 5 minutes.
  • Add water and reduce heat to low, cover and leave the turnip to cook for another 30 - 40 minutes until soft.  Add more soy sauce and sugar if needed. When cooked, strain the juice into a small pot and keep warm.  The juice will be used as a gravy over the popiah.  (Another optional step: To enhance the flavor, my mom also adds in boiled and shredded belly pork [3 layer pork] to cook with the turnip.)   
  • While the turnip is cooking, heat oil in a separate wok, add one clove of chopped garlic and deep-fry the bean curd until lightly browned. Dish out and drain any liquid. 
  • With the same wok, add more oil and heat. Throw in the rest of the chopped garlic, and once fried, add in the prawns. Add a dash of soy sauce, white pepper & oyster sauce. Stir fry the prawns until cooked. Dish out.
  • Beat the eggs and fry them omelette-style in the same wok.  Then cut into thin shreds.
  • Set aside each filling in separate bowls or tiffin.
Here comes the fun part.  Get everyone to wrap their own popiah!
  • Lay a piece of the popiah wrapper on a plate and spread one teaspoon of hoisin sauce and 1/2 teaspoon of sambal down the middle.
  • Place lettuce leaf over the sauces. 
  • Spoon 2-3 tablespoons of the strained turnip filling onto the leaf. 
  • In layers, top with fried bean curd, prawn, crab meat, sliced egg omelette and fried shallot crisps.
  • Fold the sides of the wrapper, tuck in firmly and roll up tight. Cut into three or four pieces.
  • Pour a tablespoon of the turnip juice over the popiah. Serve & DEVOUR immediately.  
A harmonious blend of sweet, spicy and savoury flavours.  Popiah is simply delicious!


Lynette said...

Haha....I ate that~!!XD

Chuang said...

This is seriously one mean looking popiah. I want I want I want! :)

Reese said...

Chuang - We can have a popiah eat-out at my place when you come to Penang! I'm serious. I've also learned a deep-fry version which is equally delicious. Hungry?

Anonymous said...

if you are a vegetarian and you like to have this poiah with eggs
the vegan tahu eggs tahu grinded in the blender then lit the sauce pan add in three tablespoons of olive oil and half a teaspoon of tumeric powderd salt ginger garlic paste and onion paste soya sauce about two tablespons and pepper powder. this eggs are usally if the hindus who are fasting and if they wish to have egg this is a splendid option

Reese said...

Thanks for the cooking tips!

PapaCheong's 拿手好菜 said...

I just want to grab a fork and dig in.


pearl said...

Good popiah recipee. Can i use spring roll skin as a substitue fir pppiah skin?

capturingpenang said...

Hi Pearl, sure you can use a slightly different skin. Enjoy!