Popiah or Popia is a dish which my mum usually cook during Ching Ming Festival (April). I have yet to learn this dish because it is labourous and demanding. I must say that I am quite biased (and with good reasons) with Popiahs because to me, only mum’s Popiah is the best (and many others say so too). Her Popiah is unlike what is sold commercially as it contains more than 10 ingredients and the vegetables are painstakingly cut into fine slivers (just slightly thicker than a toothpick) rather than going through a shredding tool. It is no wonder then that relatives would “book” a few (or quite a lot) rolls of Popiah whenever they hear that she is making some.
According to mum, there can be no shortcut to making a good Popiah. The ones sold outside which are predominantly turnip and carrot filling just don’t do justice to how a good Popiah should be made and taste like. Even the sauce spread is sourced from southern Johor / Singapore – sweet flour sauce. I suppose this is because coming from Pontian, our tastebud is much influenced by what’s available down south. And that’s not all, Popiah skin which is specially ordered from the market is used rather than the ones sold in supermarket and kept frozen. Yes, we are very particular indeed in making a good tasting Popiah.
When I asked mum for the recipe for this Popiah, I was stuck actually because mum does not use a measuring type of recipe. Rather, just like how cooking is like second nature, the ingredients and seasoning are a matter of estimates or what we Malaysians call “agak-agak”. Hence, I had to help her to make a rough estimate of the ingredients used to make this delicious dish of Popiah. If you are game for a cooking challenge, try this Popiah recipe especially if you can get your hands on the exact ingredients available. You won’t be disappointed.
This is mum’s recipe for Popiah
- 1 bowl belly pork (3 layer pork) (boiled for 5 minutes, cooled and shredded finely)
- 1 bowl shelled prawns (cut into small pieces)
- 1 bowl turnip (cut into fine slivers just thicker than a toothpick)
- 1 bowl french beans (cut into fine slivers just thicker than a toothpick)
- 1 bowl carrot (cut into fine slivers just thicker than a toothpick)
- 1/2 bowl cabbage (cut into fine slivers just thicker than a toothpick)
- 1 bowl firm bean curd (cut into fine slivers just thicker than a toothpick and deep fried)
- 1 bowl bamboo shoot (cut into fine slivers just thicker than a toothpick)
- 1/2 bowl shallots (cut finely)
- 1/4 bowl garlic (cut finely)
- 5 tablespoons oil
- Salt to taste
- Sugar to taste
- 1 teaspoon white pepper powder
- 4 tablespoons light soya sauce
- 2 tablespoons brandy
- 4 large eggs (beaten, fried thinly omelette-style in non-stick pan and cut into thin shreds)
- 1 cup bean sprouts (tailed and blanched)
- 1 cup finely shredded cucumber
- 1 cup pork loin (boiled till cooked, allow to cool and shred finely using fingers)
- Lettuce and chinese celery
- 1 cup peanut sugar (toast peanut in wok till brown, remove peanut skin, ground it till almost fine and mix with sugar on 1 peanut:1/2 sugar ratio)
- Sweet flour sauce
- Chilli spread (optional. Blend red chilli with garlic)
- Popiah skin
Separate the following into 5 equal portions:- pork belly, prawns, shallots, garlic and cooking oil.
Heat 1st portion of oil in wok and fry 1st portion of shallots and garlic till aromatic. Add pork belly and prawns and stir well for 2 minutes. Add turnips and stir till turnips slightly limp. Remove from wok and place in a big pot.
Cook the rest of the ingredients (french beans, carrot, cabbage and bamboo shoots) one by one just like how the turnips were cooked above and layer them in the pot.
After the 5 main ingredients were cooked and layered in the pot, heat up the pot and add the fried bean curd. Add seasoning and mix the ingredients thoroughly. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and keep the ingredients warm till required.
To serve the Popiah, place a piece of Popiah skin on a flat round plate. Spread a teaspoon of sweet flour sauce (and chilli spread if desired) in the centre of the skin and sprinkle some peanut sugar on the sauce. Tear a piece of lettuce and place over the peanut sugar. Using a tablespoon and fork, place 2 to 3 spoonfuls of filling ingredients (A) on top of the lettuce after squeezing out excess gravy. Arrange the ingredients like a sausage / roll. Top with a little fried egg, bean sprouts, cucumber, pork loin and chinese celery. Fold the sides, tuck in firmly then roll up tightly.
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