Thursday, September 3, 2009
Let's Spring and Roll a Popiah...
It is a normal practice to order a plate or two of three different hors-d'oeuvre to make a happy but light start to a meal in a Chinese restaurant. But not in the case of my teen son, who would only request a double serve of his all time favourite deep-fried spring rolls and nothing else. Not surprising for someone who thinks that everything edible is deep fried, right?. We proved him wrong when we had non-fried spring rolls as our main course for dinner at home, last night. Unlike the deep-fried spring roll, which is a favourite hors-d'oeuvre in the restaurants, the non fried version called "popiah" is a very popular street snack available from hawker stalls and food courts in Singapore and Malaysia. Traditionally it a festive food to cater for large family gatherings and as an altar offering to the gods. Sadly, serving popiah at family gathering is such a rare thing nowadays because the prep work is so intensive and time consuming. My mother used to spend hours shredding vegetables, pounding hydrated dried chilli and garlic in a mortar separately into a fine paste, rendering pork lard and deep fried bawang merah into crunchy onions topping, making omelet strips, and most of all, hand-shredding the jicama (bangkuang, yam bean, sengkuang) and finally cooking it together with loads of belly pork and shrimps for the main filling. In order to compliment her popiah's filling, she would only patronise the handmade popiah wrapper from the neighbourhood "Popiah Phoey Uncle". As a child, I used to be amazed by Popiah Phoey Uncle's ability to hold a lump of dough in one hand and pressed it in a circular motion on to the pan just enough to form a very thin yellowish white popiah skin. It was indeed a sight to watch. The art of swinging the dough onto a pan and pulling quickly to form a thin popiah skin is something I likened to a magician!
Popiah (Non-fried Spring Rolls) Recipe:
2 kg bangkuang (jicama) if unavailable use cabbage as an alternative.
250g french beans (sliced)
1 carrot (julliened)
8 pcs tau kwa (hard bean curd)
350g medium sized prawns (shelled and deveined)
2 tbsp osyter sauce / light soya sauce
5 tbsp sugar
1 cup water
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp pepper
30 pcs Popiah wrapper
200 g lettuces
1 cup roasted and finely chopped peanuts
1 cup sweet soya sauce (Tee Cheow) if unavailable use Hoisin sauce.
1/2 cup chilli paste (sambal olek)
1/2 garlic (finely grounded)
1/2 cup prawn paste (hae koe) diluted with water (optional)
Peel jicama (bangkuang) and carrot and cut into matchstick strips and set aside. Cut tao kwa (hard bean curd) into thin strips and fry in oil until slightly browned. Drain on towel paper towel. Saute a teaspoon of garlic and add in the prawns and removed with a slotted spoon when cooked. Add in remaining garlic and saute until golden before adding jicama and carrot. Stir fry for a minute before adding salt, pepper, sugar, oyster sauce and pour in the water. Cook over medium heat until the jicama and carrot is soft and the liguid has been absorbed. Add the french bean together with the bean sprouts and stir fry for a minute before adding the prawns. Remove from heat and empty into a large bowl. Your guests are invited to DIY the popiah at the table after you have have shown how to assemble a popiah. To assemble a popiah, simply lay popiah wrapper on a large plate. Spread 1 tsp sweet soya sauce or hoisin sauce, 1/2 tsp chilli sauce, 1/4 tsp prawn paste(hae koe) and garlic paste. Adjust the amount of sauce to personal taste.Place a lettuce leaf over the the sauces and add 3-4 tbsp of filling and top with roasted peanut, tau kwa. Fold the two sides of the wrapper and roll up into a cylinder shape. Eat it like a kebab or cut it into 4 or 5 pieces with a sharp knife.