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)
150g garlic
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.


  1. Hi Uncle Phil,
    Did you make your own popiah skins? I'm not too sure if there is someone selling fresh popiah skins here in Melbourne, have been craving for popiah!

  2. Hi Anj,
    We do not make them anymore since we came back to Sydney. We buy the frozen popiah skins from the Asian store. But we do have the recipe for the popiah skin if you need it.

    1. Hello uncle Phil, congretilutions with your wonderful blog full of good information. I'm looking a long time for the recipe for popiah skins the way you mention. In The Netherlands there is hardly some documentation about that. That's why I ask you friendly to share you're recipe with me/us. I tried several recipes but none of them are really the ones I am looking for.
      Thanks a lot.

  3. you can buy the TI YI JIA POH PIA SKIN at the asia super market here.. same as from sg land.. from the same factory..

  4. phil, even in s'pore, fresh popiah skins are hard to come by. we usually get ours from either joo chiat or havelock road. we would like to make popiah when visit our daughters in melbourne but the cost of the ingredients put us off. the turnip (bangkuang) costs so much more than in s'pore. i have blogged about popiah party here

  5. unclephil u can make some fresh popiah skin??

  6. Hi yg,
    I paid $9.50 for a kilo of bangkuang at Parramatta. We have to make do with the frozen popiah skin from the store. I wondering whether
    freshly made popiah skins are available in Sydney?

  7. So glad to bump into your site uncle from SG! Am planning a popiah party. Will need to find where to get frozen popiah skin.

  8. Hi Penny,
    Thanks for your visit, Try the frozen section in the Asian stores. Make sure you buy the SG product.


  9. Hi Uncle Phil,

    Another favourite dish.. Poh piah, I normally eat it without cutting into pic, just eat and bite by big mouth.. AKKMMM.. finally I got the source recipes.. maybe can make Po Piah while my sister in law here..

  10. Hi Yen,
    Wow, that will be nice. Do share the recipe with us.
    Phil & Jo

  11. Hi Uncle Phil & Aunt Jo

    Can I use Gula Melaka/Mai Ya Tang and Prawn Paste as a sweet saurce.. actually I never cook before, but its under my finger tips liao .. haha.. a bit "Hao Lian ha"..


  12. Hi Yen,
    We hope to get an invitation to eat your popiah. Hehe.

  13. Uncle Phil,

    I love popiah and would love to make them soon but i find it so hard to get the popiah skin even at the asian supermarket. Could you provide the recipe to make the popiah skin?

    Thanks in advance,

  14. Hi Ashley,
    I do have the recipe for the popiah skin but it is the technique or practical skill you have to master first before making the popiah skin.
    I'll keep you posted.

  15. Uncle Phil,

    WHere in parrammatta do you get the skins and bang kwang ?? I am craving for homemade popiah in sydney too.

  16. Hi Ken,
    You can buy frozen popiah skin in the freezer section of most Asian stores in Sydney. Try the Asian stores in Church Street in Parramatta. I can't tell the exact location of the store that sells bang kwang but from my recollection it is the store next to Westpac Bank.Bang Kwang is seasonal though. PM me your contact. I'll send you an invite the next time we have a popiah party with fellow Singaporeans.

  17. Hi Uncle Phil,

    Can you also invite a fellow Msian for your popiah party :) Im in sydney too! I am so craving for some popiah now hmm will make some when jicama is in season (must find out the season)..

    Enjoyed ur blog


  18. Hi June,
    Of course you are most welcome. My wife's family is Malaysian. Selamat Datang. We will put you on our guest list. Email me so that we can invite you for the next popiah party. Please put your comment in my lastest post as I sometime have to search for them in all my older post.

  19. This recipe is very good, I want try to do this ! My trouble is with Popiah wrappers , I never see it here .But I find an italian website that explain how to prepare it :-) I ll let you know how my "murder" of spring rolls will go! ciao!

  20. Thank you for the info. It sounds pretty user friendly. I guess I’ll pick one up for fun. thank u

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