Popiah



Popiah (also spelled Poh Piah), Teochew for “thin pancake”, is a thin paper-like crepe or pancake wrapper stuffed with a filling made of cooked vegetables and meats.1 When deep fried, the crispy roll is more commonly known as a spring roll, but if the wrapper is as is, it is known as popiah.2

History
The popiah is of southeastern Chinese origins, having begun in Fujian Province. It was derived from the spring roll, which was eaten during spring when there was an abundance of vegetables.3 The Chinese diaspora has spawned variants of the roll throughout Asia, incorporating ingredients from the local culture. One example is the Nonya version of the popiah.4


Description
The fresh white wrapper or skin of the popiah is usually made of wheat flour mixed with water and a dash of salt for taste. Homemade egg roll wrappers, which have egg added to the traditional dough, is considered a richer, tastier skin. The slightly elastic dough is separated into small balls, dropped onto a hot skillet, then quickly lifted off leaving a thin layer on the pan.5 Left to cook for a short while, the skin is then lifted off skilfully without breaking.6

The various ingredients for the filling are usually placed in small dishes for diners to mix and add according to their taste preferences.7 The filling can contain as many as ten types of ingredients, broadly divided into the main meat-and-vegetable filling, garnishing, and spices and sauces.8 The main filling is made of fine strips of bamboo shoot cooked with shrimps, sautéed garlic, and pork cooked in the broth of shrimp and pork. To prepare the popiah, first spread a thin layer of sweet sauce and chilli paste onto the laid out skin. Sprinkle bits of fried garlic to add zest. A salad leaf placed on the skin serves as a base to hold the filling.9 The meat and vegetable mixture should be squeezed dry using the given ladles, before adding a manageable scoop onto the skin.10 Top the mixture with garnishing like beansprouts, omelette, cucumber, shrimp, coriander and Chinese sausages, all thinly sliced.11 The popiah is then folded neatly into a package and sliced into bite-sized pieces.12 They are then popped into the mouth using the fingers.

Popiah in Singapore
Popiah is eaten as a snack or as an accompaniment to the main meal.13 It is sold in most hawker centres, and a “do-it-yourself” popiah party is quite popular. Here, the skins are set aside and guests simply fill them up with the ingredients of vegetables and meat.14 It is much better if the skin is freshly made rather than frozen. Nevertheless, frozen popiah skins, which come in packets of varying quantities and are sold at various supermarkets, have become big business.15

Home-grown company, Tee Yih Jia, is one of the largest popiah skin makers in the world. It is headed by Goi Seng Hui, also known as the “Popiah King”.16

In June 2002, Thomson Community Club entered the Guinness World Records for the world’s longest popiah stretching across 108 m. More than 500 grassroots leaders and residents participated in this record-breaking feat.17

Variant names
Singapore/Malaysia: Popiah.
Burmese: Kai-yan.18
Philippines/Indonesia: Lumpia, a fried version.
Cantonese: Chun quin meaning “spring roll”.
Hokkien: Lun pia meaning “elastic pancake”.19



Author

Suchitthra Vasu



References 
1. Chan, M. (1992). Margaret Chan’s foodstops. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 117. (Call no.: RSING 647.955957 CHA); Mowe, R. (Ed.). (1999). Southeast Asian specialties: A culinary journey. Konemann: Culinaria, p. 38. (Call no.: RSING 641.5959 SOU)
2. Brissenden, R. (2011). South East Asian food: Classic and modern dishes from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Australia: Hardie Grant Books, p. 265. (Call no.: RSING 641.5959 BRI)
3. Mowe, R. (Ed.). (1999). Southeast Asian specialties: A culinary journey. Konemann: Culinaria, p. 38. (Call no.: RSING 641.5959 SOU)
4. Solomon, C., Solomon, D., & Harris, N. (2016). The complete Asian cookbook. South Yarra: Hardie Grant Books, p. 256. (Call no.: RSEA 641.595 SOL); Brissenden, R. (2011). South East Asian food: Classic and modern dishes from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Australia: Hardie Grant Books, p. 265. (Call no.: RSING 641.5959 BRI)
5. Mowe, R. (Ed.). (1999). Southeast Asian specialties: A culinary journey. Konemann: Culinaria, p. 38. (Call no.: RSING 641.5959 SOU)
6. Brissenden, R. (2011). South East Asian food: Classic and modern dishes from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Australia: Hardie Grant Books, p. 266. (Call no.: RSING 641.5959 BRI)
7. Hutton, W. (1989). Singapore food. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 176. (Call no.: RSING 641.595957 HUT)
8. Brissenden, R. (2011). South East Asian food: Classic and modern dishes from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Australia: Hardie Grant Books, p. 265. (Call no.: RSING 641.5959 BRI); Mowe, R. (Ed.). (1999). Southeast Asian specialties: A culinary journey. Konemann: Culinaria, p. 38. (Call no.: RSING 641.5959 SOU); Solomon, C., Solomon, D., & Harris, N. (2016). The complete Asian cookbook. South Yarra: Hardie Grant Books, p. 256. (Call no.: RSEA 641.595 SOL)
9. Mowe, R. (Ed.). (1999). Southeast Asian specialties: A culinary journey. Konemann: Culinaria, p. 38. (Call no.: RSING 641.5959 SOU)
10. Solomon, C., Solomon, D., & Harris, N. (2016). The complete Asian cookbook. South Yarra: Hardie Grant Books, p. 256. (Call no.: RSEA 641.595 SOL)
11. Mowe, R. (Ed.). (1999). Southeast Asian specialties: A culinary journey. Konemann: Culinaria, p. 38. (Call no.: RSING 641.5959 SOU)
12. Hutton, W. (1989). Singapore food. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 176. (Call no.: RSING 641.595957 HUT)
13. Tee, H. C. (2001, July 8). Popiah is on a roll. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Hutton, W. (1989). Singapore food. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 176. (Call no.: RSING 641.595957 HUT)
15. Mowe, R. (Ed.). (1999). Southeast Asian specialties: A culinary journey. Konemann: Culinaria, p. 38. (Call no.: RSING 641.5959 SOU)
6. Popiah maker rolls out expansion plans. (1997, March 24). The Straits Times, p. 36; Popiah King buys more QAF shares. (2003, September 13). The Business Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Longest popiah enters Guinness World Records. (2003, June 13). Today, p. 66. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Solomon, C., Solomon, D., & Harris, N. (2016). The complete Asian cookbook. South Yarra: Hardie Grant Books, p. 256. (Call no.: RSEA 641.595 SOL)
19. Chan, M. (1992). Margaret Chan’s foodstops. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 117. (Call no.: RSING 647.955957 CHA)



The information in this article is valid as at 2002 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic. 

Subject
Chinese--Food
Ethnic foods
Ethnic Communities>>Food
Cookery, Singaporean
Cookery>>International and regional cooking>>Chinese