I did it all…

I love the Bintangor lady’s popiah (spring rolls) here, the ones that are available on weekends only, Saturday and Sunday. She calls them Kuching popiah though I would not say hers is anything like what I have had in the state capital. It does not seem to have much else inside other than the sengkuang or what we call mangkuang (turnip or jicama) here and a bit of our local lettuce plus a whole lot of crushed peanuts and what tasted like the very nice Bintangor rojak sauce.

Of course, it is nothing like what we used to make in our family, my mum and my maternal aunties but there is a problem getting fresh popiah skin here and we are not fond of the ones sold in packets in the supermarkets so that is why I am quite reluctant to make any of my own. Probably the last time I had some fresh popiah skin at hand was in 2010 and I did blog about it here and here or maybe, I did do it another time after that but I don’t remember exactly when now.

Ah yes!!! There was that one time when my sister bought some from a lady selling tofu at the Sibu Central Market and asked me to make for the family. She had to make a booking the day before and go and collect the next morning – and that is the part that I do not like. Who knows what may crop up the next day and one would not be able to go and collect or perhaps I would change my mind and decide not to make any popiah after all?

Well, the other morning, I went to the market. I don’t know what made me do it but I did and I went and asked at the tofu stalls which one of them sold freshly-made popiah skin. Having identified her, I went and asked if she had any popiah skin for sale and she told me she did not have any there but if I could wait, she would call home and get them to send over…and that was what she did and I went home happily with the skin and all the ingredients that I had bought in the meantime to make the popiah.

Of course, there must be the turnip…


…which I grated manually using a grater. Most people these days would probably use a food processor but when I was little, I used to help my mum cut it real fine, so very thinly, with a knife!

Well, that was exactly what I did with the French beans…

French beans

You may use long beans instead but some people say the popiah tastes nicer with French beans and anyway, there was a big bag of those in the fridge so I used them instead, painstakingly slicing each bean one by one as thinly as I could.

Next, I went on to prepare the other ingredients needed to cook the filling…

Other ingredients for cooking the filling

…starting with the garlic (bottom left), finely chopped, and going anti-clockwise, I had some minced meat, prawns that I had cut into tiny cubes (not minced), a bit of carrot that I also found in the fridge, mainly for the colour and some tau kua (bean curd cakes), also cut into little cubes.

It seems that these days, they do sell those tau kua, pre-fried, at 70 sen each so if you want to cut and stuff them with meat to cook the very nice soup, you can buy these instead of having to go through the chore of doing it yourself. I only bought those because I thought the light brown outer layer would add a little bit of colour to the filling. In the old days, the tau kua was yellow on the outside but there was this piece of news going round then that the colouring used was harmful to health so it was banned and since then, our tau kua has always been…white.

To cook the filling, I fried the garlic in a bit of oil till golden brown and then I added the prawns and the meat and after that, the French beans and the carrot went in. Once done, the tau kua and the turnip followed and for the seasoning, I added fish sauce and pepper…and very soon, it was done…

Popiah filling

I also had to prepare the ingredients needed for the wrapping of the popiah

Other ingredients

– the blended chili with garlic and lime (top right) and going clockwise, some lettuce, thinly-sliced omelette, crushed peanuts and this sweet glue-like stuff that we use to stick down the edges of the skin.

They do not sell the very nice Sibu-made khong th’ng anymore so I just had to use the kacang tumbuk (crushed peanut cakes) sold at the supermarket instead and to make that glue-like stuff, I was supposed to caramelise some sugar in low heat till brown in  colour, add water and corn starch to thicken it but I took the short cut and used gula Melaka (brown palm sugar) instead. Hehehehehe!!!

You may go in any order when you wrap the popiah but usually, I would apply the chili first, and then the egg and the filling would go on top, after which, I would sprinkle the crushed peanuts all over them and place a piece of lettuce over it. Once I had applied the glue-like stuff all along the edge of the popiah skin, I would roll it up and it was done.

If you are wondering what the end product looked like, here’s a cross-section of one that I made…

My popiah 1

…that day. Nice, eh?

There were a few left over by tea time that afternoon and I found that the skin was not so nice anymore after having been left exposed like that. It became kind of tough and rubbery so I deep-fried them…

My popiah, deep fried

…and yes, it was very nice after that!

But of course, deep frying is not all that healthy even though it does bring the taste to a whole new level so it would be best to sit down as soon as everything is ready, wrap and eat the popiah fresh…

My popiah 2

…and not leave them till later.

For one thing, I found that it was really hard work – so many things to do and I did it all by myself and perhaps owing to my old age, it was kind of tiring and I surely would think twice should another instant of temporary insanity ever threaten to possess me again.

Well, if anyone is interested in ordering the popiah skin, the lady’s telephone contact is 019-9733 728 and her stall is by one of the pillars somewhere in the middle of the tofu and taugeh stalls at the market or you can always do what I did – ask!