Popiah is a Chinese-style fresh spring roll commonly found in Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. It is sometimes known as the Asian "burrito" or the Asian version of a tortilla wrap except that the popiah filling itself is much more complicated and contains so many more ingredients than a regular burrito or tortilla wrap.
It is a popular local street food and often eaten as a snack or appetizer. However, it is sometimes eaten as a meal by health-conscious diners. A good popiah (chinese fresh spring roll) must be packed with a generous amount of ingredients including a fragrant savoury and sweet tasting shredded yam bean/ jicama/ turnip filling.
To sum up, this Asian "burrito" is essentially consist of a wonderful mix of flavours and textures. A chewy texture from the skin/wrap, juicy and sweet yet savoury flavour from yam bean filling and a crunchy bite from the crispy vegetables with a sweet and spicy chilli sauce.
25 fresh spring roll skins/wrappers
1 head fresh lettuce, wash and drained
300 gram bean sprouts, tailed and blanched
1 cucumber, finely shred
2 eggs, lightly beaten to make omelette
1/8 tsp salt, seasoning for eggs
1/8 tsp pepper, seasoning for eggs
2 firm beancurd, pan-fried, cut into strips
150 gram peanut, roasted and ground
150 gram shallots, sliced and fried crisp
5 cloves garlic, minced and browned
1 kg turnip / jicama / yam bean, cut into strips
300 gram fresh prawns, shelled, reserved shells for stock
1/2 tsp salt, to marinate prawns
4 cups water, for prawn stock
3 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp fresh garlic, minced
2 1/2 tbsp brown bean paste, ground
300 gram meat, diced
1/2 tsp salt, marinate meat
1/2 tsp salt
Step 1: Choose Fresh and Sweet Turnips, Also Known As Jicama or Yam Bean.
Choose turnips that are smaller in size with unblemished or smooth skin that are firm to the touch and heavy for their size. Larger turnips tend to be woody and rough-tasting. Small to medium size turnips are sweetest.
Wash and clean thoroughly the skin before peeling. Peel the skin off the turnips with a vegetable peeler or small paring knife. Always wait until you're ready to cook the turnips before you peel them. Otherwise the turnip flesh may spoil.
Cut the turnips into strips. It is preferred to cut the turnips into strips rather than shred or grate it so that you can experience the bite and taste the crunchiness of the turnip. Cut them in half and place the flat end of each half facing down for a steadier hold before cutting into strips.
Place the strips of turnip in a coriander. This will allow excess fluid from the turnip flesh to be drained before cooking.
Step 2: Have Ready Some Popiah / Spring Roll Wrappers.
Popiah "skin" wrappers take centre stage for this dish.
These can be homemade or store-bought. Try to buy them if possible. However, if you have problem getting these popiah wrappers, you can substitute with the frozen store-bought Lumpia wrappers.
A popiah "skin" wrapper is a soft, thin paper-like crepe or pancake made from an extremely elastic batter of flour, water and salt. The batter is held on one hand and then quickly "rubbed" against a hot steel plate in a circular motion and lifted. Through this process, a very thin layer of the wet dough will form on the hot steel plate and begins to cook. It is then peeled off the hot plate before being removed.
A freshly made popiah "skin" wrapper is thin, pliable and stretchy.
Step 3: To Cook the Filling, First Prepare Some Prawn Stock.
Prawn stock can really enhance the overall flavour of the filling as it's simply flavourful.
To boil some prawn stock, first bring the shells with water added to a boil. Then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes.
Strained the prawn stock and set aside.
Season the shelled prawns with salt.
Also marinate diced meat with salt and pepper.
Step 4: Fry and Cut Beancurd.
Make sure to use firm beancurd and let the water drain as much as possible before frying. Fry firm beancurd on non-stick pan till browned on both sides. Then cut the fried bean curd into thin strips.
It is recommended to rinse the beancurd with water daily if left uncooked in the refrigerator. If it smells sour it has probably gone bad and should not be used.
The fried beancurd need to be sliced as THINLY as possible so that it will make easier wrapping of the popiah or spring rolls.
Step 5: Cook the Turnip / Jicama/ Yam Bean Filling.
To cook the turnip filling:
First heat oil in a wok and lightly brown minced garlic.
Then add brown bean paste. Stir fry for 1 to 2 minutes until fragrant. Keep the heat on medium low so as not to burn the bean paste. Otherwise, it will be bitter taste.
Next, pour in strained prawn stock.
When the prawn stock comes to a boil, add in turnip strips and mix well.
When it starts to boil again, stir in the marinated diced meat.
Cover and simmer (slow cook) gently on low heat for 1 1/2 hours until the turnip is soft or transfer to a pressure cooker and pressure cook for 30 minutes.
Brown bean paste is a fermented soybean paste. It's available in most Asian grocery stores.
You can also place the jicama filling mixture in a slow cooker to cook for about 1 1/2 hours.
Step 6: Continue to Stew Jicama Filling.
Then add in the marinated prawn pieces.
Next add in beancurd strips and lastly salt to taste. Stir to mix well.
Cover and continue to simmer for another 10 minutes.
And the turnip filling is ready to be used for the wrap!
Only add seasonings (salt) towards the end of cooking so that the mixture has imparted its many flavours and to avoid over seasoning in the beginning.
Step 7: Prepare the Side Ingredients for the Filling.
While turnip is simmering in the wok, prepare the other ingredients needed.
Wash, rinse and drained some fresh lettuce.
Tailed and blanched some beansprouts.
Julienned a cucumber.
Fry omelette and sliced thinly the omelette.
Fry some crispy shallots.
Brown minced garlic till aromatic.
Ground some roasted peanuts.
Also not forgetting have ready the sweet and chilli sauce.
The omelette need to be sliced as THINLY as possible so that it will make easier wrapping of the popiah or spring rolls.
Step 8: Assemble the Popiah / Fresh Spring Rolls.
Now comes the fun part, that is building the popiah or chinese fresh spring rolls.
The perfect popiah or chinese spring rolls should have a balance of flavours. It may take some skills and practice as you don't want to put too much or you will over-stuff the spring roll and it may tear once you start to wrap or take a bite of the spring roll.
First, put a popiah or spring roll wrapper on a plate or flat board.
Spread with as much chilli, sweet sauce and ground fried garlic as desired.
Next, place a piece of fresh lettuce on one edge of the spring roll wrap.
Then add blanched beansprout followed by julienned cucumber.
Place 2 tablespoons of filling, drained of gravy, on top.
Top with omelette strips and sprinkle with a little roasted ground peanuts and shallot crisps.
Lastly, wrap and then fold up the two sides of wrapper and roll up like a swiss roll. And we're done!
The turnip filling need to be dry so be sure to drain the jicama or stewed turnip filling of gravy before putting onto the popiah or spring roll wrapper so as not to moist the "skin" which will cause tear while wrapping the spring rolls.
Step 9: Serve Immediately.
After you have wrapped the popiah or spring roll, devour IMMEDIATELY. Otherwise it may turn soggy. You can also cut the spring rolls into smaller pieces before serving.
Everything can be made ahead of time and refrigerated so it makes planning to make this dish such a breeze.
The filling for this dish must have turnip (also known as jicama or yam bean). Beyond that, the choice of other ingredients is based on your personal preference.
It's really fun to serve these refreshing popiah or chinese spring rolls when you are having lots of friends over for a party and everyone will be busy rolling and eating them. Just have everyone do the work of wrapping and of course, enjoying themselves.
As always, ENJOY!