Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Malaysian Fresh Spring Rolls (Popiah)

Things always cluster in threes, they say, so I feel compelled to complete what appears to be a series about my favorite childhood Nonya foods with the third entry: Fresh Spring Rolls, or "popiah". We frequently had popiah as an appetizer to be followed by either Sarawak Laksa or Hainanese Chicken Rice. At a kopi tiam (casual food court), the popiahs would arrive assembled and ready to eat. My third aunt often had popiah parties, where one would assemble one's own popiah out of prepared ingredients; this is how I serve popiah at home. So, without further ado, this is how we eat popiah at Chez Huxley Wuxley.

First, you need to get together these ingredients:

Wrapper skins, preferably Menlo wrappers (these are made in Menlo Park, CA and are available in most Asian groceries/supermarkets; in Kuching, you would just buy a bunch of freshly-made skins from your favorite popiah lady):

Condiments, including Hoisin sauce & Sriracha hot sauce, lettuce leaves, and freshly ground roasted peanuts:

Thinly-sliced, steamed chinese sausage:

Blanched bean sprouts, thinly-sliced plain omelette, and thinly-sliced fried tofu cubes (the last is optional because I decided I don't really like them):

And, most important of all, popiah fillling, consisting primarily of jicama (recipe follows):

To make popiah filling, saute 4 finely chopped peeled garlic cloves and 3 tablespoons finely chopped dried shrimp (previously softened in hot water) in 2 tablespoons oil until fragrant. Mix in 2 medium peeled and julienned jicamas and about 6 finely julienned black dried chinese mushrooms (previously soaked in hot water to soften), turn heat to low and cover and cook gently for about 10 minutes. The jicama will release moisture and steam in its own juices. When it is cooked to your liking, make a sauce with 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 teaspoons oyster sauce, 1 tablespoon sesame oil and 1 tablespoon cornstarch. Make a well in the vegetables, pour in the sauce and let cook a little before stirring to mix. Cook over low heat and reduce until mixture is somewhat dry. Add about a cup of peeled, coarsely chopped fresh shrimp and mix until shrimp is cooked through. Turn off the heat and mix in some chopped scallions.

OK, now you are ready to assemble your popiah. First layer your plate with a Menlo wrapper, place a lettuce leaf on it and drizzle hoisin sauce and sriracha hot sauce over the leaf.

Then place a little of the popiah filling, the blanched bean sprouts, the sliced omelette and fried tofu on top of the lettuce leaf. Sprinkle with the sliced cooked chinese sausage and ground roasted peanuts.

Then roll everything up like a burrito. This is what Dave's looks like:

You are ready to take a bite!

Yum! There is the crunch of the lettuce leaf, the crisp-cooked jicama and the bean sprouts; the savory-sweet-spicy flavor of the condiments, the chinese sausage and the cooked sauce; the umami-ness of the fresh & dried shrimps and the mushrooms; and the nuttiness of the ground roasted peanuts. Somehow everything comes together magically to make - you've guessed it - the most delicious spring roll ever!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

From looking at your list of ingredients for the popiah, I reckon it will be delicious! I shall attempt to make it for our family get-together on Christmas eve.