The Great Popiah Party


There are about 2 or 3 dinner events that I look forward to annually. The Great Popiah Party is one of them.

For me, there’s really no greater honor than having my name on a card on a place setting at the table of dear friends. It means they trust you enough to let you into their home where their puppy can make the wee wee of joy next to you.

I joke but the preparation for the dinner is no joking matter. Just the preparation of the white radish filling takes 3 days what with the creation of the stock using pork, old hens and prawn heads to the slow cooking of the white radish until it turns brown with the absorption of the full-flavored stock.

Florence says the painstaking process is used by evil mother-in-laws to punish dutiful daughter-in-laws. I am not touching this topic with a 15-foot spatula.


The spread is tremendous. Other than the usual popiah components of julienned vegetables like cucumber, carrot and bean sprouts, prawns, Chinese sausages (from Yung Kee) and pork crackling, there were the non-standard items like lobster, crab and roe (prawn and crab).


What I like to observe are the many variations (and rationale) that goes into the wrapping of a popiah. While everyone agrees that the wet Radish should be on top of the lettuce to prevent the liquid damaging and hence ripping the popiah skin and spilling everything out on the way to your mouth, what is usually contentious is the placement of the sweet rice sauce and other condiments.


Should the condiments be placed on top of the lettuce just before the radish or on the popiah skin below the lettuce? The condiments (sweet rice sauce, garlic, chilli and, for some, sambal) are not as wet as radish, so it should not matter. You can use a second skin if you worry.

Not so cries the other party; if you want a totally dry popiah that will survive the trip from the plate to mouth, then it should all be under the protection of the lettuce and we want to taste the flavors of the popiah and not just the skin.


Don’t you just love them? There is nothing like a serious discussion of food amongst friends lubricated with fine wines.

How I roll my own is that I start with whatever ingredient or condiment comes to hand first and move fast in the process of mastication.


Of course, the real secret is not to overload the wrap till it bursts. My sister says I’m chicken-shit like that because it’s not the real popiah experience if it does not burst in popiah goodness.


Then there’s the personal record of popiah eating. The current record holder is TTC with 14 popiah with one sitting. The nearest competitor I’ve heard is 8. My personal best is 4, mainly because I love the crushed garlic but it takes me a while to dry the tears from my eyes and recover from the burning sensation in my nose and throat.

Every time I tell myself to reduce the garlic to save the tears and pain, but alas, such is love, no?


Speaking of love, I love popiah. It’s practically a sinless food if you leave out the pork cracklings but that’s like eating eggs without salt or pepper; you’re missing out.

The combination of all the ingredients, sauces and juices exploding in your mouth in every bite is simply out-of-this-world.


Posted on 22nd Feb 2009 in Asian, Food and Drink, Makankaki


There Are 3 Comments


Photosophize commented on February 22, 2009 at 11:07 pm

Wow! The Poh-piah looked very nice! I got a question – traditionally do they used turnip or cabbage as the fillings? My mum often mix cabbage and turnip as fillings. I noticed you used turnip as sole fillings with other side dishes. Any idea?


TTC commented on February 22, 2009 at 11:17 pm

For the record, due to age catching up, I can only do at most 6 now. 🙁

Florence uses besides turnip, radish, bamboo shoot and carrot among other ingredients in the filling.

I believe cabbage is used in some version, but it is not used in this version. | Weylin’s Popiah Party commented on April 29, 2009 at 9:47 am

[…] expressed some concern that her popiah will not be as elaborate as what I usually experience. I reassured her that it was alright. Not everyone has an evil mother-in-law that demands properly […]

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