I wonder if spring rolls means a taste of spring rolled in a piece of wrapper. It could be.

I personally love the simplified modern style of fried spring rolls. It is the kind that you pick up at the freezer section at supermarket. Spring rolls from the restaurants or the ready-made version from the supermarket are made using instant roll wrapper, that have to be deep fried before serving. The conveniently packed wrappers are made from wheat flour.

The Chinese hawker version is made using rice flour wrapper, which is round – something like Vietnamese spring roll wrappers, but not see-through. These are bought in the wet market and can only last two days if sealed properly and refrigerated. Not many hawkers sell these anymore, I think it is because the skin is quite difficult to make. The spring rolls made using this skin wrapper can be eaten without deep frying. And they don’t last very long. Has to be consumed within hours of making if not fried.

This Chinese-style spring rolls are called “Popiah” in our local Fujian (Hokkien) dialect and as wherever there are Fujianese, there is popiah. Slightly different variation in filling can be found in Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan.

So the popiah spring rolls have lettuce, stir fried jicama and carrot, stir fried bean curd and bean sprouts, deep fried pork fat, braised pork belly, omelette, and sweet golden sauce. ┬áIt does sound like a mouthful, doesn’t it? I like a lot of hot sweet sauce with it. Sometimes we got the ones with roasted peanuts.

Spring rolls, popiah or not, are spring rolls. The essence behind it is that as long as you can fold some fillings with flour-based skin wrapper, you can safely call them spring rolls. The fillings can be anything. Roast charsiu pork, chicken, vegetarian style beansprout and jicama, panfried lamb, cucumbers. Let your imagination run wild! Go crazy.

This recipe is the standard version of the kind of Popiah spring rolls made at home. Not that wild, but you’ll get the gist. Each filling can be a dish on its own. It does seem to look an awful lot of work. I was exhausted after cooking.

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Popiah Spring Rolls

Makes 40 rolls

Ingredients:

Filling 1 (pork)
500 g pork fat
275 g pork belly

Filling 2 (jicama and carrot)
1/4 cup cooking oil (or excess lard from the deep fried pork fat)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
250 g french bean, sliced diagonally (0.25 cm width)
4 (250 g) carrots, cut in thin, matchlike stick, about 3 cm long (alternatively, grate the carrots using vegetable grater or any grater with largest setting)
1 (600 g) jicama, cut into the same size as carrots
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar (optional)
1/4 tsp ground white pepper

Filling 3 (bean sprouts and bean curd)
1/4 cup cooking oil (or excess lard from the deep fried pork fat)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
300 g bean curd, washed, drained and cubed (0.5 cm)
250 g beansprouts
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar (optional)

Skin
Lettuce, washed and dried
1 (40 sheets) kilogram popiah wrapper about 20cm in diameter, alternatively you can use commercially packed big-sized spring rolls wrapper

Other condiments
Red sauce (recipe below, or store-bought sweet chili sauce)
2 eggs, beaten, fried and cut finely
1/2 cup shallot flakes (recipe)

Directions:

To prepare pork belly and pork fat
Cut the fat into 2 cm cubes and stir fry them without oil in a wok over high heat for 10 minutes. Remove from the wok when the fat has turned brown and really dried out. Soggy fat does not taste good. Drain well on paper towel and store in airtight container lined with clean paper towel to soak up additional fat. The lard on the wok can be used to replace cooking oil to stir fry other fillings, if desired

Boil the pork belly (whole) in a pot of hot water for 10 minutes, uncovered. Remove from the pot and drain on paper towel. When cooled, trim excess fat and chop the lean meat into smaller pieces. Set aside for later use

To prepare bean sprouts and bean curd
Heat 1/4 cup of lard (or cooking oil) in a wok, toss in beancurd cubes and cook over high heat for 3 minutes, turning slowly using a spatula
Add garlic, bean sprouts, salt and sugar, mix well. Reduce heat and cook for another 2 minutes
Remove from heat

To prepare carrot and jicama
Wash grated jicama and carrot under running water. Drain well on kitchen towel. This will remove the excess starch that will make the dish sticky and soggy after cooking
Heat oil in the wok and add garlic, stir fry till fragrant. Stir quickly to avoid burning. Add french beans, carrots and jicama into the wok
Season with salt, sugar and pepper. Mix well. Reduce heat to low and cover. Leave to simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat

To prepare popiah spring rolls

Place a piece of wrapper on clean surface. Arrange a piece of lettuce on the lower part of the wrapper and spread half teaspoon red sauce above the lettuce
Put one tablespoon of carrot filling and bean sprouts filling each on top of lettuce, try as much as you can to only put filling without any liquid, use a small colander-shaped spoon if possible. The liquid might most likely soak into the wrapper, make it soggy and difficult to handle also most likely to break while folding. Arrange eggs on top of everything
Sprinkle half tablespoon of boiled pork, one teaspoon crunchy pork fat and some shallot flakes
Fold the lower part of the wrapper to fully covering the fillings and fold in both sides in. Try to fold tightly but careful not to stretch the wrapper too much. Roll the whole filling to the end of the wrapper and place them on serving plate with the end of the wrapper facing down
Serve with extra sweet sauce

Recipe for Red Sauce

Blend 5 chilies in a blender till smooth
Melt four tablespoon sugar with 4 tablespoons hot water. Add 1 tablespoon vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
Add the sugar mixture to the blender and process till everything mixed well. Transfer to serving bowl

Note

If using fresh spring roll wrappers, place the wrappers flat on a flat plate and cover well with damp cloth to prevent the wrappers drying out. If dried out, the rolls will easily break when used to wrap the fillings.

When store-bought spring rolls wrappers are used, the spring rolls need to be deep fried. Use white egg to seal the wrappers before frying in hot oil. It takes 3 minutes to get a nice golden brown fried rolls.

To prepare pork belly and pork fat

To prepare bean sprouts and bean curd

To prepare carrot and jicama

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13 Responses to “Chinese Fresh Spring Rolls Popiah”

  1. 1

    Pepy @Indonesia Eats — June 4, 2010 @ 3:11 pm

    This popiah reminds me to Lumpia Basah in Bogor. I like it better actually, since it’s not deep fried :)

    • Jun replied: — June 5th, 2010 @ 1:17 pm

      I think it does, I heard about ‘lumpia basah’. Never been to Bogor. :D

  2. 2

    noobcook — June 5, 2010 @ 7:05 am

    popiah is one of my fave local food! love your definition and the step by step pics. It looks like a lot of work but the end result is delicious looking!

    • Jun replied: — June 5th, 2010 @ 1:19 pm

      Seriously, it was a LOT of work. I was helped by 2 other people. I barely had energy to prepare props for the photo. Kinda explain the plain vanilla style of the final dish

  3. 3

    TasteHongKong — June 6, 2010 @ 4:59 am

    Enjoyed reading. The spring rolls must be flavorful with the pork fat and belly but I have to remind myself not to eat too much. Great to serve with the red sauce as well.

    • Jun replied: — June 7th, 2010 @ 3:43 pm

      Agree with you on the pork fat issue. But that is the secret of old-style Chinese cooking. Haha. Not necessary the healthiest one.

  4. 4

    mycookinghut — June 6, 2010 @ 1:37 pm

    I always love popiah!! Very nicely done!

    • Jun replied: — June 7th, 2010 @ 3:43 pm

      Thank you!

  5. 5

    Hazel — June 6, 2010 @ 10:03 pm

    Wow, I am a huge fan of spring rolls… this just looks GREAT! Can’t wait to try it out! Your pictures rock by the way :) And thank you for putting all the extra notes, should make this much easier.

    • Jun replied: — June 7th, 2010 @ 3:47 pm

      Thanks! They are equally yummy if deep fried.

  6. 6

    hazel ang — September 8, 2010 @ 1:52 pm

    WOW! thank you so much for this recipe! Its very very close to my grandmother’s beloved recipe. I used to help her prepare it for family festivals when I was younger, and I can attest to the preparations being very laborious – the whole day peeling, slicing, grinding etc etc. Our family came from Amoy and immigrated to North America. We are all spread out all over the world now…i myself live in germany now, so you can maybe understand my excitment finding your recipe…its a little piece of home. Thank you so much!
    hazel ang

    • Jun replied: — September 8th, 2010 @ 2:30 pm

      Yes exactly my point! It is almost half a day worth of work. Only to prepare 30 spring rolls.

      Thank you so much for your comment! I will be posting the vegetarian version soon

  7. 7

    Tracey — December 15, 2010 @ 2:53 pm

    When I lived in Japan, the Navy wives would get together and mass-produce spring rolls, gyoza and lumpia. They would all bring ingredients, their tools and wrappers. After a full day of making whatever the finger food of the day was, they’d divide the yummies and go pop them in their freezer. It still took all day, but the time and energy was shared, so it seemed much easier. Unfortunately, I worked, so I never got the chance to join them.

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