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Penang’s fresh spring rolls are known as Popiah. This dish is of Teochew and Hokkien ancestry which literally means thin wafer, which refers to its skin which is a semi-translucent crêpe made from wheat flour. The skin of the spring rolls needs to be thin but pliable enough to absorb the sauces and hold the tasty ingredients without tearing.

Popiah has a fine balance of sweet and savoury flavours and a myriad of textures. The skin which is made from flour is slightly chewy. The filling includes soybean curd, eggs and a vegetable stew made primarily from bangkuang (jicama or yambean which is a white fleshed root vegetable with brown skin) making the Popiah sweet, juicy and crunchy. Fresh Chinese lettuce gives Popiah a refreshing crunch, while the sweet sauce, chilli sauce and black sauce applied liberally on the inside of the skin is a harmonious blend of sweet, spicy and savoury flavours. Crab meat is an optional ingredient at some stalls, which is recommended for additional flavor.

This dish is generally a healthy snack which is ordered as an accompaniment to other hawker foods. As pork and prawns may be used as a flavourful base to the vegetable stew, Popiah is not considered vegetarian nor halal. Expect to pay around RM2.00 for a serving of two Popiah rolls without crab meat.

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