paper thin is out, bring on the chewy and sturdy. popiah skin, that is.
a good popiah skin should be paper thin, almost opaque even, and should have a dry, slightly coarse texture. when filled and rolled up, the popiah needs to be handled with care and eaten as soon as possible before the jicama broth and sauces seep through the porous skin.
we thought we knew everything about a good popiah until we tried this version at thim sun loong kopitiam in ipoh, near pasir pinji, where sun kee nyonya curry laksa reigns supreme. the popiah at this corner coffeeshop surprised us in the most delightful way. the skin was stretchy, chewy and thicker than our (now former) benchmark of what a good version should be. at first bite, we were ready to give it the thumbs down but then as we bit into the generous filling, we had serious second thoughts. the jicama was well flavoured and judging from how tender the strips are, have undergone the necessary braise time.
besides the usual accompaniments the likes of minced fried tofu, cucumber and lettuce, there were also finely chopped up hehbi. slightly spicy, they tempered the soft texture of the other ingredients with a lovely crunch – something a certain mall-based chain of popiah stalls does with fried bits of flour, which we consider a cop out. using hehbi, on the other hand, not only impart that gratifying crispness but also add to the taste profile.
not able to finish them at one sitting (thanks to bellies full of the curry laksa!) we packed the leftovers to sup on much later and the ‘tough’ skin proved its mettle. it not only held its neat, compactly-packed shape well but more importantly, did not suffer what other popiahs would surely have after so long: sogginess. instead, the ingredients stayed moist (the hehbi did get a bit damp) as the liquids did not seep through the skin. we’d like all our popiahs to be made this way from now on.
thim sun loong kopitiam, 22-36 jalan peh kee koh, taman kampar, ipoh opens around 4pm onwards