There are many versions of spring rolls out there but the ones I grew up with are light, airy, and crispy. They are made with fresh paper-like wrappers filled with crunchy vegetables. Commonly known as popiah (jūn-piá or spring rolls) in Malaysia, they come either non-fried or fried. The non-fried version is larger and has more ingredients in the filling.
While popiah (non-fried) is usually eaten as an appetizer, Fried Popiah (Spring Rolls) is more popular as a snack. They are often sold by street vendors after lunch time or at the pasar malam (night markets).
Fried Popiah (Spring Rolls) is about 4 inches in length and an inch in diameter. The filling is very similar to that of Jiu Hu Char or Warm Jicama Salad, which is a combination of crunchy vegetables like jicama (bang kuang), carrots, cabbage, and a little meat. The meat can be either minced pork, chicken, or shrimps.
Other ingredients include diced tofu, mushrooms, and green beans. My version comes with the addition of glass vermicelli (mung bean threads) which helps to absorb moisture from the vegetables, thus keeping the filling nice and dry. I also like to drain the cooked filling in a metal colander to remove as much of the sauce as possible. Soggy filling is not a good thing in fried popiah.
To keep the rolls light and airy, do not pack or roll them too tightly. Use thin spring roll wrappers. They come in packs of 25 or 50 wrappers and can be found in the frozen section of most Asian markets. Leave them out to thaw on the counter 30 minutes before using.
- 2 bundles glass vermicelli (mung bean threads)
- 1 small (about 1 lb/450g) jicama
- 1 large carrot
- 8 oz (225g) minced pork
- 1 tbsp soy sauce + ¼ tsp ground pepper
- 2 tbsp canola oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
- ½ head (1 lb/450g) cabbage, finely sliced
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp ground pepper
- 3 green onions, finely sliced
- 1 packet of 25 spring roll wrappers
- Vegetable oil for deep frying
- Sweet chili sauce for serving
- Soak glass vermicelli in warm water for 20 minutes to soften. Drain.
- Peel jicama and grate into fine strips using a box grater. Do the same for carrots.
- In a wok or large pan, heat vegetable oil. Add minced pork. Cook for 3 minutes. Add onions and garlic. Cook for another 2 minutes.
- Add grated jicama, carrots, and cabbage. Stir to get everything well mixed.
- Add salt and pepper and continue to cook for about 5 minutes. Turn off stove and stir in sliced green onions.
- Place a metal colander on a shallow bowl. Transfer cooked filling to metal colander to drain off excess sauce. Allow filling to cool.
- Place a sheet of spring roll wrapper on a clean work surface with one of the pointed ends towards you. Place a little glass vermicelli and filling on the wrapper.
- Fold the pointed end over the filling. Then fold in both the right and left sides of the wrapper.
- Moisten the remaining edges of the wrapper with a little water. Roll and seal.
- Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling.
- In a medium sized sauce pan, heat about 1 inch deep oil. Gently lower spring rolls into the oil and fry until golden brown. This will take only 1 to 2 minutes. Remove and drain on a metal strainer.
- Serve immediately with sweet chili sauce.
Freshly made Fried Popiah (Spring Rolls) are delicious with sweet chili sauce. Be sure to make enough for everyone as they do not last long at the table. Popiah that is not fried can be kept frozen in ziplog bags. Do not thaw. Fry them directly from the freezer when needed.
Enjoy…..and have a wonderful day!