Ever so often we would have a vegetarian meal as it cleanses the palate and…
Fried Popiah (Spring Rolls) filled with jicama, carrots, and cabbage. Tips and instructions on how to make them light, airy, and crispy.
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.
A Southern Chinese Favorite
Spring Rolls are a southern Chinese favorite. The name “Chun Piah” in Hokkien (or Fujianese) means spring cake where “Chun” means spring and “Piah” means cake, cookie, or biscuit. In Malaysia, we call these spring rolls, Popiah where the “Po” or “Pok” in Hokkien (or Fujianese) means thin, referring to the paper-thin wrapper. We never call them egg rolls. I am not sure how the term egg roll came about and was totally surprised when I encountered it when I first moved here, thinking it was a totally different dish altogether. The wrapper has no eggs in it, nor is there any egg in the original filling.
Appetizer or Snack
While the non-fried version is usually eaten as an appetizer, the fried version is more popular as a snack. In Malaysia, both versions are often sold by street vendors throughout the day or at the pasar malam (night markets).
Fried Popiah (Spring Rolls)
Fried Popiah (Spring Rolls) are 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 shrimp.
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.
Spring Roll Wrappers
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 you can find them in the frozen section of most Asian markets. Thaw the wrappers on the counter 30 minutes before using.
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Fried Popiah (Spring Rolls)
- 2 bundles glass vermicelli (mung bean threads)
- 1 small jicama (about 1 lb/450g)
- 1 large carrot
- 8 oz ground pork (225g) + 1 tbsp soy sauce + ¼ tsp ground pepper
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 onion (peeled and thinly sliced)
- 2 cloves garlic (minced)
- ½ head cabbage (finely sliced) (about 1 lb/450g)
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp ground pepper
- 3 green onions (finely sliced)
- 1 packet spring roll wrappers (25 pieces)
- 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.
- Combine ground pork, soy sauce, and ground pepper in a bowl. Mix well.
- In a wok or large pan, heat vegetable oil. Add seasoned ground pork. Cook for 3 minutes. Add onion 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.
NOTE: The original publication of this post was on May 22nd, 2014. This republication comes with changes to the writeup but the recipe remains the same.