For the A TO Z CHALLENGE, I’m blogging for 26 days in April (except Sundays) based on the alphabet, and my theme is #foodiefiction, inspired mostly by the foods of Singapore.
P is for Popiah
She was quite certain that this popiah party would not happen.
Why had she even thought about organizing it in the first place? It was so much work! First, she had to source for a reputable popiah skin maker. It had to be thin enough, but not too thin. It had to be of a good size. She had looked online and asked around, then went down to several places just to look at their method of popiah skin-making until she found the perfect one. The skin was just the right size, not too thick, just the right thinness to wrap and roll. So she placed an order for her popiah party.
She was still quite certain that this popiah party would not be perfect.
The filling had to be made. She had to pick up the right amount of jicama or bangkuang and carrots. It would have to be shredded and seasoned and cooked and made sure it wasn’t too wet or too salty or too dry. In other words, the perfect filling.
All the other ingredients would have to be prepared. There would be prawns, lettuce, fried eggs, lupcheong, minced garlic, fresh chillies, roasted peanuts, cucumber, coriander leaves and she was certain that she was still forgetting one or two other ingredients. Should she also include some premium ingredients like fresh crab? How about pork lard? Was that too much?
As she fretted and worried about her popiah party, she nervously twisted the brilliant rock that was sitting on her finger. It was still so shiny and new, it felt awkward on her. Should she take it off when cooking? What if she forgot to put it back on again? Or could she wear it around her neck? That seemed silly. What if she dropped it down the sink or lost it among the shredded jicama and someone rolled it up into a popiah, bit down on her rock and lost a tooth? What if that someone were her future mother-in-law?
Okay okay okay… she was getting paranoid over ridiculous things. She would just quickly run into her room, remove her ring and put it on her dressing table, then when the guests came and she went in to change, she could simply slip it on. And her perfect popiah party could begin.
She rolled up her non-existent sleeves, pushed her shoulders back, took a deep breath, and went into the kitchen to prepare the filling and ingredients. She was ahead of time and she just had to keep at it.
Rinsing. Shredding. Chopping. Mincing. Slicing. Dicing. Frying. Stirring. Scooping.
And plenty of stretching in between.
The doorbell rang. Oh god, was it them already??? She hadn’t showered. She hadn’t changed. And she really needed to pee! She was a horrendous mess. Her kitchen was a disaster. She hadn’t set the table. She hadn’t even cleared all her cookbooks and recipes off the table. And oh oh oh she hadn’t picked up the popiah skins yet. Oh this was a catastrophe. An absolute failure of a popiah party. And it would be her ruin.
The doorbell rang again.
She stood in the kitchen wringing her hands. Then she heard the key turn and the door open. It was Yang and he was standing in her flat, his parents peering out from behind him.
She could only stare at them.
“Wow. When you said come over for dinner I had no idea that you were going to make popiah. I love popiah!” Yang’s father told her.
Yang’s mother whispered something to Yang. Yang stepped forward and gently shooed her into the bedroom.
“You didn’t need to do all this. We could have just bought some food. But it all looks so wonderful, really! Ok now, go clean up, change and all that. We will figure it out ok? Don’t worry, my parents will love you. I think they already kind of do.”
She nodded and quickly stepped into the bathroom, she didn’t want him to see her tears. The shower washed them away and she felt a little bit braver and a little bit better. She put on her new dress and stepped out to meet her future in-laws.
It was only later, after they enjoyed their popiah skin-less popiah party, that she realized she had forgotten to put on her brand new engagement ring, that it had been sitting safely on her dressing table, not lost in the popiah filling, and that no one had accidentally bit into it, and no one had lost any teeth.
Popiah is also known as baobing (薄餅). It is essentially a roll, a little like a vietnamese summer roll. But unlike a summer roll, it doesn’t use rice paper. It is a soft thin skin made from wheat flour and the method for making the skin itself is quite fascinating – a ball of dough is held in one hand and then quickly rubbed against the hot griddle to leave a thin skin which is then peeled off after it is cooked. The thin skin means that a damp cloth is used to cover the skin when making popiah. The best way popiah is the ones you make yourself (at least that’s what I think) because you can put whatever ingredients you like, as much sweet sauce and chili as you prefer. It’s actually quite a healthy meal as there is a lot of vegetables, like the cooked jicama filling, the fresh lettuce leaves, beansprouts, cilantro, carrots. If you leave out the lupcheong or Chinese sausage, it’s even healthier as the proteins are boiled shrimp, egg and tofu.