It’s a delicacy!
I am Chinese
We are in the midst of celebrating Chinese New Year.
I would say Chinese New Year always have these three elements in it:
1. The Relationship — Family, loved ones, siblings, relatives, friends, all travelling from near and far, to gather first with their own family members, of which could represent three to four generations, then smaller gatherings intentionally planned, at someone’s house, or at a cafe, chit-chatting, laughing and updating one another how life has been, been a year, or years since the last meet.
2. The Money — Children love this. They can tell you how well the world’s economy has been based on the angpow they received. They keep track of it, and could perhaps give you a statistic on it for 2 to 3 consecutive years.
3. The Food — Something not missed during Chinese New Year, the rich array of food when most of the ladies of the family gather in the kitchen, working together to prepare the 8-10 dishes (the usual amount) for Reunion Dinner. One of the dishes not to be missed I noticed, is the Popiah.
This Popiah I’m talking about is not the deep-fried finger-food that is normally served at buffets. This Popiah other than the meaning that runs deep behind it, also represents skill mastery.
Popiah varies across the different Chinese people, or tribes some call it. I can only highlight two, based on how our families do it…
There is a lot of work involved for this one particular dish. All the ingredients will have to be properly washed (or you might chew on sand), drained and dried (or the filling would be too watery), prepped and sliced (into thin slices; this is where the first part of skill mastery comes in), tossed and fried (till all the ingredients are cooked soft and fragrant), and finally wrapped and dine (either for others to partake or into your own mouth, the second part of skill mastery comes in here).
I guess only this happens in my family (Hokkien)… Our kind of popiah is not wrapped with the popiah skin (that is made out of typically flour, salt and water). Instead we wrapped ours with just the lettuce leaf, just like how the Koreans do it over BBQ.
The other thing that I noticed different is the ingredients used for the filling. Ours has:
Yam Bean/Jicama (seng kuang), onions, carrot, flower mushrooms, diced pork, diced dried prawns, dried cuttlefish, and I think I remember seeing beansprouts (taugeh).
For more info how to prepare this dish, link: Jiu Hu Char (Souper Diaries by Yvonne)
Her family (Fu Chow) does it differently. Their popiah is wrapped with the popiah skin (it looks like the featured image, wrapped by Christine’s sister-in-law, Angeline, amazing work I’d say).
As for the filling, it has:
Yam Bean/Jicama (seng kuang), onions, carrot, black beancurd (taufu marinated in five spice powder), minced pork, small prawns, french beans, beansprouts (taugeh).
The wrapping is different too!
The base of a popiah skin, lined with lettuce leaf, a dash of chilli sauce (either self blend or the bottled one), sumptuous amount of filling (height: quarter the height of the popiah skin, top view and aligned at the center in of the 2nd quarter from the top, and width: half the width of the popiah skin, aligned to the center… just a guideline), topped with fried onions, then tuck all the filling in with the popiah skin.
I believe different people do it differently… this includes the ingredients used for the filling as well.
What amazes me is the amount of work represented in just this one dish, and how easy it is to “enjoy” it, sometimes taking for granted all the preparation done in the background.
So… It’s good to help in the kitchen! I do… And if you haven’t been, I’ll encourage you to and I hope that you will also come to understand the heartbeat of the celebration, as it starts in the kitchen.