Vegetable spring rolls

Vegetable spring rolls

Luke Nguyen's Greater Mekong
Stuart Scott

Walking down 17th Street in Yangon I stumbled across a kitchen with six sweaty young cooks making popiah skins from rice Šflour and water. Popiah (‘kaw pyant’) means ‘thin crepe’. Originating in China, this dish made its way through Malaysia and Singapore to Myanmar. It was incredible to watch the grace and skill of those cooks; they made it look so easy. When I gave it a go I ended up splattered with batter! If making the popiah skins at home, try to get hold of a thin, non-stick crepe pan, to make the crepes as thin as possible.


Quantity Ingredient
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
75g bean sprouts
65g grated daikon radish
1 small carrot, grated
50g young fresh or tinned bamboo shoots, finely sliced
75g chinese cabbage, finely shredded
25g glass noodles, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes, then drained
60g asian celery, finely sliced
1 small spring onion, finely sliced
50g fried tofu pu‚ffs, finely sliced
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
12 butter lettuce leaves
12 popiah skins
1 1/2 tablespoons fried garlic, (see note)
1 1/2 tablespoons fried red asian shallots, (see note)
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped peanuts
chinese-style chilli sauce, for dipping

Popiah skins

Quantity Ingredient
500g plain flour
2 teaspoons sea salt


  1. To make the popiah skins, use an electric mixer with a paddle attachment to beat the Šflour, salt and 500Žml water on medium–high speed for 30 minutes. The dough will be ready when it is smooth, rubbery and comes away from the side of the bowl. Now knead the dough by hand, by repeatedly lifting it up and slamming it back down into the bowl until it starts to hold together in ropes. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30Ž minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a wok over medium–high heat. Add the peanut oil and sauté the garlic for 1 minute, or until fragrant. Add the bean sprouts, daikon, carrot, bamboo shoots, cabbage and noodles and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Now add the celery, spring onion and tofu and stir-fry for a further Žminute. Season with the salt, sugar and soy sauce and stir-fry for 1 Žminute more. Remove the mixture from the wok and leave to cool for 5 minutes.
  3. Divide the dough into about five small batches for easy handling. Heat a 26 cm non-stick crepe pan over medium heat. Hold the dough with one hand and smear it over the hot pan in a circular motion, only just covering the surface of the pan. The dough should be extremely thin, and barely but evenly covering the base of the pan. Cook for 1Ž minute, or until the edge of the crepe starts to curl up. Using your other hand, carefully peel the skin from the pan and place it on a plate. Continue making more skins until the dough is finished. (Any unused sheets can be frozen.)
  4. To assemble the rolls, place a lettuce leaf on a popiah skin, then place a little vegetable mixture lengthways over the lettuce. Add a sprinkle of fried garlic, fried shallots and peanuts. Roll the bottom up, then fold the left and right sides in, creating an envelope. Now keep rolling up, into a nice tight roll. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
  5. Slice each roll into thirds and serve with chilli sauce.


  • To make fried garlic, pour 250 ml vegetable oil into a wok and heat to 180°C, or until a cube of bread dropped into the oil browns in 15 seconds. Add 6 finely chopped garlic cloves and fry until golden — be careful not to overcook the garlic, as it will keep cooking once it is removed from the heat. Strain the garlic through a metal sieve and place on paper towels to dry. Store the fried garlic in an airtight container for up to 4 days; this recipe makes about 2 tablespoons. Reserve the garlic-flavoured oil to use in salads; it will keep for up to 2 weeks if stored in a cool place.


  • Fried red Asian shallots are widely available at Asian markets. To make your own, ‘finely slice 200g red Asian shallots and wash under cold water. Dry the shallot with a cloth, then set aside on paper towels until completely dry. Heat 1 litre vegetable oil in a wok to 180°C, or until a cube of bread dropped into the oil browns in 15 seconds. Fry the shallots in small batches until they turn golden brown, then remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel. They are best eaten freshly fried, but will keep for up to 2 days in an airtight container. The oil they were cooked in can also be re-used.
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