Stuffed pancake rolls

Stuffed pancake rolls


South East Asian Food

Popiah is a Nyonya spring roll incorporating Chinese and South East Asian ingredients. One roll makes an interesting snack or entrée; two or three a satisfying lunch. Popiah is prepared and eaten in two different ways: most commonly as a kind of crêpe, or sealed and deep-fried in the manner of a mainstream Chinese spring roll.

The only dish elsewhere in South East Asia resembling the crêpe version of popiah – so far as I know – is the Vietnamese rice paper roll. In mainland Chinese cuisine there is a specialty of Amoy called popia which consists of a cooked hotpot, some sauces and garnishes placed on a crêpe pancake and rolled up into a cylinder, which may be a prototype.

Try to buy true popiah skins at a Malaysian food store if you can, but otherwise make your own as follows.

Popiah skins


Quantity Ingredient
290g plain wheat flour
60g tapioca flour
or 350g plain flour
8 large eggs
4 cups water
pinch salt


Quantity Ingredient
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 garlic cloves, smashed and finely chopped
3 tablespoons fermented soya beans, mashed into a paste, (optional)
250g raw small prawns, deveined and roughly chopped
250g minced pork
600g shredded bamboo shoots, drained
2 yambeans, peeled and shredded
250g firm beancurd, cut into shreds and deep-fried until brown
1 teaspoon dark soya sauce, or to taste
pinch sugar, to taste (optional)
salt, to taste


Quantity Ingredient
asian lettuce leaves or the top part of cos lettuce leaves, washed and drained
chinese sweet black sauce or substitute a little indonesian kecap manis or hoisin sauce
red chillies, pounded to a paste
or sambal ulek
12 garlic cloves, pounded or mashed to a paste
250g beansprouts, washed and tailed
1 lebanese cucumber, shredded
2-3 tablespoons chinese leeks or chinese chives or sprigs coriander leaves, cut into 2 cm lengths
250g small cooked prawns, shelled and deveined
250g crab meat
3 eggs, cooked into thin omelettes then rolled up and shredded finely
1/2-1 cup fried onion flakes or freshly fried or roasted peanuts, roughly crushed


  1. To make the popiah skins sift the flour into a basin. Make a well in the centre, break in the eggs, and stir lightly, adding the water and salt to produce a batter. Stir out all lumps and leave the batter to stand for at least one hour. Brush a frying pan with oil lightly (or use a non-stick pan). Heat the pan on a stove set on a low heat, and when it is hot but not too hot pour in enough batter to cover the bottom of the pan thinly (it should not be so hot as to create holes and therefore perforations in the pancake). Allow to cook until the pancake lifts around the edges and is cooked. Lift the pancake out and place it on the back of an upturned bread and butter plate to cool. If it is too thick stir a little more water into the batter mixture before proceeding any further. Proceed in the same way until all the batter is used up, piling each successive pancake on top of the last. (Placing the pancakes over the back of a plate makes it easier to separate them when you need them later.)
  2. Heat the oil in a wok, add the garlic and fry until golden. Add the soya bean paste, if you are using it, and stir-fry until fragrant. Put in the raw prawns and the pork and stir-fry until they change colour. Now add the bamboo shoots and the yambean and a splash of water, cover the pan and steam until the vegetables wilt. Uncover and evaporate any remaining water, add the beancurd, the soya sauce, sugar and salt, and continue stir-frying over high heat until the vegetables are cooked and everything is fairly dry. Dish into a bowl and place on the table together with all the garnishing items in separate bowls or plates and the stack of popiah skins. Diners should place a popiah skin flat on their plate and position some lettuce leaf near one edge. Then spread a little sweet dark sauce, chilli and garlic paste on the lettuce leaf, spoon on some beansprouts, cucumber and a little of the herb used. Next add about 2 tablespoons filling mixture (make sure it is drained of any liquid), a few prawns, a little crab meat and shredded omelette. Top with fried onion flakes, fold in the sides, roll up into a spring roll shape and eat, moistening it if you wish with some filling juices if there are any. The roll may be cut into 4 pieces on the plate if you find this easier to handle.
  3. For the fried version (popiah goreng) buy pre-prepared Malaysian popiah skins in Asian food shops if you can get them or, failing those, large spring roll skins. Any advantage to be gained from making your own is not worth the effort in this case.
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