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Preparing savory Nonya Poh Piah or Spring Rolls: another of my Peranakan grandmother’s mouth-watering recipes

Updated on September 28, 2012
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4.5 stars from 2 ratings of Nonya Poh Piah

One of the perks of being Peranakan is being able to relsih the wide variety of its very rich cuisine. From spicy beef stew or rendang to buah keluak (chicken or pork stew prepared with the buah keluak nut),the culture has a wide array of mouth watering delicacies to offer. One of them is Nonya style Poh Piah, a healthy dish relatively low on calories. These are fresh spring rolls hailing from China but with a Southeast Asian,Peranakan twist.


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Chinese traders who arrived in the Malayan straits from China married Malay women living in the straits of Malaya in the 19th century, giving rise to the Peranakan culture, a fusion of Malay and Chinese cultures. Peranakans, of mixed race but with Chinese ancestry, offered a different take on Chinese fare. One such Chinese dish given a Peranakan twist is Poh Piah. The ingredients of these spring rolls usually come in flat, white pieces of flour-made crepes or skin. With the Peranakan version, these crepes or skin are prepared using an egg batter.

While the Taiwanese or Chinese versions of this dish may have Chinese sausage included, the Peranakan version sometimes uses belly pork instead. This particular recipe does not call for pork, for those of us who do not wish to consume it. Some Chinese versions of the dish may include carrots, but these are not included in the Peranakan version.


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Memories of Poh PIah prepared by my grandmother

My grandmother used to cater this dish at friends’ parties or for my grandfather’s colleagues working in Singapore’s Civil Service. Now in her lively eighties, she still prepares this dish, but on a smaller scale. We looked forward to the Chinese New Year or Christmas when my grandmother would prepare this dish specially for a “poh piah party.” This is a fitting dish for a community. My aunts and grandaunts enjoyed it immensely.

The one thing no one will ever forget about Poh Piah is rolling up the spring roll personally. When the family gathers to eat Poh Piah, we always have a competition to see who can pack the ingredients and roll it up without breaking the skin. It still is true today! Poh Piah skin can be quite fragile and tear if too many ingredients are included.

While observing my grandmother make Poh Piah over the years, I realized that the preparation takes a tremendous effort. But the effort will be rewarded when everyone agrees that the taste is heavenly.

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Preparing the prawn stock

This is essential to the creation of delicious Poh Piah. My grandmother used to collect the heads of prawns and boil them into a delicious stock. The heads would of course be thrown away and the remaining stock would be added to the rest of the ingredients and boiled together.

I wish to stress that this can be a vegetarian dish as well. Substitute the prawn stock with rock sugar, water, light soya sauce, dark soya sauce and water.

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Preparing the Poh PIah (Spring Roll) skin

The skin for Peranakan style Poh Piah is made from a batter of plain flour, tapioca flour and eggs. Preparing the skin requires another mini recipe! To prepare 20 pieces of skin ((for 20 pieces of Poh PIah that will feed a family of six) will require the following ingredients and method of preparation.

Ingredients for Poh PIah Skin (for 20 pieces of Poh Piah and approximately 6 people):

1. 6 ladles of plain flour

2. 3 ladles of tapioca flour

3. 6 eggs

The ingredients can be adjusted according to a 2:1:2 ratio. In other words, to prepare the skin for 2 people, have 2 ladles of plain flour, 1 ladle of tapioca flour, and 2 eggs. Multiply that ratio according to the number of people you wish to prepare the Poh Piah and the Poh Piah skin for.

Preparing the batter

1. Mix the ingredients above together, using clean hands.

2. Begin by adding a small bowl of water. If the mixture is too thick, add a bit more water until the mixture is consistent (neither too thick or too thin)

3. Add oil to a medium sized frying pan at medium heat.

4.Taking 3/4 of a ladle of the mixture, pour into the frying pan.

5. When the skin is ready, it should dislodge from the frying pan.

6. Have two flat plates, one for skin that has just been cooked (Plate number 1), and another for pieces that have cooled (Plate Number 2).

7. Transfer newly cooked skin from the flying pan onto Plate Number 1. Make sure there is only one piece of skin on this plate at any one time.

8. While waiting for skin in the frying pan to finish cooking, transfer the skin from PlatNumber 1 to Plate Number 2. By this time, the skin on Plate Number 1 would have finished cooling.

9. Transfer the skin from the frying pan onto Plate Number one again, and repeat the process.

Cook Time

Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 1 hour
Ready in: 2 hours
Yields: Serves 6

How to roll a Poh Piah

Ingredients for the Poh Piah (Spring Roll) filling

  • 2 pieces Bean Curd, sliced into strips,fried
  • 1 kg Prawn stock, boiled (use the prawn heads from the prawns you for the ingredients and garnish)
  • 10 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 3 Big Turnips, sliced finely
  • 1 can Bamboo Shoots, sliced finely
  • 1/2 kg Prawns, boiled together with the rest of the ingredients
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Garnishing

Garnishing enhances the taste of this dish and makes it look appetizing. The number of ingredients used for the garnishing depends on personal taste. The garnishes for Poh Piah will include:

Cucumber, finely sliced

Parsley

Lettuce leaves

Bean sprouts

Minced garlic

Fried garlic

Fresh chili, ground in a food processor

Prawns, boiled

Omelette, fried

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Preparing the ingredients for the Poh Piah

  1. Boil prawn stock (as above).
  2. Fry the bean curd till brown, and leave aside.
  3. Fry the garlic and brown salted beans.
  4. Add the turnips and bamboo shoots. Stir the mixture.
  5. Add the prawn stock. Boil the mixture for about 20 mins.
  6. Add the fried bean curd. Stir the mixture.
  7. When the bamboo shoots and turnips have softened, add the prawns.
  8. Stir the mixture and bring to a boil.
  9. Process the fresh chilies and mince garlic for the garnishing.
  10. Fry a plain omelette for the garnishing.
  11. Fry garlic for the garnishing.
  12. Note: For vegetarians, substitute the prawn stock with rock sugar, water, light soya sauce, dark soya sauce and water.
Lay Skin on a flat plate or surface.
Lay Skin on a flat plate or surface. | Source
Add the sweet black sauce
Add the sweet black sauce | Source
Add the lettuce leaves.  The garnishes can be added at this point or later.
Add the lettuce leaves. The garnishes can be added at this point or later. | Source
Now add the cooked ingredients!
Now add the cooked ingredients! | Source
Roll 'em up!
Roll 'em up! | Source

Take up the Poh Piah rolling challenge!

Rolling up a good Nonya Poh Piah can be a fun challenge for the whole family. Family members can participate in creating spring rolls without breaking the skin! Here are some of the steps to be followed.

1.Lay your skin on a flat plate.

2. Make sure that the plate is clean, with no remnants of food or sauce on it, or the Poh PIah skin may otherwise break.

3. Add lettuce leaves.

4. Add the sweet black sauce.

5. Add ground fresh chilli.

6. Add the cooked ingredients.

7. Add garnishes.

8. Fold the Poh Piah skin on both sides (left and right) over the ingredients. You should still see the ingredients in the middle.

9. Fold the bottom layer of the Poh Piah skin over the ingredients.

10. Roll it up!

11. As this is being done, do make sure that the skin does not break.

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 6
Calories 1008
Calories from Fat594
% Daily Value *
Fat 66 g102%
Saturated fat 23 g115%
Unsaturated fat 43 g
Carbohydrates 84 g28%
Sugar 0 g
Fiber 24 g96%
Protein 32 g64%
Cholesterol 270 mg90%
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.

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    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Bake Like A Pro

    • Bake Like a Pro profile image

      Bake Like a Pro 4 years ago

      Great recipe and instructions. Bookmarking and sharing. Thank you.

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Jools, yes, this dish does take a bit of work, but you'll totally enjoy it once done. Yes, the skin is the challenge of this dish! No worries, just takes a little practice and you'll get the hang of it. If you'd like just the filling, putting it in lettuce leave and eating it as it is will be enjoyable as a salad of sorts! Thanks for reading and coming by!

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Algarveview! It does take a bit of work to make this, it's true, with a few processes involved. Grandma is happy to share! Thanks for coming by!

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

      Michelle, I love spring rolls and I love the chinese-style pancakes that are used to wrap up peking duck etc so your recipe grabbed my attention! These look absolutely delicious (and substantial!) but I have to tell you, recipe or no recipe, I prefer this kind of food cooked by the experts :o) I've had a try at oriental food and can make a mean Indian/Bangladeshi curry but Chinese/Singapoean/Thai - not so successful! I would have a go at the filling but not the skins I think. Looks delicious though :o)

    • algarveview profile image

      Joana e Bruno 4 years ago from Algarve, Portugal

      Hi, Midget, it seems absolutely delicious, although a bit difficult, if you ask me, I love the way you described the historic background of this dish and I think it's great how some of the most amazing recipes pass down from grandmother to mother to us... Voted up , interesting and sharing! Have a great day!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Grandma thanks you, Mike!! Yes, this takes quite a bit of work. You have to have lots of patience, but it is well worth it! Thanks for coming by!

    • Mike Robbers profile image

      Mike Robbers 4 years ago from London

      Your grandma's recipe is a treasure, I wish I had the patience (& the talent) to create it myself .. I'm sure that they would have been the best Spring Rolls I've ever tasted. 5 Star. Thanks!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Glad you like it, Sasha!!You'll really like it if you try it out. Thanks from Grandma too!! And for the pins as well!!

    • Mama Kim 8 profile image

      Sasha Kim 4 years ago

      I don't know how I missed this one!!! This looks fantastic ^_^ I'm seriously drooling! Thank you for sharing your family's wonderful recipe ^_^ I'm voting, sharing, pinning... all the good stuff. Hmm.. now I need to clean off my keyboard, thanks Michelle! lol

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Grandma says thanks, M! It takes a bit of work but the taste is worth it in the end!! Glad to share!

    • unknown spy profile image

      IAmForbidden 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

      5 stars! I love how you explain and introduce this recipe to us Michelle. Hats off, i love this!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Lady_E, thanks for coming by this recipe!! Grandma says thanks as well. Glad you like it!

    • Lady_E profile image

      Elena 4 years ago from London, UK

      Absolutely lovely, unique recipe's. Your Grandmother is special. Also, lovely to read the fun you had cooking with her. 5 Star. Thanks.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, from grandma, Sunshine!! Quite a lengthy process, but well worth the work! Thanks for coming by! Hope you'll enjoy it!

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      It is, Christy! We usually see whose skin breaks first!! The trick is not to pack it with too many ingredients. That would make it difficult for the skin to hold!!Thanks for coming by, Christy!

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Absolutely fabulous! I am now craving Poh Piah. Well done Michelle, not many recipes as enticing to me. Yummy!

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I like that you offer a vegetarian alternative for the prawn stock. Also, the rolling challenge could be fun!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, yes!!

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      IntegrityYes 4 years ago

      That is so informative and I voted up for sure.

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Oh, yes, CrisSP. I have to admit this takes work! Useful for those special dinners. Grandma says thanks for coming by!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      No problem, TT! Get Colin to help out, I think he'll enjoy the exercise, especially the rolling up the spring roll part. Hope you'll like these!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Hi Pringooals! Thanks for coming by! Do give it a try! Hope you'll like these!

    • CrisSp profile image

      CrisSp 4 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      Looks very delish but obviously lots of hardwork involved. This recipe is a treasure from grandma. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 4 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      Yum! These look really good. I admit, I have never heard of these! Thank you for this recipe, Midge!!!

    • pringoooals profile image

      Karina 4 years ago from Edinburgh

      Looks and sounds delicious! I'm definitely trying it!

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Grandma loved sharing, Lord, and she gives her blessings with this one. They are tasty, but really need a lot of work!! I guess I love sharing my heritage as it is quite a unique one that fewer know of. Thanks for coming by!!

    • Lord De Cross profile image

      Joseph De Cross 4 years ago

      Michelle Liew, Like Mary Till' said, your history anf past is so much admired. Your grandma did really well with this recipe. Nonya Poh Piah or Spring Rolls look so tasty. Anyone can make his/her own personal poh piah, I see. Another of your Peranakan traditional heritage indeed! Great pics my friend!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, kkalina!!

    • midget38 profile image
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      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      A worthwhile recipe to try, Ish, though a bit time consuming! Glad you are an adventurous foodie!! Glad your mum brought that out in you too. Thanks, my dear, for sharing and coming by!

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Richard, wish I could Fed Ex them, but even then they'd be a bit too cold! LOL! Will get you to try them if you come by Singapore. Thanks for coming by!

    • kikalina profile image

      kikalina 4 years ago from Europe

      mouthwatering!

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks for coming by, Mary! This one's a little time consuming, I'd say, but worth the effort for an extra special occasion. Hope you'll enjoy it!

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Hi Mary, thanks for zooming in! Oh yes, I'll have to admit this one's a bit of a challenge. If you need tapioca flour, it's in the link!!Thanks for coming by!

    • ishwaryaa22 profile image

      Ishwaryaa Dhandapani 4 years ago from Chennai, India

      An amazing recipe! I am fond of Chinese spring rolls and my mother made healthy homemade version of such rolls. This Perankan recipe of yours is interesting as it involved many ingredients that sure delight the adventurous foodies like me. Clear instructions, direct tips and drool-worthy photos are all the worthy ingredients of this tasty hub! Well-done!

      Thanks for SHARING. Useful, Awesome & Interesting. Voted up, pinned & shared socially

    • rcrumple profile image

      Rich 4 years ago from Kentucky

      Michelle -

      How fast can you ship them to the states? Looking forward to tasting them, so if you can get them here while they're still warm it would be greatly appreciated! lol They look fantastic. Now, if I can only talk my wife into trying to prepare them. Great Job!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      Your recipes are so interesting and many are new to us! What great ideas and suggestions for us to try. I love the way you write your hubs with the historical background before you give the recipe!

      Voted up, useful, and awesome.

    • profile image

      ignugent17 4 years ago

      Hi Michelle,

      This recipe looks like our fresh lumpia in the Philippines and I really loved it. Thanks for sharing the version of your grandmother. It looks very delicious.

      Voted up and more and more! :-)

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 4 years ago from Florida

      I never heard of tapioca flour....this looks good and reminds me of the American roll ups that we all love. Sounds like a challenging recipe, but one I'd be willing to try

      I voted this UP, etc., will share, Pin to my recipe board and Tweet.

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Janine! Yes, it was made for many, but this particular write feeds 6. A little bit of work, but enjoyable once it's made! My grandmother and the rest of us really loved making these together. Thanks for coming by, my friend!

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      Michelle, thank you for sharing another of your grandmother's recipes here with us. It sounds like this was made for many a party and loved how you painted that picture for us here. I can totally relate to this in the sense of seeing a certain recipe and thinking of my grandmother too and it conjuring up happy memories for me as well. Lovely job here and have of course voted, shared and tweeted as always!!

    • midget38 profile image
      Author

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      On Poh Piah, my grandmother's Peranakan spring roll recipe.