Preparing savory Nonya Poh Piah or Spring Rolls: another of my Peranakan grandmother’s mouth-watering recipes
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Fresh chili, ground in a food processor
Preparing the ingredients for the Poh Piah
- Boil prawn stock (as above).
- Fry the bean curd till brown, and leave aside.
- Fry the garlic and brown salted beans.
- Add the turnips and bamboo shoots. Stir the mixture.
- Add the prawn stock. Boil the mixture for about 20 mins.
- Add the fried bean curd. Stir the mixture.
- When the bamboo shoots and turnips have softened, add the prawns.
- Stir the mixture and bring to a boil.
- Process the fresh chilies and mince garlic for the garnishing.
- Fry a plain omelette for the garnishing.
- Fry garlic for the garnishing.
- Note: For vegetarians, substitute the prawn stock with rock sugar, water, light soya sauce, dark soya sauce and water.
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.
|Serving size: 6|
|Calories from Fat||594|
|% Daily Value *|
|Fat 66 g||102%|
|Saturated fat 23 g||115%|
|Unsaturated fat 43 g|
|Carbohydrates 84 g||28%|
|Sugar 0 g|
|Fiber 24 g||96%|
|Protein 32 g||64%|
|Cholesterol 270 mg||90%|
|* 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.|
Other Peranakan Recipes shared by Michelle Liew
- Rendang, a spicy beef or chicken concoction: My Grandmother’s all time favorite recipe!
My grandmother's recipe for beef (or chicken) rendang, a dish usually prepared by the Malay, Indonesian or Peranakan community