I love spring rolls (popiah), both the wet and fried versions.
Hailing from Penang, my favourites are the one in Bee Hooi Cafe in Pulau Tikus, Padang Brown and another at Mount Erskine Hawker Centre (afternoons only). Popiah from Penang usually has added crabmeat (Mt. Erskine) or prawns (Bee Hooi) and a layer of lettuce between the fillings and the popiah skin.
I was in Melaka for a food trip while hosting Catherine Bell from Dish Magazine New Zealand in 2011. Here’s the video. We sampled 10 different food in the span of 8 hours!
1. Kedai Makanan Leong Heng for really special “Chee Cheong Fun”
2.Teo Chew porridge at Kedai Makanan Teo Seng
3. Chung Wah Chicken Rice Balls
4. Chendol Jam Besar by the Melaka River
5. Kedai Hassan Mee Rebus – Taman Jaya Padang Temu
6. Pink Berrys Durian Shaved Ice and Chendol
7. Bunga Raya Popiah & Ming Hut Sate
8. Aunty Lee – Nyonya food
9. Italy Bakery – char siew pau
10. Ban Lee Siang – satay celup
Thanks to Daniel for hosting us that time! As expected for my trip this round I bugged him again to take me around Melaka 🙂
No. 1: Bunga Raya Popiah.
I had swore off this popiah since my previous trips as I find it excessively oily. Yes a lot of people love the Bunga Raya popiah for the lard but I find the lard overpowering.
For me I enjoy popiah for its sweetness from the shredded jicama/turnips, the soft skin, the combination of the beancurd, lettuce and the sweet and chilli sauce combo. It is a supposed to be a healthy, light roll.
The Bunga Raya popiah is RM3.50/roll and that’s bloody expensive considering that other popiah around Melaka is about RM2.50- RM.2.80. Furthermore, there wasn’t any “costly” ingredients like chicken, crabmeat or prawns in it to justify its price.
It may be bigger than the other 2 outlets I tried but that is because the proprietor of the stall uses 1 and a half sheet of popiah skin for each roll so frankly, you’re not getting any more ingredients for the price.
I ordered one with pork lard and another without to experiment if I would like it better minus the lard. And no, I didn’t like it any better. In fact, the popiah is actually pretty bland on its own, even with the chilli and sweet sauce, which was barely discernible through the thick skin.
No. 2: Poh Piah Lwee.
This little shop is nice. Nice because Aunty Lwee herself and her (presumably) husband are such cheery people and personally greets everyone that steps into the shop and nice because the food is good!
Other than popiah, Lwee is also famous for her laksa. I saw the laksa on the other tables and I couldn’t resist adding a bowl to my order. The popiah here wasn’t too oily as she wasn’t excessive with the lard and was pretty enjoyable.
I only ordered 1 since I’m having a bowl of laksa as well. As I bit into her popiah I almost didn’t taste the lard until a few bites later. At this stage I prefer hers over Bunga Raya as it wasn’t strong on the lard and thus I could still enjoy the delicate sweetness of the jicama/turnips. Overall the lard did impart a nice fragrance and each roll has fresh lettuce!
I love it. I seldom eat laksa in KL (Penang ones rocks!) but I wouldn’t mind this every now and then. The key is in the broth; such good aroma and depth of flavour! It is rich as it should be but with a good balance of creaminess and savoury.
Poh Piah Lwee “workstation”: Bowls of chilli sauce, sweet sauce, bean curd and the soft dark soy sauce stewed jicama.
The prerequisite bowl of pork lard.
I observed that the Melaka popiah are the dark soy sauce stewed jicama type and pretty coarsely shredded in comparison to the Penang ones.
Another thing I observed about these Nyonya proprietors are their irregular opening days. My local Malaccan guides – Vincent and Daniel mentioned more than once about how these owners would open or close for business on whim.
Being near the commercial area of Jonker, I think Poh Piah Lwee is more consistent. Anyhow please note on the off days for Poh Piah Lwee.
No. 3: Oriental Cafe – Jalan Tengkera. This was recommended by Vincent and there were favourable reviews on Foursquare as well.
The layout is pretty much like your old school coffee shops in the towns of Ipoh and Penang.
I ordered one with pork lard and another without. This was RM2.50 per piece.
I find this slightly more similar to the Penang ones as it the fillings were lighter in colour. I started with the one that was devoid of lard and found it was pretty bland which was the same case as the 2 earlier ones.
However, the one with pork lard wasn’t too bad as it wasn’t excessively oily. As a general conclusion I would say Melaka poh piah are tastier (and probably made more famous) just because of the addition of pork lard while the Penang ones has better flavour just from the stewed jicama alone.
The poh piah aunty hard at work. She’s also very friendly and nice.
So what is this Penang version poh piah that I like so much and I kept saying that it’s different?
For starters the poh piah skin is thinner and perhaps can be said to be more “brittle” compared to the thicker, stretchy ones in Melaka. The fillings differs as well. Penang poh piah (the jicama) are not dark in colour and we do not add bean sprouts. The shredded jicama are generally finer and softer too.
Below is a picture of the one in Padang Brown that I managed to find after going through folders after folders of old pictures from my earlier Penang trip. Also, most proprietor in Penang would ladle some jicama stock over the poh piah prior to serving so it is nice and moist.
After growing up with such poh piah, I find that the Melaka ones does not quite agree with my tastebuds. Of course I understand that each state has their own specialty and I’m always open to try other varieties, which was the whole point of traveling and food hunts. End of the day, this is merely my personal preference.
So what’s YOUR favourite? The Penang ones or the sinful lard version found in Melaka? 🙂
* This Melaka trip was made possible by Casa del Rio, Melaka. Thank you to the management for the splendid stay and providing me the opportunity to explore the rich cultural state of Melaka! 🙂
Casa del Rio Boutique Hotel
88, Jalan Kota Laksamana 75200 Malacca, Malaysia