Popiah Basah, the Quintessential Malaysian Comfort Food

Popiah Basah, the Quintessential Malaysian Comfort Food

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If you’re a foreigner in Malaysia and wish to seek out local comfort food, you’ll quickly realize that you’re spoiled for choice in country that takes its food scene very seriously (so seriously in fact that heated “wars” between neighboring countries have been known to erupt as a result of staking claims on foods like say, Hainanese Chicken Rice).

One local comfort food I find most delightful is the popiah. It’s basically a wholesome vege roll and widely available in most places, from roadside stalls to air-conditioned restaurants and humble warungs (eateries). Popiahs come in several variants – you can find them fried (popiah goreng), or eaten raw (popiah basah, or “wet” popiah due to its stewed vegetable filling). The three main elements of a good popiah depend on its skin, the filling (which consisted mainly of vegetables like bean sprouts, cooked shredded turnip, carrots, and cucumber) AND the kuah (gravy). The latter, in my humble opinion, can make or break the popiah. The sweet, tangy and spicy gravy bathes the popiah and beckons everyone to take a bite out of its not-so-sinfully delicious body. I say this because unlike other local comfort food or snacks, you won’t be inundated with guilt each time you bite into a vegetarian-based popiah.

A couple of days ago, I had the pleasure of visiting Ipoh, a cozy town located in Perak. My family and I were determined to have no less than six meals a day in this food haven, and one of the comfort foods we ate during supper one night was a place of popiah basah at Medan Selera Stadium Ipoh.

Along with a bowl of ais kacang (shaved ice dessert – more on that later), our plate of popiah basah was made even more delicious with the presence of crispy garlic and thick, sweetly-spicy gravy. These rolls are usually cut into four or five sections, so stabbing it with a fork and putting the complete section into your mouth in one bite can be a feat!

So if you don’t want to stuff yourself silly with oily, cholesterol-laden comfort food, perhaps a couple of popiah rolls could do the trick.

Popiah

/// Written by Suet Leng, Malaysia