Popiah is a traditional Hokkien food item that has been transmitted by Chinese Fujian migrants to different parts of the world.
The Popiah has a round dough skin that is filled with mainly vegetables and folded into a roll and then cut into 4 or 5 pieces.
To prepare popiah, the round white dough in placed on a plate. Chili and sweet sauces is added and spread using a spoon. Next, a large leafy green is placed on the dough skin and onto this are placed the main ingredients such as turnip, carrot, cabbage and garnishing such as crushed peanuts and deep fried tofu. Pork, prawns and other seafood are often also included.
Popiah is often consumed during the Qing Ming festival but it is also available all year round in shops, restaurants, and food stalls. Popiah specialty restaurants have also emerged reflecting its popularity.
Popiah’s popularity is probably in its flexibility. The basic ingredients can be adjusted to suit individual preferences. By varying the types and amounts of ingredients, many different versions of popiah can be produced; standard popiah, non-spicy popiah, extra spicy popiah, vegetarian popiah and even Halal popiah for Muslim guests and customers.
In self-service popiah restaurant, a main pot of vegetables is often ordered with option for additional ingredients. In this situation, it becomes possible for meat dishes to be served separately on plates so that vegetarians and non-vegetarians can share the same meal.
At the same time, Popiah is not deep fried as in the case of spring rolls and is considered by many as a healthy food option. Popiah can be consumed as a snack or as a meal on its own.
Popiah has been successfully transmitted from Fujian to the rest of the world and now attracts a larger fan base.
A big part of its survival ability must be in its flexibility to incorporate locally available ingredients as well as its opportunity to adjust for different social needs.
These abilities seem to reflect similar virtues that enable Chinese migrants to survive and prosper as they adapt and adjust to the cultural norms of the host society.