For years, I’ve subsisted on a carb-heavy diet skewed toward wraps, rolls and bread. In attempting to rein in my waistline, I found popiah to be generally regarded as a healthier choice. So to see if ‘healthier’ could really deliver on taste, I made for Old Long House Popiah, one of the oldest popiah spots around.
Proudly displayed on their stallfront are numerous accolades and snippets of past media coverage. A sign detailing their start in 1930 mentions selling kueh pie tee as well, but reviews in recent years seem to have omitted this. Instead, it seems Bao Bao Popiah, run by the original owner’s daughter, has carried forward the legacy of selling both popiah and kueh pie tee.
The preparation process looked rather fun despite the simplicity of the dish. A spread of sweet sauce and garlic paste forms the base on top of 2 overlapping popiah skins before the rest of the ingredients are piled on top.
I was prepared to scarf down the popiah like a burrito, but they were cut before I could say a word.
What I tried at Old Long House Popiah
Their simple menu of just Popiah left me wanting more customisation beyond just adding chilli. Regardless, each girthy piece is S$2. I don’t remember the last time I’ve had a proper Hokkien popiah, and I was definitely not prepared for those proportions.
Unlike dim sum spring rolls, the skin is significantly softer and doesn’t take much jaw action to reach the fillings. The first textures that presented themselves were from moderately solid strips of turnip and carrots that quickly became tender with each bite. I could tell that even without the sauces, the veggies alone carried a noticeable tinge of sweetness – enough to carry through each mouthful of popiah.
Imitation crab was very clearly used in the fillings but it was next to impossible to discern underneath the occasional crunch.
Interestingly, the stall owner mentioned that they use flatfish instead of pork lard and peanuts to achieve the unmistakable crunch. I found these brown bits to have just the right amount of savoury character whenever there was distance between the sauces. Incorporating the flatfish in the recipe is among the reasons they declare their popiah ‘healthy’, apart from ‘NO MSG, NO artificial flavourings, NO preservatives’.
One of the best parts of eating rolls of whatever kind is the leftover filling that survives. Have enough pile up on the plate and shovel them where they belong.
The popiah‘s size certainly makes up for the cost, but even eating most of my friend’s share of popiah wasn’t enough to sate my appetite. The chilli’s presence was negligible and might have actually compounded the popiah’s sweetness. Similarly, the egg parts used in the fillings weren’t pronounced enough to stand out, but I’m sure they contributed to the overall mouthfeel. For a substantial meal with daily nutritional requirements in mind, you’ll need to seek more complete protein elsewhere.
This search for a healthier alternative seems to have borne fruit. I didn’t feel disgusted at myself after finishing almost 2 whole popiah. Maybe I’ll gun for 4 next time.
Expected Damage: S$2 – S$4 per pax
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