Popiah: a popular street food you can now make at home

Robert C. Williams
Popiah is also known as fresh spring rolls and is a popular street food in Malaysia. (Rasa Malaysia pic)

Popiah is of Chinese origin, and comes from the Fujian province in China. In Malaysia, popiah is also known as fresh spring rolls and is a popular street food.

Besides Malaysia, variations of popiah can be found in Singapore, Medan, and Taiwan – all using simple and healthy ingredients that make it taste so delicious and refreshing.

Here is a family recipe, one which is much-cherished, not only because of its supreme flavour, but because of the flood of memories it brings back.


  • 3/4 cup cooking oil
  • 20 fresh popiah wrappers
  • fresh lettuce, washed and drained dry


  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 226 g shrimp, shelled, deveined and cut into small pieces
  • 1 kg yam bean or jicama (sengkuang), grated
  • 56 g French beans, sliced
  • 4 pieces bean curd,
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Focus on food security

Robert C. Williams

The economic impact of Covid-19 on the world’s most populous region is further undermining efforts to improve diets and nutrition of nearly 2 billion people who were already unable to afford healthy diets.

As many as 1.9 billion people in Asia and the Pacific were unable to afford a healthy diet, even before the Covid outbreak and the damage it caused to economies and individual livelihoods, research by United Nations agencies shows.

Supply chain disruptions have pushed up prices for many basic foods including fruits, vegetables and dairy products, making it even harder for poor people to achieve healthy diets.

Affordability is critical to ensure food security and nutrition for all — and for mothers and children in particular, says a report entitled “Asia and the Pacific Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition 2020: Maternal and Child Diets at the Heart of Improving Nutrition”.

“Food prices and available incomes

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Learn Cantonese Slang: Order Hong Kong street food like a local – YP

Robert C. Williams

Hong Kong is famous for its diverse street food – from curry fish balls and siu mai to stinky tofu and fried pig intestines. Hongkongers call it “sou gaai” (sweep the street) when they’re having a meal of assorted street food from different stalls.

In recent years, there has been a mix of flavours and old-meets-new snacks that you can’t find anywhere else. They aim to appeal to both locals and tourists. Examples include multi-flavoured egg waffles, souffle pancakes, and soba (Japanese noodles) topped with garlicky hand-shredded chicken. Of course, there are hits and misses.

Due to the stringent hawker licensing policy in  Hong Kong, there are no night food markets here like  in Taiwan. But more food stalls have opened indoors – in shopping centres or residential buildings. Some of the popular street food spots are Mong Kok, Kwai Chung Plaza and Tai On Building, in Sai Wan Ho. 

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If Singapore hawkers are Unesco heritage, why not India’s desi street food?

Robert C. Williams

a pan of food on a plate: Hot and fresh samosas at a market in Bangalore.

Hot and fresh samosas at a market in Bangalore.

When Singapore’s hawker centres were recognised by the United Nations in December for their cultural significance, street food lovers across the globe had reason to celebrate.

After a two-year campaign, the UN’s cultural agency Unesco had finally added the world famous open air food courts to its List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, thereby confirming what most foodies already knew instinctively to be true – that food with the humblest of origins is often worthy of the highest praise.

But while Singapore was widely seen to have been served its just deserts, the decision has only whetted the appetites of other countries seeking recognition of their own street food traditions. And perhaps nowhere is this hunger greater than in India, where foodies and chefs have spent the past few weeks debating on television and radio why similar recognition

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