A ubiquitous dish in Asian cuisine. Fried Spring Rolls are light, crispy appetisers and typically found in dim sum restaurants and street vendors past lunch or dinner time. Served in a small portion, a single Fried Spring Roll packs a punch thanks to its juicy fillings.
Fried Spring Rolls (Popiah)
In Malaysia, the fried spring roll is tubular shaped and roughly 4 inches in length. Wrapped with a thin crepe-like pastry skin, the fillings usually consist of cooked shredded vegetables – carrots, cabbage, bamboo shoots – and sometimes tofu or other minced meat fillings.
After a quick deep-fry, the spring roll emerges with a beautiful golden gloss and is crispy to the bite thanks to the light, airy texture of the pastry skin. The dish is often paired with chilli sauce for an extra kick to the flavour.
Traditionally, in mainland China, fried spring rolls are usually eaten during special occasions like the Lunar New Year, Qing Ming Festival or the Han Shi Festival. In Malaysia, however, it has become much of a staple on the Chinese menu that we consume it all year long.
History of Fried Spring Rolls (Popiah)
Like most Chinese dishes, fried spring rolls are believed to be originated from China during – yes, you guessed it – spring in the fried spring rolls is the spring season. According to the old folks, the fresh vegetables used as the fillings were a welcome symbol for the long months of winter where mostly preserved foods were consumed.
It began as a thin pancake topped with vegetables and fruits and eventually evolved into a wrap due to the improved cookery skills of the Chinese people. Interestingly enough, fried spring rolls were even considered as a luxury dish that was only served within the palace.
Nevertheless, the tradition of eating spring rolls to start the season grew widespread across all regions of China. Today, it has become a staple dish in most Asian cuisines.
Variations of the Fried Spring Rolls (Popiah)
Fried spring rolls can vary depending on the culture and region it sits in. For example, an alternative to the fried appetiser is, of course, the non-fried, healthier spring roll, affectionately known to Malaysians as popiah.
Similar to the fried spring roll, popiah is packed with freshly cooked vegetables and on certain occasions, with some added chilli, before it is wrapped with wheat flour “skin”, and finally served alongside some sweet sauce.
In Vietnam, the ever-popular delicacy – gỏi cuốn – shares similar traits to the fried spring roll and it’s probably the closest lookalike, except that it’s wrapped with translucent rice paper and filled with blanched vegetables, prawns and glass noodles.
Though many other countries have adopted their way of making the fried spring roll, there is still a slight difference in the way it is consumed. For example, in Pakistan, spring rolls are eaten with tea and snacks.
In Hong Kong, dim sum restaurants often serve them with Worcestershire sauce, while in Taiwan, caster sugar is included as one of the ingredients in its fillings.
Nutritional Benefits of Fried Spring Roll (Popiah)
It should be mentioned that despite the fillings being mostly fresh vegetables, the fact that it’s deep-fried poses a major red flag for those who are looking to adopt a clean-eating lifestyle.
To minimise the calorie intake while enjoying the delicious appetiser, popiah can satisfy your cravings just as well.
Where to Find Fried Spring Rolls (Popiah) in Malaysia
Fried Spring Rolls can be found in most Chinese dim sum restaurants as well as in night markets or hawker stalls. You can also order this beautiful dish from Pho King.
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