Friday, May 15, 2009
Kway Guan Huat Popiah
This was nice. A popiah roll presented like a sushi roll, on a piece of absorbent paper and Japanese-style lacquered tray. This certainly has loads more class than a styrofoam plate.
Kway Guan Huat is a very old name, famous for handmade popiah skins, and of course, popiah itself and kueh pie tee. It's been around since 1938. The lady boss Zita is wonderfully good-humoured and easy to talk to. She even recommended me the Beef Ball Noodles (see tomorrow's post) from The Beef House which shares the shop space with her.
Basic roll (S$2) filled with turnip, carrots, crispy fish bits (love these!), crushed peanuts, fresh lettuce and blanched beansprouts. You can really taste the umami seafood stock used for braising the turnips. Zita says they use Sri Lankan crabs to get that flavour. The sweet sauce is excellent too, sweet without being cloying. But what is most amazing is the popiah skin - so chewy and strong!
You can order a claypot of popiah ingredients with popiah skin (refillable) and try to DIY your own popiah. Vegans or those allergic to seafood can opt for the vegetarian version.
Zita says her customers like to bring their own ingredients to add to the popiah. Special Chinese sausages brought in from China. Pork floss. Seaweed, lots of it. Even wasabi! "My chili is already very hot, they still add wasabi!" she exclaims. Personally, I think Zita already has the fundamentals of a popiah right, so there's little need to jazz things up with extra ingredients.
Premium roll (S$3.50) with prawn and egg. I did the takeaway test for this, to see how the popiah skin would hold up. Three hours later, it was soaked but incredibly still resilient and holding its contents securely. Was it tasty? Oh yes.
Zita says they used to roll many other things using the popiah skin. Peking duck, peanut brittle/candy, ice cream, etc. But it all proved to be too labour-intensive, so they don't do those anymore. Popiah alone is a lot of work!
This humble stall is where it all happens. The joint is a no-frills, non-air-conditioned coffee-shop in a low-rise shophouse.
It was a lazy weekday afternoon when I visited, and barely a soul was stirring. I asked Zita if weekends were packed. Her eyes grew wistful, and she said, "Not really...only sometimes. But when customers come, they really all come at once! So odd!"
Well, I enjoyed meeting Zita and shall certainly be back. This understated little shop deserves to continue its good work.
Meanwhile, check out Victor Koo's blog post on Kway Guan Huat and a slice of Joo Chiat history.
KWAY GUAN HUAT
Original Poh Piah Skin & Kueh Pie Tee
95 Joo Chiat Road
Zita's Mobile: 9677-3441
Open Tues-Sun 11am to 8pm
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