If you are a popiah lover, then you really have no excuse for not having tried Kway Guan Huat. Not only is this eatery a part of the Singapore food heritage, the popiah here were simply shiok! In fact, it was rumoured that the President's domestic helper comes regularly to tapow (take-away) popiah home.
The skin was nice and translucent, yet held a chock-full of filling without breaking. The sauce doesn’t ooze out either, which can make it messy to eat. The texture was chewy and it left that wonderful sweet aftertaste upon chewing. The turnip filling had that savoury-sweet taste. It's no surprise since they de-shelled Sri Lankan crabs in order to add crab meat into the filling. You can't really see the crab meat, but you can definitely appreciate that crustacean sweetness. Lastly, the homemade crispy bits made from fish paste added a nice crunch to the popiah. Put them altogether and you get a wonderful matrix of flavours and textures—chewy (skin), crunchy (crispy fish bits) and juicy (turnip). This is the inexplicable beauty of an expertly rolled, fully packed and turgid popiah.
However, I was not too pleased that the filling was apparently microwaved just before it was being rolled up. Traditionally, it was scooped up while it is still bubbling in the pot. I think it would have made a difference to the level of juiciness.
The best thing about the popiah here has to be that it can be fully customised! If you came all the way from Tuas and wanted a jumbo version, for instance, just ask Zita (the lady boss) to pack the works for you. You even get to choose from four different types of crunchy bits. Zita told me that her customers are free to bring their own ingredient to put into the popiah. Crispy pork floss and XO sausages immediately came to mind.
If you like to roll your own popiahs instead, they also sell popiah sets here, where you get the filling in a claypot and all the ingredients so that you can do it yourself. I thought it was quite ingenious. You can also buy the sets for your very own popiah party.
Now, if you think that making a popiah is easy, think again. The ones my wife and I made and the one Zita did for us were completely different. It has something to do with the proportion of ingredients and how you roll the popiah.
This popiah shop has a rustic charm about it, tracing its roots all the way back to 1938 when it was sold from a push cart. It really doesn't get better than this.
95 Joo Chiat Road
Opening hours: Daily: 10am-8pm, closed on Mon
Tel: 63442875/96773441 (Zita)
Dr Leslie Tay is the author of the popular food blog ieatishootipost.sg which chronicles his quest to eat, shoot and post Singapore's best eats