STUFFED PANCAKE ROLLS
These are Nyonya spring rolls that incorporate Chinese and Southeast Asian ingredients. One roll makes an interesting snack or entrée; two or three a satisfying lunch. Stuffed Pancake Rolls are prepared and eaten in two different ways: most commonly as a kind of crêpe, or sealed and deep-fried in the manner of a mainstream Chinese spring roll.
The only dish elsewhere in Southeast Asia resembling the crêpe version-so far as I know-is the Vietnamese rice paper roll.
Try to buy true popiah skins at a Malaysian food store if you can, otherwise make your own with the following instructions.
Pancake Roll Skins (make about 30-32)
1¼ cups (290 g) flour and 1 ½ oz (60 g) tapioca flour (for a lighter mix), or 1 ½ cups (350 g) flour
8 large eggs
4 cups (1 liter) water
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons oil
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons fermented soy beans (tauco), mashed into a paste (optional)
8 oz (250 g) small shrimp, peeled, deveined and coarsely chopped
8 oz (250 g) ground pork
1 ¼ lb (600 g) shredded bamboo shoots (2 large cans), drained
2 yambeans, peeled and shredded
8 oz (250 g) firm tofu, cut into shreds and deep-fried until brown
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce, or to taste
Pinch of sugar to taste (optional)
Salt to taste
Asian lettuce leaves, washed and drained
Chinese sweet black sauce (tim cheong) or sub statute a little Indonesian kecap manis or hoisin sauce
Fresh medium-length red chilies, pounded to a paste or sambal ulek
12 cloves garlic, mashed to a paste
8 oz (250 g) bean sprouts, washed and trimmed
1 pickling cucumber, shredded
2 or 3 tablespoons Chinese leeks, Chinese chives or coriander leaves, coarsely chopped
8 oz (250 g) small shrimp, peeled, deveined and cooked
8 oz (250 g) crab meat
3 eggs, cooked into thin omelettles then rolled up and finely sliced
½ -in cup (125-250 g) fried onion flakes or freshly fried or roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
To make the Pancake Roll Skins sift the flour into a bowl. Make a well in the center, add the eggs, and mix lightly, adding the water and salt to produce a batter. Stir until there are no lumps and set the batter aside for at least one hour.
Brush a frying pan lightly with oil. Heat the pan over low heat, and when it is hot pour in enough batter to just cover the bottom of the pan. Cook until the pancake lifts around the edges and is cooked. Cool on top of an upturned plate. If the batter is too thick add a little more water and mix before proceeding. Cook the pancakes one at a time until all the batter is used up, piling each successive pancake on top of the last.
To make the Filling, heat the oil in a wok, add the garlic and fry until golden. Add the soy bean paste and stir-fry until fragrant. Add the shrimp and the pork and stir-fry until they change color. Add the bamboo shoots, yambeans and a splash of water, cover the pan and steam until the vegetables wilt. Uncover and cook until any remaining water evaporates, add the tofu, soy sauce, sugar and salt, and continue stir-frying over high heat until the vegetables are cooked. Serve in a bowl alongside the Garnishes and the stack of Pancake Roll Skins. Diners place a skin flat on their plate and position some lettuce leaf near one edge. They spread a little sweet dark sauce, chili and garlic paste on the lettuce leaf, with some bean sprouts, cucumber and a little fresh herb. About 2 tablespoons of the Filling (drained of any liquid) are added, along with a few shrimp, a little crab meat and shredded omelette. Top with fried onion flakes, fold in the sides and roll up into a spring roll. The roll can be cut into 4 pieces on the plate if you find this easier to handle.
For the fried version (popiah goreng) buy prepared Malaysian popiah skins or large spring roll skins in an Asian grocery store.