GEORGE TOWN, Sept 17 — More than 60 years ago, Mohamad Hussin Ahmad set up a stall along Swatow Lane selling “wet” popiah or popiah basah.
At that time, hawker stalls lined the road but Mohamad Hussin was the only one selling popiah done in a way that’s different from those available at Chinese popiah stalls.
A few years later, his brother Rahamat Ali Ahmad also set up a popiah stall at another hawker site, along a narrow alleyway off Beach Street. They both used the same recipes.
“I was there for over 30 years before they asked us to vacate and I’ve been selling at different locations since then,” Rahamat said.
Mohamad Hussin died 12 years ago but Rahamat continues to sell the popiah from his pushcart by the roadside.
“My wife used to prepare the popiah ingredients but she fell ill so now my nephew helps to prepare the ingredients,” he said.
According to Rahamat, his brother initially learnt how to make popiah from his Chinese hawker friends.
“Popiah is not a Malay food, it is Chinese... my brother learned the recipe and then made it in his own style,” he said.
The Malay-style popiah uses the same thin popiah skin and jicama as the stuffing but the similarities end there.
The shredded jicama is cooked with some turmeric, giving it an added flavour. Assembling the popiah is also different. Rahamat will first add cooked jicama, then balance with beansprouts and shredded fried eggs.
Then he will roll it up, pour a little bit of gravy over and slather on savoury and spicy sauces before serving it on a plastic plate or wrap it up for takeaway.
The end-result is quite different from the Chinese popiah as there are beansprouts and thicker, savoury sauces generously slathered on top.
Rahamat used to travel all over the city to sell the popiah at various spots; near food courts and roadside hawker centres.
“I was told to leave whenever I set up stall at some of those places so now I am selling mostly at Lorong Kulit near the flea market,” he said.
He misses the old days when it was easier for him to set up stall for a few hours at a popular hawker site where there would be lunch crowds.
“Now, I will stick to selling from this site for now... if I find a better place, I may shift again,” he said.
Malay popiah stall