The popiah master
ALEX Yeoh is bent over a series of soft white popiah skins, carefully and quickly spooning ingredients into each disc.
His face is a rictus of concentration, which is also why he hardly ever looks up, so intent is he on the work at hand. But it doesn’t matter because his wife of 41 years, Madam Chow, is on hand to take orders and handle face-to-face interactions with customers.
If you’ve ever been to the OUG or Bangsar Baru night markets, you’ve probably seen Yeoh’s popular Stadium Popiah stall (or at least what you can make of it, given the long queues that generally form around it). The stall is perpetually teeming with people, and sometimes Yeoh and his wife have already run out of their famous popiahs by 8pm!
Yeoh’s popiahs are creatures of perfection – soft, fluffy popiah skins that he makes himself out of wheat flour, which are stuffed with tofu, lettuce, radish, shallots, chicken floss, lap cheong (Chinese waxed sausage) and his proprietary sweet black sauce and slightly spicy chilli sauce.
“We are the pioneers of this kind of thin popiah skin,” says Yeoh proudly. When asked how he gets the popiah skin to attain that texture, he grins and says, “After all these years of making it, I think I’ve got it right.”
For a proper initiation to Yeoh’s popiahs, indulge in the “Extra” (which consists of a popiah filled with every single ingredient and condiment he has in stock) and expect to be bowled over by the rich flavours in every mouthful.
Yeoh’s 72-year-old popiah recipe
Why not keep working? There are so many people looking for my popiah . Alex Yeoh
was inherited from his father, who started a popiah stall in 1945, just after World War II. Yeoh took over his father’s business over 40 years ago and roped in his wife to help (although she says she had already started helping him when they were dating!).
They have been making popiahs ever since. The name Stadium Popiah comes from the fact that their stall was formerly located in the Merdeka Stadium canteen, which has since closed down. Since then, the husband-wife team has focused on night markets, where they are a regular – and very popular – feature.
As Yeoh is now 68, you’ve got to wonder how much longer he wants to continue the tedious job of making popiahs.
When asked, Yeoh’s smooth face breaks into a wide, disarming smile. “Why not keep working?” he asks rhetorically. “There are so many people looking for my popiah. As long as I can do it, I will do it,” he concludes.
The Paper’s People is a weekly column which introduces Malaysiabased everyday folk, doing what they love. If you have any person to recommend, e-mail us at star2@ thestar.com.my.
Yeoh has been making popiah for over 40 years, using a 72-year-old recipe he inherited from his father.