The popiah mas­ter

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - People - By ABIRAMI DURAI star2@thes­tar.com.my

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.

— ABIRAMI DURAI/The Star

Yeoh has been mak­ing popiah for over 40 years, us­ing a 72-year-old recipe he in­her­ited from his fa­ther.

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