Food, good food, is a dying tradition if no one is willing to learn the skills and carry it forward to the next generation. And when it comes to popiah, Kway Guan Huat arguably is an establishment that will slowly fade away from the memories of all when the shop takes its final breath.
Shophouse Apartments along Joo Chiat Road
I planned my visit to Joo Chiat with my grandmother solely to partake in the reputed popiah known throughout Singapore for its handmade skins, generous stuffings and a balanced mix of sweet and savouriness. It was such a scorching day that taking the first step into the open was probably a heated debate between the both of us. Yet, travel we did all the way to the suburbs of the East to find that little popiah stall.
A bubbling spirit with a personalised touch in the food she creates, Zita is the sole person left in her family carrying on the tradition of hand made popiah. Yet, the essence of each piece is still brimming with delicate finesse and warmth from the care placed.
I called for the popiah with additional ingredients of egg and prawn ($3.50) twice, much to my own personal delight. There was a fine balance of sweet and savoury, and the skin was not overladen with juices. Yet the mix of ingredients and generous stuffing proved each slice to be so tempting. To my surprise, I found pieces of crunchy keropok drizzled inside, it gave firm and crisp bites that was sparkling with pleasure.
The popiah didn’t fall out when picked up, and with a delightful aftertaste to boot, excellent!
When it comes to the Kueh Pie Tee, Zita amazed me as well. Simple as it sounds, Kueh Pie Tee is essentially a stuffing of chopped stewed turnip and other savoury items in a crisp golden shell. Yet, my first impression from the ones at Kway Guan Huat is the warm and toasted texture of each piece. The stuffing is generously meaty with the delicate flavour of spiciness from the slightly sweet sambal adding a boost to the overall taste. It was not wet and neither was it too dry. Very good!
Kway Guan Huat places itself as a corner style coffeeshop. With the tv blaring out chinese dramas, kids playing around the corner, and enjoying a plate of popiah in the hot weather, I was able to get a nostalgic feel of the golden memories lingering in the street.
Zita has told me that to prepare the popiah each day is a laborious effort and that she herself was getting on in years. And with none of the next generation to pass on the traditional skills to, Kway Guan Huat might just be seeing its sun set in the few years to come.
Till then, the stall which has been opened since 1938 will be slowly churning out each popiah and its handmade skin to the customers who want to get a taste of Singapore’s passing memory.
|Kway Guan Huat
NO. 95 Joo Chiat Road
Tel : 6344 2875
J2K3 Award Winner : Kway Guan Huat