There are many versions of popiah, although the typical ones are the Hokkien and Peranakan versions. Both versions consist of shredded bamboo shoots, dried beancurd, jicama (a type of turnip), lettuce, beansprouts, eggs, cucumbers, carrots, long beans, and roasted ground peanuts, with additional toppings such as pork and lup cheong (dried sausage). The Peranakan version includes seafood such as prawn and crabmeat.
To make a popiah roll, a thin layer of sweet sauce, chilli, and garlic paste is spread on the skin. A leaf of lettuce is first laid on the skin before piling on wet fillings, and then dried ingredients and sauces. The ends of the skin are sealed upon wrapping. A popiah is sweet, spicy, savoury, and hearty all at once. Getting the right amount of ingredients is crucial to provide this balance of flavours.
The secret to a good popiah is its skin. A good popiah skin is chewy, resilient, and paper-thin. Typically made of wheat flour, the batter is mixed with water, oil, and salt. The dough is churned by hand before being cooked on a hot griddle.
In addition to being a popular snack, popiah is also associated with rituals. Besides being used as offerings for ancestral worship, popiah is also eaten as a snack during the Qing Ming Festival.