What it is: Hokkien-style fresh spring rolls – a rice flour wrapper spread with chilli and a garlicky, but sweet soy sauce and stuffed with lettuce, bean sprouts, crumbled egg, crushed peanuts, and cooked daikon (or possibly jicama – the translation gets confused). You can also add shrimp.
Where I had it: Qi Ji, 100 Beach Rd (Shaw Towers) #01-01
What I thought: It’s far more delicious and amazing than a spring roll. The wrapper doesn’t taste like any rice flour wrapper I’ve had before – it’s thinner and somewhat spongy. The sauce is reminiscent of hoisin sauce. While those two ingredients are part of why I’ve developed a popiah addiction, the overall texture is also key – the lettuce, bean sprouts, and peanuts provide a nice crunch that contrasts nicely with the mushiness of the daikon and egg.
Qi Ji has the best popiah I’ve had so far, and I’ve had it at several places. I even made the hour-long trek out to Old Long House Popiah in Toa Payoh, which Makansutra designated as a Street Food Master in 2007. I don’t know how much has changed in three years, but even if Old Long House were as convenient as Qi Ji (it’s only two blocks from the National Library and I frequent it for lunch), I wouldn’t bother eating their popiah again. (Well, maybe if Qi Ji were an hour away, I’d do so when popiah-withdrawal hit.) The wrappers were dry, the daikon came with too much of its cooking liquid and seemed oily, and even though they used two popiah skins, it fell apart while I was eating it. I’ve had similar issues with the popiah I tried at the Albert Food Center. I’ve also had some at Maxwell that was better, but it’s still not as good as Qi Ji’s.