Popiah: Singaporean Summer Rolls, Just Like Grandma Made

I’ve been thinking a lot about popiah, a Singaporean-style summer roll, recently — not just because temperatures have been creeping up in New York City and the foods of my tropical native country are starting to beckon once again.

As you may know, I’ve been on a bit of a book publicity blitz with the February publication of “A Tiger in the Kitchen: A Memoir of Food and Family.” And in all the interviews and signings I’ve done, popiah — a roll filled with ingredients such as julienned jicama, shrimp, shallots, tofu — has been a recipe that has come up frequently.

It’s a roll my grandmother used to make when I was growing up in Singapore — and it’s one that I crave in the U.S. as you don’t see it often on restaurant menus. Because it’s light, a little spicy and the filling has a nice crunch to it, it’s the perfect snack food or appetizer for warm weather — in Singapore, people often have popiah parties in which the filling, summer roll skins and various condiments are set out and guests mill about, casually making their own rolls whenever they feel like eating one.

During my research for the book, however, I made sure to learn how my grandmother and chef Simpson (of Cafe Asean in New York) make theirs — so when my Let’s Lunch group of virtual lunch buddies decided on small spring bites for our March date, popiah immediately sprang to mind …

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The Loading Dock: “Worthy” Fish Tacos


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This might be what they call a classic New York food fairytale.

Boy moves to New York. Boy starts selling fish tacos at out of a little stand at the Brooklyn Flea in Dumbo. Boy’s tacos develop a hungry following. Boy opens restaurant.

And to add to the cool factor, he opens it in the loading dock of a former garment factory in downtown Brooklyn — talk about economical use of space in this land-starved city.

The Boy in this case would be Forrest Cole, who explains on his Web site that he first started selling fish tacos at the flea after fruitlessly trying to find a “worthy example” of a Baja-style fish taco in the city.

Now, that’s talking quite a bit of smack about New York’s many pre-existing taco joints.

We had to see just how “worthy” these fish tacos were …

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Calexico Carne Asada: Taco Truck Fare With A Wait


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You would think that when a bunch of guys running a street food cart in one of the busiest neighborhoods in Manhattan get around to opening a restaurant, there wouldn’t be much of a wait for your food.

And yet there we were at Calexico Carne Asada in Brooklyn, mid-afternoon on a recent Friday, waiting for 10 minutes … 15 minutes … more, before our tacos and burrito finally surfaced.

We’re talking carne asada/pulled pork piled onto or wrapped up in tortillas, folks.

Assuming the meats have been prepped ahead of time, shouldn’t these be fairly easy to put together?

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