IT NEVER crossed Ernita Taid’s mind that 600 pieces of her popiah sira would be bought by royalty when she first opened her stall in 2003.
Fifteen years on, the small stall in Jalan Aminudin Baki, Taman Tun Dr Ismail still attracts hordes of customers.
Ernita and her husband Zainal Ariffin Hassan as well as her sister and two uncles were busy tending to customers when we arrived at the stall.
Without time for even a short break, we sat down with her while she peeled bananas to be dunked in a thick batter for frying.
She said the popiah sira was a huge seller, with over 250 pieces flying off the shelf every day.
“I once prepared 6,000 pieces of popiah for an event. I didn’t get enough sleep,” giggled Ernita.
She shared how anyone at home could preserve the crispiness of the popiah skin even after it was smothered in sauce.
“The secret is to squeeze out the excess water from the jicama in a muslin cloth before combining it with carrots to ensure just enough moisture is retained without seeping through the skin.
“For popiah sira, I only use dried chillies, salt and sugar as ingredients. Some people add onions, but this may cause sogginess,” said Ernita.
As you bite into the popiah, the crunchiness is followed by a surge of sweet chillies and succulent fillings of jicama and carrots. It had a perfect blend of syrupy and savoury textures and flavours.
A customer by the name of Nurashkin Syafiqah Muhammad Asyik stopped by to get her popiah fix at Ernita’s stall.
“People may have their own preference (when it comes to popiah), but Ernita’s spicy and crunchy version is the one that I go for every time,” said the student.
Learning the ropes from her aunt, Ernita opened the stall with her first husband in Ampang. At the time, they served only banana fritters, keropok lekor, fried sweet potato and ubi ketuk (fried tapioca balls).
Now, they also sell tauhu goreng, cucur udang, cekodok, buah melaka, curry puff and popiah sira, all priced at RM1 for three pieces.
Ernita’s stall is at 157, Jalan Aminuddin Baki in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur, and is open from noon to 6pm daily.