Popiah skin-making tradition kept alive by family

GEORGE TOWN: Finding a successor to keep a traditional trade going can sometimes be daunting.

But for Lim Kim Hoe, 79, he not only has one, but two adult children who are keen to keep his 64-year-old popiah skin-making business at the Chowrasta market going.

His eldest son, Gary, 51, manages the store while his daughter, Rebecca, 42, makes the popiah skins upon order.

Gary said making the hand-made product required a lot of training.

It has taken both siblings over a year to perfect their skills.

“In order for the skins to be up to par, they must be paper-thin yet stretchy.

“You must be able to feel some thickness, but it cannot be too thick.

“This is why it is tricky to master the popiah skin,” he said, adding that their regular clients come from all over the country.

Gary said the business, now in its third generation, was passed down from their grandfather.

He learnt the trade with his sisters, Rebecca and Dorothy, when they were children.

“In our time, there were no gadgets or electronics to play with, so we spent most of our time making the popiah skins,” he said.

Gary said popiah skins made the traditional way were no longer available in the market.

“Most popiah skins sold in the market are machine-made, but we believe this should only be an alternative.

“The art of making the skins the traditional way should be preserved and passed on, because this has to do with the way of living and our cultural roots.

“So frankly, we are happy that we picked up this skill.

“We may not make a lot of money, but it is an honest living and we enjoy it,” he said.

Gary said although the traditional way of making popiah skins was dying out, the cuisine aspects were endless and growing.

“Popiah skins are still in demand and are popular substitutes or ingredients in many recipes.

“For instance, in the past, we used to wrap barley peanut candy (kong th’ng) with it and have it as traditional snack whenever there were Teochew operas or shows in town.

“Popiah skin is also used to wrap lor bak, Peking duck and stir-fried turnip.

“As times change, the younger generation, or the more health conscious, use them as rice or noodle substitutes,” he said.

Gary said some people use the popiah skin as a wrap for salads, slices of meat and other food like cempedak to fry with.

“There are endless ways to incorporate popiah skin into one’s cooking or dishes. You just need to be creative,” he said.

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