Making popiah skin at Chowrasta market in Penang

Popiah skin maker at Chowrasta market in Penang

Making popiah skin at Chowrasta market in Penang

Popiah, the traditional food loved by all Malaysians, is becoming difficult to find. But some artisans still continue making popiah skin the way it has been made in the past. Famous in Penang Uncle Lim’s shop is one of a few remaining traditional hand-made popiah skin makers.

Holding a blob of the white elastic dough in his hand, a man is whipping and smacking it onto hot flat-bottomed cast-iron pan in front of him leaving a paper-thin layer of popiah skin. The skin heats for barely five seconds, and before it burns, his assistant scraps it off the pan and stacks it on top of the pile. Occasionally, the man peels off the skin himself if his assistant is having troubles keeping up. Skin after skin, the man is making popiah skin in front of his shop with such dexterity and flawless precision that I found him mesmerising to watch.

Famous in Penang, Lim’s popiah skin shop

His shop, located at the busy Chowrasta market, is where Mr. Lim Kim Hoe, the famous Penang popiah skin maker, has been making his popiah skin for half a century. Although Mr. Lim, locally known as Uncle Lim, a fourth generation popiah skin maker, is now physically indisposed, his children continue the family business. The man making popiah skin now is Gary Lim, his son.

Popiah skin maker at work in Penang

Popiah skin is a kind of thin crêpe made from wheat flour. Extremely thin but very resilient, it is used for making popiah, Teochew and Hokkien style spring rolls. Originated in Fujian province of China, popiah was brought to Malaysia by Hokkien and Teochew during the British colonial administration. It has quickly become the favourite dish among the Malaysians, and popiah skin making was a common trade.

Making popiah skin at Mr. Lim shop

Famous in Penang, Lim’s popiah skin is sought after by clients, who keep coming for the high quality of his skin, thin and elastic. The customers come as far as from Singapore and Hong Kong, often buying 1-2 kg of popiah skin to take back home.

Gary Lim making famous popiah skin

“Not many people make hand-made popiah skin nowadays. It takes too long. Popiah skin makers become now rare,” Gary sounds pessimistic about the future of popiah skin. “Come on Sunday, you can see how we make popiah with our house-made filling,” he adds before being engrossed again by his work.

Making popiah skin at Chowrasta market in Penang

In a couple of days, on Sunday, I am back to Chowrasta market. The market is busy today, and the popiah skin shop attracts a large crowd waiting for their popiah to be rolled. In Melaka, I had popiah on several occasions but I never had a chance to see how it is made, and I only had a vague idea about what ingredients are hidden inside. Here, I find out that popiah is stuffed with grated turnip, lettuce leaves, bean sprouts, shredded omelette, tofu, fried shallots, grated carrots, and chopped peanuts in addition to the sweet sauce and chilli paste applied first to the skin. I am only familiar with one version of popiah but here I discover barley peanut candy, apparently, a traditional Penang snack, which also uses popiah skin.

Popiah, famous dish of Malaysia

Popiah, famous dish of Malaysia

Malaysians love their popiah but surprisingly, it is difficult to find. Making popiah skin is a tedious and time-consuming process, and popiah skin makers become a rare sight. Nowadays, when mass production is replacing traditional artisans, it is reassuring to see people committed to keeping their heritage alive.

Mr. Lim shop, famous popiah skin maker

Practical Information

Location: This popiah skin making shop is located at the Chowrasta market in Georgetown of Penang state of Malaysia at the following address: 5, Jalan Chowrasta. They make popiah skin from about 7 am till noon. If popiah skin is made daily, they make popiah with house-made fillings only on Sunday.


Written by
Errol & Olga


Olga and Errol are the Swiss-Russian couple behind ANYWAYINAWAY. Passionate about unique culture and traditions, they decided to take career breaks and explore the world with the intention to expand awareness and provide new perspectives to the understanding of ethnic minority people, customs, traditions and culture. They also show the beauty of our planet and try to find something interesting in the ordinary.

Related Posts
More Stories

Hiking in Switzerland to the Orny Hut

Keeper of the art of Rattan Weaving in Penang

Hiking in Switzerland to the Dix hut

Oysters, cheese and pinguins. Bruny Island in Tasmania

Bushwalking in PNG: Koitaki Country Club

Overland Track Day 5: Kia Ora Hut to Bert Nichols Hut at Windy Ridge

Can Cau Market, or where to sell your buffalo

Overland Track Day 2: Waterfall Valley Hut to Windermere Hut

Black and White: White Temple In Chiang Rai

Papua New Guinea: Gulf Mask Festival

West Side Story. West Coast of Tasmania

Behind the satin curtains of a Chinese opera

Co-working spaces and cafes for digital nomads in Chiang Mai

Overland Track Day 4: Frog Flats to Kia Ora Hut through New Pelion Hut

Traditional Coffee Roaster in Penang

Hiking in Switzerland to the Louvie hut

Bushwalking in PNG: Bisianamu Rubber Plantation

Papua New Guinea Festivals: Enga Show

Hiking in Switzerland to the Arpitettaz Hut

Bushwalking in PNG: Mt Erima lookout

Ten kilos of roses please: Pak Khlong Talat Flower market in Bangkok

Popiah skin maker at Chowrasta market in Penang

Tofu making in Vietnam

Papua New Guinea Culture & Traditions: Baining Fire Dance

Overland Track Day 8: Narcissus Hut to Lake St Clair visitor centre at Cynthia Bay

Marcel Brunet Hut in Switzerland: a Hut Unlike the Others

Living an Illusion: Art in Paradise gallery in Chiang Mai

Enga Traditional Salt Making

Overland Track, A Journey Into Tasmania’s Wilderness

Bay of Fires in Tasmania

Hand-Made Nyonya Beaded Shoemaker in Penang

Bushwalking in PNG: Varirata National Park

Hiking in Switzerland to the Schönbiel Hut in Zermatt

Bushwalking in PNG: Mt Diamond waterfall

Bushwalking in PNG: surroundings of March Girls resort

Hiking in Switzerland to the Mont-Fort Hut

Mekong crossing on slowboat: from Thailand to Laos

Hiking in Switzerland to the Aiguilles Rouges hut

Chingay ritual, a special ending of the Chinese New Year

Papua New Guinea: National Mask Festival in East New Britain

Hiking in Switzerland to the Sassal Mason Hut in Graubünden

Walk on the wild side. Maria Island in Tasmania

Travel to the afterlife, or Hmong funerals in Vietnam

Hiking in Switzerland to the Aletsch Glacier

Bushwalking in PNG: Hombrum Bluff Lookout

Beginining of our project

Overland Track Day 1: Ronny Creek to Waterfall Valley Hut

Hiking in Switzerland in Ticino to the Basodino hut

Overland Track Day 7: Pine Valley Hut to Narcissus Hut

Papua New Guinea: Bougainville Reeds Festival

Bushwalking in PNG: Burns Peak

Traditional Signboard Engraver in Penang

Dumpling syndrome, or Baba Nyonya food culture

Papua New Guinea Sepik River Crocodile Festival

The last Songkok maker in Penang

The last hand-made Joss Stick Maker in Penang

Chinese New Year celebration in Chiang Mai

Freycinet Peninsula Circuit: Hiking in Freycinet National Park

Heaven and Hell: Black House in Chiang Rai

Overland Track Day 6: Bert Nichols Hut to Pine Valley Hut

Bushwalking in PNG: Taurama Barracks to Malaoro market

Bicheno blowhole in Tasmania

Hiking in Switzerland in Grindelwald – Bernese Oberland

Water buffalo or “iron buffalo”? Sanpatong market in Chiang Mai

Laos without elephants ?

Hiking to the Chanrion Hut in Switzerland

Overland Track Day 3: Windermere Hut to Frog Flats towards New Pelion Hut

Bushwalking in PNG: Taurama Barracks to Sero Beach and Pyramid Point

No Comments

Post A Comment