On weekends, there is a lady who sells “bao bing” out of small, free-standing stall at the local Hawker Center. What is bao bing, you might ask? Well, I’m trying to figure that out myself.
From what I understand, the name refers to a thin crepe, which is filled with chili paste, beansprouts, roasted peanuts, crab meat, fried garlic, egg, lettuce, cucumbers and numerous other small bits I’ve yet to identify.
With minimal sleuthing I’ve deciphered that “baobing” can also refer to a Chinese shaved ice dessert, similar to cendol, and depending on where you live, the bao bing crepe might also be referred to as, “popiah.” So, like a good American, I call it a sping roll.
I look forward to Bao Bing Days. The woman rolls the crepes to order. It’s a thin batter, runnier and more egg-y than its French counterpart. I imagine that the batter is made with a portion of rice flour, but magic of the spring roll is not in the skin. It’s what’s encased inside that makes the magic –the crunch, chew and tenderness of the filling and the after-pop of spice.
In the small stall, the woman sells exclusively bao bing and there is almost always a line. While the conversations with the bao bing woman are minimal, they are efficient. Asking whether I’d like spicy, or not spicy, and telling me what I owe her is the extent of our brisk-paced interaction. She constructs each spring roll with expert hands – nimbly grabbing this and that from small bowls of various fixings – I gather the impression she’s been doing this for a couple years.
Each roll is sliced into four bite-sized pieces and pairs beautifully with a nice, cold Tiger Beer on hot Saturday afternoon.