Update (December 12): time to fill up on popiah: Pandan Snack Bar is now open for business.
Montreal’s tiny Malaysian food scene gets a bit bigger in coming days, with a new snack bar arriving in St-Henri.
Rolled ice cream store Pandan Creamery will transform into Pandan Snack Bar for the winter months. And they’re bringing a new dish to Montreal: the snack bar will focus on popiah, a wheat wrap in the middle zone between a spring roll or rice paper roll, and a burrito.
Owner Madhuri Kumar tells Eater that instead of an extensive menu, she wants to follow the approach of food stalls in Malaysia’s hawker centres, which typically focus on one item.
“They serve the masses, and I really like that food culture…you go somewhere and they do one thing and they do it really well.”
Kumar is of Malaysian descent and says both the idea for Pandan’s ice cream and popiah came from her first visit there two years ago — a trip that was “like a pilgrimage,” she says.
Pandan’s popiah goes with a classic filling: lettuce, house sauce, house-made chili sambal (from Madhuri’s grandmother’s recipe), braised jicama or carrot, crispy fried egg strips, fried tofu, blanched green beans or beansprouts, and grilled shrimp, garnished with toasted peanut dust and crispy fried shallots. Baked wrapped chicken and a vegan option will be available in place of the shrimp, too.
The thin wraps for the popiah will be made in-house too, says Kumar.
“It’s one of the first things I remember making at home with my mother. I like the idea of being able to put a lot of different ingredients, like crunchy ingredients into a thin wrapper. “
Popiah will be very affordable, at under $10, plus a few side dishes will be available, including chili pickled cucumber, five-spice eggplant and a red cabbage slaw with Thai basil and coconut cashew cream dressing.
For dessert, ice cream won’t totally disappear: a sundae sandwich made with a milky bun will be on offer, based on popular Thai and Malaysian ice cream sandwich pok pok. A pandan-infused custard tart and a jade rice pudding will round out the options.
Kumar is also branching out into specialty drinks: a vegan coconut-based golden milk (a turmeric drink), chai hot cocoa, and teh tarik, a Malaysian hand-pulled milky tea made with sweetened condensed milk; Malaysian coffee is in the works for sometime after the opening.
Pandan isn’t the first ice creamery in town to devise a separate business model for the brutal winter months — last year, St-Henri’s Dalla Rose morphed into noodle shop Ramen 9000, and is doing the same for this winter.
Pandan Snack Bar should open in the near future (keep an eye on social media) — in the meantime, peep this video showing up popiah wrappers are made.