Hakka Yam Abacus Seeds With Vegetables (Suen Poon Chi/ 算盘子)

Hakka Yam Abacus Seeds With Vegetables (Suen Poon Chi/ 算盘子)

Lunar New Year to Orientals is like Christmas to Westerners. It is the most beloved and anticipated festival of the year. When I was a kid, I looked forward to buying and wearing new clothes, playing with my cousins, visiting relatives, receiving angpao (red envelopes/ 紅包) and eating all sorts of cookies.

Now, I most look forward to have special dishes with my family. My absolute favourite (and my signature dish) is Hakka Yam Abacus Seeds or Suen Poon Chi (算盘子). It’s a classic but rare Hakka food is only normally available at Hakka restaurants.

However whenever I order this dish at the restaurant, I’ll be sorely disappointed. Probably because yam can be rather costly, the amount of yam used is too little to my liking. Once I took my Mom to a Hakka restaurant, and when she tasted this dish, she said “I can’t taste the yam at all. Yours is so much better!” (Note: My mom rather praises my food because she expects food to be good). But because the process of making the yam abacus beads is so tedious, I only make it once a year. Which is why this dish is so special for me and my family.


WHAT IS HAKKA TARO ABACUS SEEDS

Yam abacus beads are made from yam and tapioca starch. The dough is formed into flat discs that resembles beads in the Chinese abacus (Suen Poon 算盘). This dish it made during Chinese New Year to bring in wealth and luck.

This recipe is one of my dearest; everybody who tastes this, loved it. I try to avoid using MSG in my daily cooking. Instead I imitate umami flavour with ingredients which contains natural glutamate. Hence, I included dried shrimps, dried cuttlefish and dried Chinese mushrooms. The complex combination flavour, colour and texture makes this dish superbly delicious and appetising.

HAKKA YAM ABACUS SEEDS WITH VEGETABLES (SUEN POON CHI/ 算盘子)


TOOLS

  • Bowl of water 1 (to wash hands)
  • Chopping board to place abacus beads
  • Chopstick (to make hole)
  • Strainer (to remove boiling abacus beads)
  • Bowl of water 2 (to rinse abacus beads
  • Potato masher
  • Non-stick pan + spatula
  • Serving plate

RECIPE CARD

HAKKA YAM ABACUS SEEDS WITH VEGETABLES (SUEN POON CHI/ 算盘子)

2017-05-05
: 6 -8
: 20 min
: 40 min
: 1 hr
: High

The complex combination flavour, colour and texture makes this dish superbly delicious.

By:

Ingredients
  • ABACUS BEADS
  • 300g yam, cubed
  • 100g tapioca flour
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • STIR-FRY INGREDIENTS
  • 6 dried Shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp dried shrimp
  • 1 tbsp sliced dried cuttlefish
  • 4 sprigs cilantro
  • 4 spring onions
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp chopped shallots
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 large carrot
  • SEASONINGS
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 4 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp five spice powder
  • 1/8 tsp white pepper
Directions
  • Step 1 TO MAKE DOUGH: Measure 100 g of tapioca flour. Set aside. Peel and cut yam into small cubes. Steam yam until soften (15 minutes). Place hot yam into a large mixing bowl. Mash batter with a potato masher. Slowly add in 100 g of tapioca flour and 1/4 cup of hot water. Mix well. Knead until it turns into a pliable dough. If dough is too dry (crack) add more water. If dough is too watery (sticking to fingers), add more tapioca starch.
  • Step 2 TO MAKE ABACUS SEEDS: Put dough into hands, roll dough into small balls. Flatten balls into a disc and use the back of a round chopstick to make an indentation in the middle.
  • Step 3 TO COOK ABACUS SEEDS: Boil abacus seeds in a pot of water. Cook until it floats. Once it floats, scoop it with a strainer and put it in a bowl of cold tap water.
  • Step 4 TO PREPARE VEGETABLES FOR FRYING: Soak mushroom to soften. Chop mushrooms into long strips when soften. Place in a bowl and set aside. Soak dried shrimps to soften. Roughly chop into small pieced. Place in a bowl together with sliced dried cuttlefish. Slice carrots into matchsticks. Place in a bowl and set aside. Chop cilantro and spring onions in 1 inch length. Place in a bowl and set aside.Mince shallots and garlic. Place in a bowl and set aside.
  • Step 5 MAKE SEASONINGS: Mix seasonings in a bowl and set aside
  • Step 6 TO STIR-FRY: Stir-fry shallots, garlics, dried shrimps, sliced cuttlefish, mushroom. Then cook abacus seed with sauce. Add in parsley and spring onions. Garnish with cilantro. Dish out and serve.

COOKING TIPS

  1. Keep the dough hot When make dough, yam should be hot. Do not wait to cool; otherwise dough does not form as well.
  2. Freeze abacus seeds Making the abacus seeds takes most of the time, and time which we do not have during Chinese New Year where we cook many dishes for the entire family. So I normally make abacus seeds few weeks ahead and freeze them. During reunion dinner, I only need to to stir-fry the abacus seeds with chopped ingredients. It’s so convenient!
  3. Make in a big batch Since it requires so much work, I normally make enough for three dishes (which amounts to 900 g of yam). Another reason is that yam normally come in such huge size that I had no choice but to make more.

FREEZING ABACUS SEEDS

After molding it into abacus-shape seeds, arrange it neatly in a container(s). Remember to place it separate from each other and between parchment paper to prevent it from sticking to each other. Though they are firmer and chewier than fresh ones.

   

Good luck and have fun!


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