Monday, February 2, 2015

Hakka Yam Abacus 算盘子

"Do you want to be rich?" I asked my son.

"Yes..." As my son nodded his head enthusiastically, I can see the invisible dollar sign in his eyes. LOL!

"Eat this yam abacus!" I said. "This auspicious dish will make you rich for this Chinese new year!!!"

"Huh!" Hearing what I said, my son was confused.

This Hakka dish is commonly served during Chinese New Year. The yam kind of noodles or gnocchi are shaped into shapes of abacus seeds which symbolises money that we can often count.

Hakka yam abacus
Hakka yam abacus
To start, I need to steam some yam.
The yam that I used are the frozen kind and so it is a little dry after steaming.
It is really fun to shape the dough into abacus seeds.
Cook the abacus seeds in boiling water.
The floating ones mean that they are cooked.
While cooking the abacus seeds, I fried some shallots ...
... soaked the dried prawns ...
... and gathered all the required ingredients.
And so, I cooked these first with Alfa One rice bran oil
Add these seasonings.
"Mum, what are you cooking? This smells so delicious!"
I'm serving this with shredded omelette, spring onion, chilies and fried shallots.
Dinner is ready!
Geez! I can't wait... Let me try one of the yam abacus first!

Boy: Mum, this is so yummy!

Me: Good! I hope that you will be rich after eating this...

Boy: Mum, how much money are you going to give me for this Chinese New Year?

Me: .... Speechless!

I can't believe it is February 2015 now and Chinese New Year and the year of sheep is arriving soon. My January 2015 has been full-on with noodles and Alfa One rice bran oil cooking and baking.

We have a total of 103 noodles and pasta posts linking with Anne from My Bare Cupboard at this post. Some saucy. Some soupy. Some comfy. All are definitely tasty!!! Thanks Anne for hosting such a wonderful event.

Next, we will have Grace from Life can be simple to be the next hostess of February 2015 and her theme is CHOCOLATE!

Wait wait wait ... There are more...

Yen from Eat your heart out, Diana from Domestic Goddess Wannabe and I from Bake for Happy Kids are cooking and baking a lot for Chinese New Year and will be linking our posts at Cook and Celebrate: CNY 2015, starting on 1st Feb 2015. Please link your post with us if you are cooking or baking something special for your CNY celebration for the whole of February 2015.

Here's the recipe that is mostly adapted from the book, Delightful Snacks and Dim Sum by Agnes Chang

Serves 3-4

To make the yam abacus:
300g yam, fresh or frozen, peeled, cut into chunks, steamed until soft and finely mashed
150g tapioca flour
1/2 tsp salt
just enough water to bind the dough and I have used about 1/2 cup (125ml) 

To cook the yam abacus:
adequate boiling water to cook
1-2 tbsp vegetable oil

To cook:
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tbsp minced garlic
4 tbsp dried prawn, soaked in water for not more than 15 mins to soften
200g minced meat (I used lean chicken mince)
3-10 fresh or dried medium shitake mushrooms, soaked if they are dried, finely sliced - I used 10 because we love stir fried fresh shitake mushrooms

More options that you can use but I didn't use these ingredients:
1 tbsp dried squid shreds, pre-soaked in water
1 tbsp black fungus, pre-soaked in water, finely sliced

To season:
1/2 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 tbsp chicken stock granules, optional
1/2 tsp dark soya sauce
salt to taste
a pinch of ground white pepper
1/4 tsp sesame oil
1/2 cup (120ml) water

To garnish and serve:
2 eggs, beaten and fried into thin omelette, finely shredded
spring onions, finely sliced
red chilies, finely sliced
crispy shallots, preferably fried with a healthier kind of oil like Alfa One rice bran oil

To make the yam abacus, combine all ingredients and mix into a pliable dough. Divide into teaspoonful portions and shape each into the shape of abacus. Cook in boiling water until they float on the surface of the water. Decant the boiling water and rinse the abacus in cold water. Drain the abacus thoroughly. Add oil into the abacus and stir until well coated with oil. Set aside.

To cook, heat oil in a wok with a high heat. Sauté garlic until fragrant. Then, add and cook dried prawns until fragrant too. Add mince, mushrooms and cook until fragrant. Add seasonings and bring to boil. Stir in the abacus and cook until the dish is dry.

Serve hot with shredded omelette, spring onion, chilies and fried shallots.

Happy Cooking
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This post is linked to Cook and Celebrate: CNY 2015 organised by Yen from Eat your heart out, Diana from Domestic Goddess Wannabe and me from Bake for Happy Kids.
Please link your post with us if you are also cooking or baking something special for your Chinese New Year celebration for the whole of February 2015.

To use this linky tool, please make sure that: (1) Your post must be a current post. (2) Please mention Cook and Celebrate: CNY 2015 in your post and link back to us, Yen from Eat your heart out, Diana from Domestic Goddess Wannabe and Zoe from Bake for Happy Kids.

Here are my blogging friends that have joined me cooking / baking for this event. Please visit their blogs for more of their delicious and auspicious food.


  1. oh! 算盘子! i cannot remember the last i had it.. it's yum yum yum... always love it with chilli..

    your dish wet my appetite.. i should head off for breaky

  2. Morning Zoe! I have totally lost in touch in blogging. Kids started school since last Wed & my life routine is back! I have seen many friends made this auspicious dish before but I haven't tried before. It's rather strange because my mum is a Hakka & she never cooked this dish for me. Looking at the dried shrimps, mushrooms & deep-fried shallots can imagine how tasty it could be! Good luck to the friends who are going to take part in the angpow lucky draw!

  3. Your first sentence reminds me of: Que Sera Sera
    "Would I be pretty, would I be rich, that's what she said to me"...
    Of course I wana be rich too! But guess that's not gonna happen, teehee..Love your "suen poon chi", my mil is Hakka, but she never cook these before.. Yummmzzz...

  4. I wish I could eat something that would make me rich!

  5. Haha your son is so cute with his answers. At CNY, we're all eating lots and lots of food that will make us "rich".

  6. I love this, so long didn't eat, will bookmark this. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Zoe, I would gladly eat your Hakka Yam Abacus, rich or not rich hah..hah... I love this dish as it is very tasty and comforting.

  8. Hahhaa! Your son has great responses! I hope he understands by now the symbolicness of the abacus shapes! I've eaten these before and they really are very yummy and so fun to make AND eat! I'll be enjoying lots of chinese new year goodies when the time rolls around!

  9. I m actually planning to learn cooking 算盘子for this CNY reunion dinner. Great to read your post, i have bookmarked the recipe and definitely want to give it a try. Thanks for sharing, Zoe! ^^

    1. Hi Zoe, i am following your cny event. Is it just paste the badge and link in my post only?

    2. Hi Sherleen,

      All you need to do is to 1) paste the badge 2) mention us in your post and 3) submit your post via the linky tool and that's it.


  10. yummy。。。我是客家人,这算盘子是我们家必吃的年菜哦。

  11. So nice! One of my fav Hakka delicacies! :)

  12. Ha ha ! Smart boy !
    I've seen my late mom ever cooked this 算盘子. Alot of steps and pretty complicated cooking process to me. Your Yam Abacus definitely looked yummy.

  13. A lot of work but soooOoo yum to eat!

  14. I like this dish and you did a good job preparing it!

  15. Hi Zoe, 算盘子is my favorite! Looking at your yam abacus made my mouth water! Wish I can have some now.

  16. Hi Zoe , this is truly a dish I am going to try , thanks for sharing :)

  17. Wow I really love Hakka yam abacus. Never attempted making this yet as I always had the impression that it's tough with so much work involved. After looking through your photos, I so want to make this for this coming CNY. Thanks for coming by too to check up on me. I haven't blog for some time due to work getting in the way. Till then~ Jo

  18. Hi Zoe, I'm imagining your son's expression. Must be very cute. Will try out this dish during CNY.

  19. I have never eaten this Zoe! But I love the process of making the little abacus. I think I will find time to make this!

  20. Hi Zoe!! Hakka Yam abacus has been on my to-make list for the longest time! Been procrastinating because it is so much work! But you are inspiring me again as yours looks totally amazing and delish!! :)