11th Feb 2015 Pre-Chinese New Year
Of the numerous dishes that my mum is fantastic at, the Hakka Abacus Seeds 客家算盘子 is a dish that mum can cook so superbly well and definitely the dish that gets the family together wanting more each time. There’s always never enough, need I say more?
The Hakka Abacus Seed 客家算盘子 is a dish that originated from my dad’s hometown : Dapu County, Meizhou Prefecture, Guangdong Province, China (中国广东梅州县大埔). The dish is made mainly of dough formed using yam and tapioca flour, rolled into round balls with a small depression in the middle that resembles that of the abacus 算盘. When cooked, it is both soft and chewy. Mum normally cooks it with dried shrimps, minced pork, chinese dried mushrooms and garnished with lots of fried shallots.
The Hakka Abacus Seed is a dish that the Hakka family will prepare during happy occasions like Chinese New Year. Our family has it roughly 3x every year as it is a tedious process to prepare the dough if not for everybody helping out together. We normally prepare the dough and pre-cook it for freezing until mum is free to cook the dish for us to savour. With 2 big yams, it took us almost 2 hrs to finish rolling the dough and clear up the mess thereafter.
As the ladies in the family sat together putting in our joint effort to prepare the yam and dough for our Chinese New Year meal this year, we rekindled the awareness that just being safe together as a family is a blessing that no one should have taken granted for. We all probably have done so during our younger days, where life is carefree and other worldly matters were always more important that what’s happening within the household. As a 39-year old this year, I would deeply like to thank my parents for condoning my many mistakes and causing disappointment to them when I was younger (actually even til today! >.<).
Daddy & Mummy, 我好爱你们!
This year, we have a new little helper besides K. She’s my niece and just turned 5 this year. With the two little ones helping out, the tough work of rolling the dough was made more interesting because of their kiddy talk. And their nimble hands could roll 2 abacus seeds at the same time making work alot faster too!
Family got together to prepare the dough at mum’s house. See how fast our 2 little helpers are with their dough!
Hakka Abacus Seeds 客家算盘子
For the Dough
- Yam (choose the longish type)
- Tapioca Flour (Ng Nam Bee brand)
- Sesame Oil
For the Dish (quantity/amount of below ingredients as you wish)
- Chinese Dried Mushrooms (thinly-sliced / soaked / braised) – can be prepared the day before
- Minced Meat – marinated with light soya sauce, sesame oil, oyster sauce
- Shallot – fried / separate the shallot oil for cooking
- Garlic – minced
- Spring Onion
- Light Soya Sauce
- Oyster Sauce
- White Pepper
- Huatiao Wine 花雕酒
Part 1 (Dough Preparation)
1. De-skin and roughly chop up the yam into chunks. Steam the yam at low fire until soft and well-cooked.
2. On a clean working surface, mashed the cooked yam WHILE IT IS STILL HOT and add tapioca flour progressively. Use a spatula to do the mashing if the yam is too hot to handle. It helps greatly! Don’t use the blender for short cut as it won’t taste as nice as it is hand-made. The texture is different! When the dough has cooled down enough for handling, start kneading the dough while adding a little tapioca flour at a time until a big dough ball is formed and easily pliable. It is ok to have small pieces of yam as it is actually more chewy this way. If the dough is too sticky, add more tapioca flour a little at a time.
**Seriously, the amount of tapioca flour to add to make the dough is highly based on experience. I have been the one kneading the dough for years. It is instinctive on my part. Sometimes, exact measurement to the grams just wouldn’t work. A little more flour added will give the QQ texture. But adding too much tapioca flour will result in a dough that is too dry and won’t be nice to eat as the yam flavour is no longer there. It is normally done by hawkers to save cost.
3. Roughly divide the dough into small round balls of suitable size to your liking. Indent a depression in the centre with thumb.
4. Boil a pot of water. Add some cooking oil and a pinch of salt. When the abacus seeds have all been rolled, cook them in small batches in the boiling water. The abacus seeds will be cooked when they float to the surface. Dish out, put into a pot of COLD water. This is an important step for QQ abacus seed. When cooled down enough, dish out, drain dry, put them into a shallow pan and add enough sesame oil to coat each abacus seed properly so that they won’t stick to each other and become ugly when it’s time to cook them.
5. Scoop the oil-coated abacus seeds into dual-layer ziplock bags for freezing. Somehow, they taste better after “aging”. Pour more sesame oil into the bag and make sure it is evenly distributed.
Part 2 (The Dish)
6. Thaw the frozen abacus seeds.
7. Using a wok, heat up some shallot oil to fry the minced garlic. When the garlic is browned, add dried shrimps and stir-fry on low heat. The dried shrimps will give out a lot of water at some point. Continue stir-frying it until it is dried and fragrant.
8. Add in minced pork and stir-fry until about half-cooked.
9. Add in braised mushroom to continue cooking. When done, dish them out on a separate dish.
10. While the wok is still hot, add in the thawed abacus seeds (together with the solidified oil) and lightly stir-fry them until all loosened / softened.
11. Add in Step 9 into the wok. Add in seasoning to taste. Continue to stir-fry for awhile until dry. Dish up and garnish with spring onion and/or fried shallots.
And so, this is my bowl for tonight’s dinner. Fully contented with craving yet again satisfied. Mum says next round will be next year! I hope she’s not making us wait so long! 😥
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~ SAys! Shirley
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