May 03, 2017

Hakka Yam Abacus Seed 客家算盘子

When I first tasted Hakka yam seed cooked by Aunty Choo from Sarawak, she shared that the the texture of the yam abacus seed was determined by the quality of the yam, how much flour to add, kneading the hot yam dough before shocking it with cold water.

The challenge of kneading hot dough to develop its texture prompted me to use my stand mixer to do the job. Please note that you must use the right tool and slowest speed to knead the dough, else you could risk damaging your mixer.


For the dough
1kg yam (about 700 gm of yam after removing skin)
230 gm tapioca starch (about 1/3 portion of 700 gm of yam)
Additional tapioca starch
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp oil

For frying the abacus seed
A handful of cuttlefish shreds
A handful of black fungus, sliced thinly
A handful of dried shrimp, rinsed, drained and chopped coarsely
8 dried mushrooms, rinsed, drained and sliced thinly (reserve its soaking liquid)
100 gm pork shoulder butt, minced
10 shallots, sliced thinly
4 cloves of garlic, remove skin and minced

1/2 cup of mushroom water (soaking liquid)
2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp soya sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Spring onions, chopped
Chinese parsley, chopped
Fried shallots


Preparing the dough
  1. Slice the yam into 5mm thickness.
  2. Steam for about 25 mins until very soft. Top up water during steaming to prevent the water from drying up.
  3. Transfer hot steamed yam into a stand mixer bowl immediately.
  4. Using the lowest speed and K hook, add oil & salt. Mix until the yam become a smooth paste. 
  5. Change to dough hook, add tapioca flour gradually. 
  6. Gradually, add more tapioca starch when necessary & stop adding once dough is not sticky to hand. 
  7. Pinch a small amount of dough and roll into round shape. Press the middle with your finger to form an indentation. 
  8. Using a large wok filled with water, bring water to boil. 
  9. Cook the abacus seed while gently stirring to prevent sticking. They are cooked when floating on water. 
  10. Using a large sieve, rinse the abacus batch by batch in small amount under running tap water before transferring into a bowl of cool water. 
  11. Set aside.

Frying the abacus seeds
  1. Using small fire and 3/4 cup of oil, fry the shallots until crisp and golden brown.
  2. Set aside fried shallots and leave its oil in the wok.
  3. Using small fire and shallots oil, fry the dried shrimps, mushrooms, cuttlefish and minced garlic until fragrant.
  4. Add abacus seed and seasoning.
  5. Stir well and season to taste.
  6. Garnish and serve immediately.

  • Please ensure that the yam was steamed until it turned very soft for the mixer to mashed it up easily.
  • Knead the dough when its warm. It will dry up when its cooled.
  • Please use the lowest speed when kneading the dough on stand mixer.