Hakka cuisine concentrates on the texture of food, simplicity and the umami (旨味) or savoury flavour of the dish. As like other dishes or cuisines, Hakka cuisine is influence by the attributes of the environment were they settled down or has it roots from, which is one of the reasons behind the variety of dishes and flavours that are synonymous to Hakka cuisine. The Hakka’s has provided to the public at large some their more famous dishes that are dished our in restaurants across Malaysia, China and whole wide world, some of these dishes are your common ‘Yong Taufu’(釀豆腐)or stuffed bean curd, ‘Yim Guk Gai’ (鹽焗雞) or Salt Baked Chicken, Poon Choy (盆菜), ‘Suin Poon Tzi’ (算盘子) or Abacus beads and lots more.
A few weeks ago on the 10th of December we had an opportunity to document the making of ‘Hakka Abacus Beads’ by a new entrepreneur, Ms. Lai Sze Ying, in Kuala Lumpur. It is one of the ways that we try to do our part to keep the diverse heritage and culture of food that we have a live for our future generation. By doing so, we also hope to help budding food providers that are making delicacies the way it should to grow and spread the wonders of old school food.
This post I will introduce the making of ‘Suin Poon Tzi’ (算盘子) or Abacus Beads. Abacus Beads are made from freshly mashed Yam which is then combined with tapioca flour to form the dough that is cut and rolled into the shape of an abacus bead. The difference between the traditional and current abacus bead is the content of Yam and the final abacus bead shape. The算盘子/ abacus when cooked has a soft on the outside and chewy on the inside texture, which could be served stir fry or in soup. The common popular version would be stir frying with either of the following ingredients; minced pork or chicken, dried shrimps, mushrooms, ‘choy poh’, black wood ear, etc.
Before the dough is form to make the ‘Suin Poon Tzi’ (算盘子), Yam is cooked to a consistency that allows it to be mash up like when one make mash potato.
After the Yam is cooked to the required consistency, it is roughly mashed and then combined with tapioca flour to form the dough base which will be knead, cut and rolled to shape.
Before the Yam cools down, the Yam and Tapioca flour mixture is traditionally hand kneaded until it forms the firm dough.
After the Yam dough is finally formed, it is then divided into smaller section to work with. The smaller section are rolled into a strand which then cut to size and form into the shape of a abacus bead, which round in shape.
Next, a small puncture or stamp is made with chopstick in the middle of each formed abacus bead. This the part which differentiates the product produced by this new comer to the F&B industry from the common abacus beads suppliers in the market. And it is because of the near authenticity that we were greatly interested to document and introduce this budding entrepreneur that met through our acquaintance in KL.
After the abacus beads were ready formed and mark with the distinctive nod in the centre, it is then moved to the cooking pot or wok in this case to be thoroughly cooked with just simple clean boiling water, and then blenched in cold or running water to give it that springy and chewy texture.
The end product is the drained and is ready to be stir fry with you choice ingredients.