Hakka Abacus Beads (Suan Pan Zi) to me is like the Chinese version of gnocchi. Instead of potato, it is made with taro/purple yam. Suan pan zi has soft and chewy texture and is usually stir-fried like you would noodle or rice
Most of the Chinese cuisines have interesting names. Take this taro abacus beads stir-fry for example. You’ve probably seen or heard of abacus beads before. Back in the old Chinese days, most mathematical calculation were done using abacus calculator. The Chinese calls it suan pan zi. Watching how these folks using it is really a show on its own. Pretty impressive!! To me, they are just like moving the beads up and down and I have no clue what they are doing ! absolutely no clue! ha.ha..! This is indeed a vintage calculator (No batteries required) 🙂
So, the taro abacus beads..yes…they are shaped like abacus beads. It’s like the Chinese version of gnocchi if I can say that ? Instead of potato, it is made with taro/yam. It has soft and chewy texture.
The Chinese has several ethnic groups and this taro abacus beads are one of the specialties of the Hakka people. Hakka is one of the many Chinese ethnic groups. My husband is a Hakka, and I am a Hokkian. Okay…yes…whatever you say! Each ethnic groups have their own distinctive cuisines. I saw Taro abacus beads stir-fry from Kitchen Tigress and I was inspired to try it out. I didn’t use the fresh taro like she did though.
I found this taro flour in the Asian grocery store. I just got it without knowing what I was going to do with it. Then, I thought..hmm…why not make some taro abacus beads. So, I was tinkering with the recipe to use taro flour instead of fresh taro. The result was really good too. I love how soft and chewy they turned out. The taro flour I got was 100% pure taro flour without other additives and it gave a really good scent of taro. This is really a game changer to me. It makes life so much easier and making this taro abacus beads is so much faster too. I had so much fun making these abacus beads.
You can see the purple tinge to the abacus beads, that’s because of the taro flour, but trust me…they still taste really good. I’m glad I tried to make them using the taro flour.
For the stir-fry:
- 4 large shiitake mushrooms soak in warm water for about 30 minutes or until soft
- 2 oz of dried shrimp soak in warm water until soft
- 2 Tbsp cooking oil
- 3 cloves garlic finely minced
- 3 stalks of green onions white part only, cut into 2-inch stalks
- 1 small bunch of yu choy or chinese broccoli trim off large stalks and cut into smaller pieces
- 4 oz pork loin thinly sliced
- 10 large shrimp peeled and deveined
- 4 Tbsp of soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tsp of sugar
- Pinch of salt
Taro abacus beads:
- Fried shallot crisp
- After the mushrooms are soft, cut off the stems of the mushrooms and thinly sliced. Set aside. Then chopped the pre-soaked dried shrimp. Set aside
Making the abacus beads:
- Prepare the taro abacus beads by placing taro flour, tapioca flour and small pinch of salt in a heat-proof mixing bowl. Stir to mix. Gradually add in the hot water and use a spoon to stir. It won't be thoroughly mixed. When the dough is not too hot to touch anymore, use your clean hands to knead it into a dough. If it's too sticky, you can add a little bit of tapioca flour until the dough comes together into a smooth dough and no longer sticky
- Divide the dough into 4 equal balls. Work with one ball at a time while keeping the rest covered, roll the ball into long log (about 1-inch in diameter). Then cut into 1- 1.5 inch pieces. Roll each piece into a smaller ball. To make the round ones, use the end of chopstick to make an indentation in the middle of the ball. To make a dis-like abacus, lightly flatten the ball with your palm, and then use your thumb to make an indentation in the middle of the disc. Continue with the rest of the dough until you are done
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a pinch of salt and 1 Tbsp of cooking oil. Add in the abacus beads and stir a little bit, so they won't stick to together. They will float to the top once they are cooked. You can fish one out and have a try, it should be soft and chewy. Remove from the heat and drain off the water. Gently rinse with cold water and drain. Toss with a little bit of oil to prevent them sticking to each other
- Preheat about 2 Tbsp of oil in a large wok or non-stick skillet. Add in the garlic and white part of the green onion and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add in the veggies and saute for about 30 seconds. Add in the dried shrimp and pork. Cook until the pork started to turn color, about 2 minutes. Add in the shrimp and cook for another 1 minute until they are pink. Add in the abacus beads followed by soy sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, and a pinch of salt. Stir to mix everything. Make sure the abacus beads are coated with the sauce. Have a taste and add more soy sauce if needed. Remove from the heat into serving platter and garnish with fried shallot crisp and serve immediately