These Hakka Taro (Yam) Abacus seeds or 算盘子 (Suànpán zǐ) have an amazing chewy texture. You’ll only need 2 ingredients to make it – taro and tapioca flour.
What is Hakka Taro or Yam Abacus Seeds?
Hakka Taro (Yam) Abacus Seeds are one of the many traditional Hakka dishes that are often served during celebrations, signifying wealth.
An Abacus is a non-electronic mathematical calculator and was used to count money. So, when you send someone an Abacus, you are sending wishes that he or she has money to count, ensuring their wealth. Aside from the dish’s special meaning, I love this dish because of the chewy QQ texture of these seeds. I keep saying seeds, but it’s actually pasta.
The method to make this ‘pasta’ is very similar to gnocchi, only needing minor amounts of flour so that you can taste the taro’s flavor in each bite. I learned this recipe from my aunt who makes the best Hakka dishes.
Traditionally, these are paired with meat and dried shrimps, but I made it vegan with flavorful tofu and crunchy mushrooms such as wood ear and dried Shiitake.
Because you’ll need to make everything from scratch, this dish is a time-consuming one but I have modified some steps so that anyone can make this easier. Let’s check it out.
How to make Hakka Taro or Yam Abacus Seeds
Normally, taro is cut into cubes and steamed until it’s tender. I modified it a little so that you can boil it instead of steaming it.
This method cuts down the cooking time, but you’ll have to make sure the water added is not too much but just enough to cook the taro.
Add just enough water to cook the taro as too much water will tame down the taro’s taste. Once the taro is soft, remove it from the heat.
Mash the taro while it’s hot, then add the tapioca flour/starch to combine them.
Once they are cool to touch, knead into a soft dough. If you feel some harder or larger taro bits, pinch with your fingers to mash it. The dough should be soft so that you are able to form into a small ball.
Take a pinch of dough, roll into a ball, then pinch the middle to make a dent with your index finger and thumb.
To cook the taro abacus seeds, bring a pot of water to boil. Then, add them in and cook until they float to the top.
Remove and rinse them in cold water. Drain and add a drizzle of oil to prevent them from sticking together.
Heat a non-stick pan, sauté shallots until they’re translucent. Add mushrooms and continue to stir fry until fragrant, then add in the rest of the ingredients and seasoning. If you need a homemade vegan ‘oyster’ sauce, please check out my easy Vegan Stir-Fry sauce recipe.
Add the cooked taro abacus seeds and toss all the ingredients until well combined. Taste test and season. Garnish with chopped green onions and cilantro.
Hakka Taro or Yam Abacus Seeds Cooking Tips
Wear a glove while handling taro as some sap may make your hand itchy. I haven’t had this experience with the taro here, but it’s a good precaution to wear gloves
Steaming vs Boiling the Taro – Most recipes call for steaming the taro -which is the best way to retain the taro’s flavor. You will add the liquid later while kneading it into a dough.
My recipe calls for just enough water to cook the taro to keep the flavor and does not need any additional liquid while kneading the dough. So, pick your favorite way of cooking the taro.
My Abacus seeds keep breaking apart when I roll them into balls – This means the dough is too dry. You can either add more water and knead again or wet your hands when you try to form them into balls.
I can’t taste the taro flavor – Each taro is different, so pick one that is heavy in weight. Also, if you are using the boiling method to cook the taro, please only add enough water to cover the taro. Too much water will dilute the taro’s taste.
Storage tips – Once you’ve cooked the abacus seeds and rinsed them with cold water, drain and rub them with a drizzle of oil. Refrigerate for up to 3 days and warm them up again in boiling water before mixing in the pairing ingredients.
These Hakka Taro (Yam) Abacus Seeds are
- Chewy with QQ texture
- Easy to make
- Super flavorful
- and TASTY!
If you try this recipe, I would love to hear your feedback and see your beautiful re-creation. Leave me a comment, rate it, and tag @woon.heng and #woonheng to your photos on Instagram or Facebook. Happy cooking, friends!
Hakka Taro (Yam) Abacus Seeds – 客家算盘子
Taro Abacus Seeds Dough
- 250 g taro
- 125 g tapioca starch
- pinch of salt
- water to cook the taro
Toppings and Seasoning
- 4 oz firm tofu mashed
- ¼ cup chopped shallots
- 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
- ¼ cup sliced mushrooms
- ¼ cup sliced wood ear mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon vegan ‘oyster’ sauce
- 1 tablespoon gluten-free soy sauce or to taste
- 3 stalks of green onion white and green parts separated
- a handful of chopped cilantro
- ½ cup water or veggie stock
- white pepper
How to prepare the Taro Abacus Seeds
- Remove the outer layer skin until you still the white flesh with purple specks.
- Cut into smaller cubes and place them in a small pot.
- Add enough water to cover the taro, bring it to a rolling boil, then cook the taro until it's tender.
- Transfer cooked taro cubes into a bowl (if it has too much moisture, drain out some of the water).
- Mash taro with a potato masher until it turns into a fine paste. Season with white pepper and a pinch of salt.
- Gradually add in the tapioca flour and mix it well with a spatula. Once it's cool to handle, knead the mixture into a soft dough.
- To make the taro abacus seeds, pinch about a teaspoon of dough and roll it into a ball.
- Then, using your thumb and index finger, pinch the middle of the ball to make a dent. Continue until you are done with all the dough. Cover the taro pasta to prevent them from drying out.
How to cook and serve
- To cook the taro abacus, bring a pot of water to a rolling boil.
- Add in the taro pasta and cook until they float to the top. Using a sieve, strain and transfer to a bowl of cold water.
- Then, drain and place taro pasta on a cleaned plate and rub them with a drizzle of oil. Set aside or store in the fridge until ready to use.
- Heat a non-stick pan with oil and sauté shallots until they turn translucent. Then, add in the mushrooms and cook until fragrant.
- Push the ingredients to the side of the pan and add in the tofu (add more oil if needed) and sauté tofu until golden brown.
- Add the wood ear mushrooms, garlic, white part of green onions, seasoning and water. Bring the mixture to boil and cook for 30 seconds.
- Add the taro abacus seeds and toss to mix all ingredients together. Taste test and season accordingly. You can add a drizzle of dark soy sauce for color if preferred.
- Garnish with chopped cilantro and green onions. Serve warm.
Hey thanks for the recipe! It’s crazy, I was looking for taro recipes and I came across this one which is exactly like a recipe from my homeland country Poland, except that we use potatoes and potato starch. Google “kluski ślaskie” and u’ll be surprise how similar they are! Have a great day:)
Great recipe and super easy to follow! I grew up thinking that this dish was super complicated and beyond the reach of the normal home cook. It was also sad because my grandmother used to make it but nobody in the family learned it from her. Thank you so much, Woon Heng!
I’m making this for my mother-in-law as she’s Taiwanese Hakka. As a westerner I’m super nervous about getting it right but hopefully with your great recipe it should be ok. 🙂 I’ll reply back to this message once I’ve made it and also let you know if she liked it.
Hello Danielle, yay! I’m so excited, thank you so much. I hope she likes it 🙂 Best, WoonHeng
Can these be frozen?
Hello Ellie, you can freeze them after you cook the abacus seeds before mixing the sauce. I do recommend that you consume it after you make it for freshness. 🙂 Let me know if you need anything else.
Hi! Is there a substitute I can you use for tapioca starch? And would the measurements be the same?
Sorry i think i accidentally replied to a comment 😅
Taro is hard to locate locally for me. Sweet potatoes ok?
Hello Jackie, yes, you can, it will be like sweet potato gnocchi instead and will taste equally great. Thanks for checking. Best, WoonHeng
This was AMAZING. I did end up using slightly less tapioca flour (maybe 20% less), not sure how the taste would have differed with a lil more tapioca. I made an IBS-friendly version for my sister and a normal version for myself and 2 other people and we all loved it; will DEFINITELY try this again. Thank you!
Yay, thanks so much Vanessa. I’m so happy to hear you loved it and the more tapioca starch the chewier it is but will have less taro taste. So, normally just add enough to bind them together. Your sister and friends are lucky to have you. 🙂 Thanks again and hope you get to try other recipes soon. Best, WoonHeng
Hi! Is there a substitute I can you use for tapioca starch? And would the measurements be the same?
Hey Zohra, that’s a great question. You can use arrowroot or cornstarch and the measurement would be very similar as the starches binding properties is different. Add enough to form it into a soft ball. Hope that helps. Best, WoonHeng
Yes! Thank you 🙂
JULIA B FISCHER
Thank you for this recipe!! It was really well written including the tips, and it tasted delicious!! It was unlike anything else I’ve made or eaten. I didn’t have a scale so just used half the amount of tapioca flour to taro – I had 3C mashed cooked taro and 1.5 C tapioca flour – it was enough to serve 4-5 people and I made extra toppings. Even my 1 yr old loved it. It took me longer to make than the recipe said, but sooo good! Thanks!
Thanks so much for your wonderful and so glad to hear that your kiddo loved it too. yay!! Thanks for taking your time to share with us your ratio, I know many readers will benefit from this tip. Have a beautiful day. Best, WoonHeng
Praying for you and thanking you for your continued writing that blesses the reader. The Lord is using you in a mighty way. Valentina Town Bowie
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