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Saturday, December 7, 2013

Yam gnocchi / Hakka abacus seeds

Tiny abacus seeds justifies for a second bowl

No fry Hakka abacus seeds
Abacus seed gnocchi is an iconic Hakka dish which every bonafide Hakka cook knows how to make.   

Had it not been for a friend who missed his mother’s Hakka abacus seed dish, I would never have attempted it. I am glad I did because I was first time successful.

Yam gnocchi or abacus seed is a challenge to make because commercially available ones tend to be overly chewy and devoid of the taste of yam.  There is a delicate balance between tapioca starch and yam. Too little yam will cause the gnocchi to disintegrate in the boiling water and too much of the starch will produce an indigestion inducing chewy mass.

To save the extra gnocchi, freeze them for the next meal. To eat , cook the frozen gnocchi in boiling water until it floats. Like most yummy home cooked food, serve immediately.

It is a challenge to strike a balance between tapioca and yam. Tapioca holds the structure together but too much causes cracks.

Gnocchi :

( 7.12 :1 ratio of yam : tapioca starch ) i.e.
470g yam, steamed + 66 g tapioca starch
pinch of salt flakes

Meat :

1 Tbsp dried shrimps, 2 Tbsp shallots, 250g minced pork, 1 handful of sliced shitake mushrooms, 1 Tbsp oyster sauce

Method :

Cut the yam to strips and steam the yam until it is soft and easy to mash.

While the mashed yam is still hot, sprinkle in the tapioca starch, a handful at a time and knead until it forms a pliable dough.

Yam dough is ready for the next stage when the kneaded yam dough can be pinched without cracking and does not stick to the fingers.

Roll out the dough to ropes and cut off dough to make small balls. Depress the center of the ball.

Set aside to cool and dry out.

Meat filling :

Heat up enough olive oil to fry shallots, shrimps until fragrant.

Add minced pork and mushroom. Fry and season with oyster sauce. Add the shitake soaking liquid if any. Cook well.

Set aside until the gnocchi is ready to be cooked.

Assembly :

Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Add 1 Tbsp of salt and 3-5 Tbsp of oil.

Cook the yam gnocchi until it floats. 

Immediately remove the gnocchi with  a slotted spoon.

Drain and transfer the gnocchi to the meat fillings.

If using snap peas or other vegetables, blanch it with the hot water. Drain and toss with the meat.

Garnish with shallots and greens. Serve immediately.


  1. I love this Hakka dish very much! Somehow, it is very comforting eating this dish. Yum!

  2. I never thought of it as gnocchi for some reason but I guess it is a type of gnocchi! Love the addition of peas to the dish!

  3. I love to try out this dish but it does entail quite a fair bit of work,,,, so will have to look at your post constantly to gather up courage :)

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