Recipe for Hakka Abacus seeds or Chinese yam coins stir fry

I attended the Penang Food Blogger third gathering and was bowled over with a simple, Hakka dish brought by one of the food blogger, Min. It got me thinking of the dish so I decided to do it myself!

hakka abacus seeds

Hah! Nothing a Hainanese woman cannot achieve. First, I called up my eldest sister-in-law, who is my hubby’s eldest sister. They are Hakka and I thought she sure know how to do it. But she hasn’t even heard of this dish! She told me their grandmother cooks mostly Malaysian flavoured nyonya dishes.

So, I Googled and figured out the recipe myself. I steamed the yam and mashed it. Then, I discovered I have ran out of tapioca flour. But have no fear, I got plenty of tang meen fun and corn flour. I substitute the tapioca flour and actually ended up with very nice texture. I guess tapioca flour alone would make the yam coins or abacus seeds rather slimy. Using corn flour and tang meen fun makes the yam still rather floury.

mashed yam
(steaming the yam is better than boiling it as it doesn’t absorb water so much. Leave the yam to cool and dry first before mashing)

Remember that I am making this yam coins based on my cooking instinct and may not be the traditional Hakka recipe. Here’s what I do :

Steam 300 grams of yams and mash it. Cutting the yam into tiny pieces will make it cook faster.

In another bowl, put in about 200 grams of tapioca flour. (in my case, I used 50 grams tang meen fun and 150 grams corn flour)

Half a cup of boiling hot water. Pour the hot water into the flour to partially cook it. Using a wooden mixing spoon, mix the flour and hot water into a ball. When cool enough to use your hands, knead the mashed yam with the ball of flour.

I added a pinch of salt, pepper and five spice powder to make the yam coins more flavourful.

When you get a nice, smooth ball of dough, roll them into oblong pieces. Just add more flour or water to get a nice ball of dough. It is hard to judge the quantity as some yams are more floury while others are watery.

yam coins
(actually, after making potato gnocchi, this is easy peasy. I call this yam gnocchi, pronounced no-ki)

Make long strands of the dough, cut into tiny pieces and use your finger to press a bit. Imagine what a Chinese abacus seeds are like? Just about that size.

Boil a big pot of water and throw in the yam coins. Let them boil till they float up. Transfer into a big bowl of tepid water (room temperature water).


minced pork

(the ingredients mentioned below)

Stir fry recipe

Based on what I ate at the food bloggers’ gathering, I added these to stir fry.

200 grams of minced pork, flavoured with some soya sauce, pepper and bit of corn flour

Black fungus (better to use the hardy type but I don’t have them so I use the small ears)

Stalk of Chinese celery and spring onion, cut into inch long. Chinese celery is mandatory to give the flavour.

Fist full of dried shrimps

Tiny fist full of dried squids, Jiu hoo see (the tiny strands?)

Garlic – chopped


Flavourings like some fish sauce, pepper and salt if required


1. Heat oil and stir fry the squid and dried shrimps till they are crackling and crispy
2. Add in garlic and continue stir frying
3. Add minced pork and Chinese celery
4. Add black fungus
5. Stir fry them well
6. Gently put in the yam coins and gently mix well and heat through. You need to be gentle to avoid the yam disintegrating as I have used more yam than flour to give the Hakka abacus seeds more flavour.


hakka abacus

My Hakka hubby and Hakka sons loved the dish. So, yay! Hainanese woman won the award for stealing a Hakka recipe and making it so tasty. Next time, I am going to make them in big batches and feed them to my four Hakka sisters-in-laws and trot around proudly because Hainanese women are good cooks. Hehehe.

If you are a Hakka, can you share the real Hakka recipe with me? I have been looking around and get various versions so I do not know which to follow.

Post Author: lilian

Used to be PenangFaces, now known as Food Haven, for all oink-oink foods

12 thoughts on “Recipe for Hakka Abacus seeds or Chinese yam coins stir fry


    (December 10, 2008 - 1:40 am)

    haha, cool!! i m a hakka and i m so glad u tried some cool hakka dishes out. i think i wanna go bk to kampung when i can find time off…hehe. good on u!!!!!

    […] is so pleased her Hainanese blood with excellent cooking skill has enabled her to make the awesome Hakka dish ‘Suan Pan Zhi’ (Hakka Abacus) while her four Hakka sisters-in-law have not heard of this […]

    ck lam

    (December 11, 2008 - 10:38 am)

    Wow…you are super fast…can cook up this dish just after a few days from the gathering.

    Looks delicious, hope we get to taste your dish next time around.


    (December 13, 2008 - 1:41 pm)

    wow! look delicious! :drool:


    (December 13, 2008 - 4:01 pm)

    my pho pho used to make these for me, so nostalgic!

    […] my own Hakka Abacus and I think it is much nicer than this plate which costs RM10. You can find my Hakka Abacus recipe from my other food blog. The one from Hakka Connexion has way too much leeks and poor me had to […]

    Sweet Jasmine

    (December 13, 2008 - 8:21 pm)

    I have eaten this dish many years ago cook by a hakka friend. It is very delicious. I have a recipe of this dish in one of my cookbook collection. Will try to cook it next time.


    (December 15, 2008 - 11:44 pm)

    This is the dry version, but I still prefer the soup type. We usually take it during special occasions @ home. I’m a hakka too


    (December 18, 2008 - 3:21 am)

    I think you did a great job, figuring out the recipe and then cooking it. Very impressive! And I love the way you document everything.


    (January 4, 2009 - 4:06 am)

    OMG!I love love love this dish but I prefer it stir fry with dark soy sauce with minced pork,mushroom,spring onions,not leeks =P

    My grandma used to mash the yam with her hand while it’s hot O.O


    (December 7, 2009 - 10:09 pm)

    It sound great! But you still need to add slice mushroom,small prawn and dry beancurd and little black soya source to mix the colour darker!For it to look great you might put on some slice red chilli and fry scallots


    (April 3, 2010 - 3:08 pm)

    Hi there! A bona fide Hakka recipe for this dish here. I recently learned it from the Hakka matriarch on my Dad’s side of the family, so thought to share with you!

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