Malaysian Monday (err..Tuesday) 30 : Yam “abacus” noodles

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Guess what? For one day only, the whole of Sydney exists in an alternate tine-zone where it’s actually still Monday.

Not buying it huh? Didn’t think so.

Real reason for this late post? Too much fun. The weekend weather was glorious and we headed out to enjoy it. Then yesterday flashed by in a blur as I raced to get everything organised before Mr. Kitchen Hand and I went off to listen to this dude sing.

 He can really sing! It was an amazing evening.

So here’s my belated post about some interesting noodles made from yam. They don’t really look like their long and thin counterparts, more like an abacus bead or to my mind, an erythrocyte.

I don’t actually remember ever eating these noodles outside the home. Mum would buy the par-cooked noodles from the markets and she’d fry them up for us. We called these noodles “or-ee” (or means yam, and ee describes the glutinous rice balls in a dessert dish). But as I tried to find out more about the noodles, I discovered that these are actually a Hakka delicacy known as Sohn Pan Tzai.

Then as I tried to find out how to explain what Hakka meant, I stumbled across this Wikipedia page which explains the distribution of various ethnic Chinese groups in Malaysia. As I read, I was quite tickled to find a reference to Chindians. Heh! We’ve got our own Wikipedia entry now, saves a lot of explaining ☺ (Sorry if this is all not quite making sense, but if you have the patience and inclination to wade through those pages, it will become clear).

Anyway, back to these noodles.

MC Junior helped with pressing in the middles

I am such a sucker for yam (taro), and ever since I discovered the presence of fresh taro in the nearby fruit and vegetable shop (greengrocer), I’ve been constantly thinking about ways to cook them.

A lot of my favourite childhood dishes featured this tuber. I really like the flavour of taro, it has a “nuttier” taste than potato and a bit of a “floury” texture that I find appealing. Others in the family don’t quite enjoy the textural quality as much (not naming any names here). 

With this in mind, I prepared the following dish on a night when Mr. Kitchen Hand had to work late, which meant he would get fed at the office. Alas, only Mini Critic Senior was game enough to eat her dinner, and I had to break my pristine “not preparing anything different for the kids” record for MC Junior. She has an issue with certain textures and struggles with beans and lentils, so these noodles put her off straightaway. Poor mite!

If  you’d like to try them, here’s how I did it:

Yam noodles/ or-ee
(I started out with vague emailed directions from mum, then halfway through, when I was wondering why the dough was feeling so dry, I googled, found this recipe and discovered that I had to add oil to the mix.)

3 cups cooked, mashed yam (taro) from about 2 medium sized yam– not to be confused with sweet potato. I steamed the yam to ensure it didn’t absorb too much moisture.
Scant 1 ½ cup tapioca flour
About 7 tablespoons cold water (depending on moisture content of yam)
Dash of sesame oil
Generous pinch of salt
Few glugs of vegetable oil (extimating a couple of tablespoons here)
Lot of water for boiling, and a bowl of cold water to plunge cooked noodles into.

Using your hands, mix all the ingredients together until a smooth dough is formed (must be done while the yam is still warm). My dough was cracking slightly but it still cooked up well. Pinch out and roll small balls of the dough, flatten slightly and use your thumb to make a depression in the centre (think gnocchi meets thumprint cookies). When all the dough is used up, bring a large pot of water to the boil, add a pinch of salt. When it has reached a rolling boil, drop handfuls of the noodles in. When the noodles float, let them boil for about half a minute or so (depends on thickness/size of noodles), then scoop them out with a slotted spoon and plunge into a bowl of cold water to stop it cooking.

Since I was going to use them immediately, I just placed the drained noodles in a bowl. If I remember correctly, the market vendors sold these noodles in tubs of water to keep them separated from one another (the tapioca flaour makes them sticky).

Use the noodles to make a stir-fry.

Here’s the recipe Mum emailed over:
Solid fried beancurd (Tau kwa)  - 2 cakes, sliced thinly (I forgot this)
Minced meat (chicken or pork) – I used about 200g of chicken mince
Dried prawns (2 tablespoons, wash and soak and  finely chopped) – pat dry with paper towel
Small onions (French eschallots) ( 8 to 9 ) – diced finely (I used half a large Spanish onion instead)
Dried shitake mushrooms (I used 4) - soaked and sliced thinly once softened
 Garlic - 2 tablespoons, chopped
 Parsley, Chinese celery (use regular if unavailable) and sliced chillies for garnish.
Dash of light soy sauce and dark soy sauce
Pepper to season

In a wok, fry the dried prawns in a little oil, then add in the onion, garlic and the mince. Stir-fry, adding a little water (about 3 or 4 tablespoons or so) and cover with the wok lid, it will help create steam and also “deglaze”’ the wok). Half way through, add the mushrooms. Keep cooking and stirring until the mince is well browned. Add the soy sauces, stir well then add the yam noodles and stir to coat with the sauce and heat through. I also added some pre-blanched and sliced baby bok choy to the dish. Check seasonings and adjust if needed.

Serve hot with the garnish.

(Makes enough for 3 or 4 portions, depending on size)

Have a great week ahead!


Anh said...

Cool! This is like Malaysian gnocchi! :) I like the idea!

3 hungry tummies said...

Oh Poh's savior! This is one of my favourite Hakka dish! Glad you have been enjoying your weekend!

Barbara said...

And I always thought a yam was a sweet potato! I guess it's more like taro than sweet potato. Certainly in color.
Nice recipe, Shaz, and an informative post as usual!

Hungry Dog said...

I would love to try these! I'm too lazy to make them myself but as usual I find myself wishing we lived closer so I could sample your amazing malaysian food. Oh well, I'll have to settle for your wonderful posts! Great week to you too :)

Stella said...

Hey Shaz, they look more like a dumpling to me than a noodle. Either way, looks delicious all done up in that bottom photo.
Is that Julia Robert's ex husband???

grace said...

lyle lovett, eh? i can safely say that i'm not attracted to him in the slightest. :)
excellent and informative post, shaz--seems like something i'd really enjoy!

MaryMoh said...

It looks like fun to make and very delicious. I miss this. Have to make one of these days.

Heavenly Housewife said...

Fantastic post. It looks very exotic. I'd love to try these sometime.
*kisses* HH

The Cooking Photographer said...

Hi Shaz,

I think too much fun is a great excuse!! I wish I was close enough you could invite me to dinner sometime. I would love to try this one, but it would be nice if a friend made it lol.


msmeanie said...

Wow, what an interesting recipe. I love yams, so I bet these would really good!

shaz said...

Anh - yes, like gnocchi but chewier :)

3 hungry tummies - thanks :)

Barbara - I never realised that in other parts of the world yams were called sweet potato so I was always a bit confused at recipes for baked yams that were bright orange!

Hungry Dog - I do hope one day we will actually get to share a bit together :)

Stella - yup, Julia's ex, and now that you mention it, they do look very dumpling like. We just happen to call them noodles at home.

grace - ha ha Grace, I think I can safely say that too, but boy can he croon.

MaryMoh - I was surprised that it was actually quite easy to make

Heavenly Housewife - thanks darling

The Cooking Photographer - I often feel that way about recipes. It'd be great if someone else cooked it for me ;P

msmeanie - yay, fellow yam afficionado.