Hakka Abacus seeds (or Suan Pan Zi) is one of my favourite dishes…I like it for it’s yam and chewy texture. But it’s not so commonly available like say the char kway teow or laksa, ..almost like an “endangered” dish, as far as food courts are concerned. So during one of rainy weekends when outdoor plans were scuttled… my wifey suggested making Suan Pan Zi. I voted in favour and within an hour or so, after a quick grocery trip, my family was enjoying a plate of steaming hot Hakka tradition… Was it difficult to prepare ? A definite “No!”… but as in any blissful culinary adventure…the secret lies in getting the “Mise en place” (ingredients and preparation) right.

So here’s the recipe ..and pictorial step by step….

Ingredients: (serves 3-4)

Yam (300gm)
Tapioca flour (150gm)
Warm water (60-100ml)
Dried mushrooms ( 5-6 nos.)
Dried ear fungus (1/2 cup)
Dried shrimps (80gm)
Dried cuttlefish (30gm)
Lean pork (150gm, julienned)
Spring onion & Chilli (for garnishing)
Garlic (minced, 10-15gm)

Salt (1/2-1 teaspoon, to taste)
Pepper (1-2 teaspoon)
Fish sauce (2-3 teaspoon)


1) Gather all mise-en-place – Pre-soak all dried ingredients. De-stem mushrooms, cut into thin strips (cuttlefish & ear fungus too).


Yam & Tapioca Flour.


2) Yam cut into med-sized cubes.


3) Steam yam till soft..


4) Prepare 150gm of Tapioca Flour.


5) Mash steamed yam finely (while still hot)…


6) Add the 60-90ml warm water gradually….fold into the yam+flour mixture.


7) Add flour to mashed yam and warm water….mix well, fold & knead till it becomes a dough and not sticky to touch (this step is the most difficult part of this dish).


8) Roll into thick roll, and cut into even portion,…dust cutting board with flour to prevent sticking.


9) Roll into 20 cents size, poke hole in centre …right through (aids in cooking the abacus well)


Just like this….almost there….


Prepare all abacus in one go…Cover the the rest of the dough with damp cloth to minimise drying out..


10) Heat up water to boiling then reduce to a simmer…add a little veg oil…gently slide in the abacus..once it floats, it’s ready to be scooped up


11) Drop cooked abacus into cold water.


12) Fry the garlic till fragrance, add shrimps,…do the same, then pork and seasoning…then add the rest of ingredients…saute for 8-10mins over medium fire.


13) Adjust taste of ingredients…then add in the abacus…


Finally ! Garnish with spring onion & chilli, pepper…served with chilli sauce (optional, for lover of spicy food) …Bon Appetit !

There you have it… traditional Hakka abacus seeds…have fun preparing it ,enjoy the family bonding session and the feast thereafter (^__^)//