Recipe – Yam Abacus Seeds (算盘子)

February 07, 2014

Yam Abacus Seeds
Yam Abacus Seeds
Yam Abacus Seeds

Give me a round of applause please.

If you have eaten yam abacus seeds (suan pan zi, 算盘子) or know how to make them, you will know that it requires ALOT of manual labour and patience. Suan Pan Zi is a traditional Hakka dish that is usually eaten during festivals because signifies wealth.

I get to know this dish since young because my gu ma prepares them during CNY. She cooks Hakka dishes really really well! One day I must learn cooking from her. So anyway, after I became a journalist with my own cooking column in the newspaper, there has been requests from readers to share yam abacus seeds recipe. Thankfully, I found Huang Lao Shi from Jia Lei Confectionery & Training Centre. Not only did she teach me how to make suan pan zi, she subsequently also taught me many homecooked dishes which prepares me for my road to be a housewife. Haha!

I have added my own elements into the dish such as celery because I wanted the crunchiness. I don’t really dare to eat celery by itself so by adding it to the suan pan zi, it kinda helps to cover the taste and I enjoyed it very much. Of course, you can add and take away any ingredients which you don’t like.

The trick to make the abacus seeds is: DO IT WHILE IT’S HOT. The first time when I did it with Huang Lao Shi, I am like a small gu niang who has never entered kitchen more than 10 times. Kneading the abacus dough while it’s hot was really challenging for me then. But now, I think my hands are somehow immune of heat already so I do it pretty fast. Don’t try to do shortcut by putting it into a blender please, this dish must be made by hand.

So I got my aunty and cousin from China to help me roll the abacus seeds. Love this family togetherness! You have to do it fast because if the dough turns cold, rolling it into a ball becomes harder. If you see some weird shapes, that is done by my lil cousin -_-“

If you want your abacus seeds to be more QQ, you can probably increase the tapioca flour by a bit. The ones I made, I have increased it till 150g of tapioca flour because I want the QQ-ness. But bear in mind not to add too much because you may not be able to taste the yam anymore.

Verdict? The dish was a success and everyone had second helpings. 真赏脸!

Yam Abacus Seeds


Hakka Yam Abacus (客家算盘子)

Servings: 4
Author: Maureen
Abacus seed is a traditional Hakka dish that is usually eaten during festivals because signifies wealth. It is made using yam.


For yam abacus

  • 300 g yam cubed
  • 100 g tapioca flour
  • 60 g hot water

To stir fry Yam Abacus

  • 1 quantity of above ready yam abacus ~500g
  • 5 shallots minced
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 80 g dried shrimp soaked in water
  • 30 g dried cuttlefish
  • 40 g mushrooms soaked and cut into stripes
  • 40 g black fungus soaked and cut into stripes
  • 150 g pork cut into strips
  • 50 g leek cut into strips
  • some celery cut into small pieces
  • some red chilli cut into small pieces


  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 2 tsp fish sauce


To make yam abacus

  1. Steam the yam till soft, mash finely while hot.
  2. While yam still hot, add in tapioca flour and water. Knead till a pliable dough.
  3. Roll into long log and cut into small chunks.
  4. Roll the chunks in between your palms and roll round into balls.
  5. Use your chopsticks to poke a hole through each yam balls. Alternatively, use your index finger to make a indentation in the middle.
  6. Bring a pot of water to rolling boil. Drop in yam abacus balls and cook till it floats.
  7. Drain away hot water and rinse with cold tap water. Drizzle over some cooking oil to coat it evenly. Set aside. If you don't intend to use it immediately, you can put it in a zip lock bag and put it in freezer.

Stir Fry Yam Abacus

  1. Heat cooking oil in a wok, sauté shallots, garlic, dried shrimp till fragrant.
  2. Add in cuttlefish, mushrooms, blakc fungus, pork, leek and mix well.
  3. Add in yam abacus and seasonings. Add extra water if necessary.
  4. Add in red chilli and celery. Cook till mix well. Serve warm.