Shun Pun Tzi (Abacus Beads)

  Shun Pun Tzi – Yam Abacus Beads stir-fried with dried shrimp, squid and black wood fungus strips  

Shun Pun Tzi evokes memories of my popo’s (grandma’s) cooking. Her Hakka food rocks! Ah…There was a time when I equally hated and loved Sundays. Dreaded Sundays because it was the last day of the weekend before school on Monday and loved it because it’s dinner time at popo’s. Every Sunday, almost all my relatives from my mom side will gather at her place for dinner, and what seems like a simple spread of humble hakka dishes, represents a distinctly unique cuisine shaped by a tumultuous history. To read more about Hakka people and their cuisine, click (here)
Back to my popo, I have fond memories of her cooking, most are authentic hakka dishes and some adapted from local influences. I remember her steamed mince pork with eggs and salted duck eggs (drool), char yoke-pork belly marinated in fermented red bean curd which is then fried to a crisp and further stewed with black wood fungus and her Ngiong Thiew Foo (bean curd and other stuff-able veggies stuffed with fish paste and mince pork). I can talk about her cooking all day. 🙂     

 Now onto the abacus beads. They are named so because of their resemblance to the old-school calculator beads and consist of mashed up steamed yam or taro kneaded with tapioca flour/starch and then rolled into little balls with an indent in the middle. They are then dropped into boiling water and when cooked, will float to the surface, Once drained, they are tossed in the wok with mince pork, dried shrimp, squid, chinese mushrooms and black wood fungus strips. It is a very savoury and textural dish; the springyness of the abacus beads, the crunch of the wood fungus, the soft chinese mushrooms complemented with the saltiness of dried shrimp and squid. 

I thought of putting down my adaptation of the recipe but instead here’s a recipe link from a very popular food blogger Lily Wai Sek Hong.  She is absolutely fantastic and I can safely say her recipes are very trustworthy. But I made use of whatever I have in my pantry, therefore I did not follow her recipe to the tee, just a general guide for the yam to flour ratio which needs a little water to help form a dough. I cooked this sans meat as I did not have mince pork at the time but included the usual dried shrimp, squid and seasoning and  substituted chinese mushrooms with black wood fungus strips (soak before using-it will soften). For garnishing, a bit of coriander and fried shallots finish it off nicely.     

yam to be steamed

mashed yam

yam kneaded with tapioca flour

black wood fungus strips

floating abacus beads, meaning they're done

Clockwise from left: abacus beads, soaked black wood fungus, dried shrimp and squid, onions, garlic and spring onion in the middle

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