Conquering Hakka Yam Abacus Seeds (Suan Pan Zi): Part One - FIGHT
More than twenty years have passed, It remains the most disturbing and traumatic horror film I have ever experienced, made worse because I watched it at the height of my formative years. Not even the Exorcist could have prepared me for the paralyzing fear that haunted me for ONE FULL YEAR after watching It on tv.
I would stare at sinkholes expectantly, almost steeling myself before a balloon pops up. My heart would beat so fast as I jumped in and out of the shower. Dark toilets still unnerve me, I admit, but I think I developed a new perspective that helped with combating this crippling feeling.
Psychologically, when you feel that you're being backed into a corner or when danger takes shape, it's either fight or flight for us. And more often than not, we will choose to Fight, because the primitive instinct in us is forcing us to fight to get out of that corner. I went against my good senses to watch the recent remake of It in the cinema.
It was then that I realised what Pennywise or Fear really is.
Fear feeds on our irrational anxieties, it cripples us, prevents us from taking any kinds of risks and worst of all, keeps us stagnant. It is a primitive defence mechanism but with the many tools and information that we have right now, it is slowly losing its relevance. In fact, fear that stagnates us is in fact working against us in these ever-evolving times.
If we don't change, don't take risks, don't keep up, we will most certainly be irrelevant, not wanted, not needed, not even exist in people's minds.
It is a known fact that Hakka Yam Abacus Seeds dish is very tedious to make.
I bought this yam here and left it in my kitchen for 3 days before I summoned all my strength and courage to attempt it. Truth be told, I was calculating the days before it may rot and was willing to throw it away rather than attempt the dish. Because, I thought, "What if it turns out shitty", "What if it doesn't taste like Granny's at all", "What if I let myself down".
And then, something in me turned, like how I spat out my disdain for Pennywise.
Q: What if it turns out shitty?
A: No one knows, who cares, take notes and move on.
Q: What if it doesn't taste like Granny's at all?
A: You are not Granny, you are your own person.
Q: What if I let myself down?
A: Then you fail this time. But if you don't try you will never know how to make this and that is the biggest failure of all.
And so, I decided to make it. Just like the Devil Curry, I poured my energy into two parts to arrest it. So today, I'm sharing how to prep the abacus seeds and the aromatics.
Cut the yam into thin slices and steam it. I use my microwave oven and set it to 20 mins. But you know it is done when you can poke through the flesh easily with a fork.
Add tapioca flour bit by bit into the yam. I like to use a fork to work through the flour and yam first because it's still quite hot out of the microwave oven. Also, add some oil, white pepper and salt to the mix, like how you would do to a chapati dough.
Keep mixing a bit of water (I use warm water) and flour until mixture becomes more bonded together, does not stick to the bowl and almost has a bounce to it. That is the consistency you want.
What is flour to yam to water ratio?
Forget it. Use your eyes and instinct. Don't put too much tapioca flour to the point of diluting the yam. Just keep adding bit by bit to achieve the doughey/bouncy consistency you want. Just like water. Just add in bit by bit until everything is bonded. That is the rule.
Up to this point, you will realise that this is incredibly easy.
Pull some dough about the size of a baseball out and start rolling it out, like this. Then pinch smaller ones and roll them in your palms until they become round.
Still very easy.
Use a chopstick end to press an indentation into the dough.
When your prep has finished, it will look like this.
My initial prep took me two hours plus, am not gonna lie. On my second attempt, I did it in less than an hour. All the slicing, soaking, marinating are so easy. (The julienned carrots was made easier with a slicer).
If you cook Indian food often, this is a walk in the park for you.
To cook the dough, just prepare hot boiling water.
Dunk all the abacus seeds into the bubbling water and when they float, it means they are done and ready for Part Deux!
The prep is essentially the hardest part of the dish. After that, it's just a matter of cooking the aromatics, meat and folding them all together.
So, do you go through the same anxieties like me when you cook? Let me know :)
Watch out for Part Deux, will be posting the recipe there.
See you in a bit and remember to Fight!