Vegan Hakka Abacus Seeds (算盘子)

Yields: 2 Servings Difficulty: Easy Prep Time: 40 Mins Cook Time: 20 Mins Total Time: 1 Hr

One of the most fun things about living in Singapore is the melting pot of cultures and cuisines. A great number of regional Chinese descendants squashed into a 724 km2 island means we get to enjoy otherwise obscure food like vegan Hakka abacus seeds. Even some of my friends from China had never heard of this!

While in Singapore we would usually use the creamier Thai white yams, I was sold by the amazing purple ube in the market. Ube is the magical purple yam that is very popular in the Philippines. Ube is usually used for desserts, so I thought it would be interesting to use it in a savoury dish. If you cannot find ube or yam in your area, feel free to use sweet potato. Just adjust the amount of water for the dough accordingly, as every tuber is unique.

Abacus seeds are best described by the Chinese colloquial term “Q“. They are chewy, springy, and have a nice bite to the teeth. Basically, they are like Asian gnocchi. They are super filling, so don’t get fooled by the seemingly small portion.

In this vegan Hakka abacus seeds stir-fry, I used mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and vegan ham. If you don’t have access to those, you can always use carrots, tofu strips, minced protein, or black fungus.

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0/16 Ingredients
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0/12 Instructions
    Making the Abacus Seeds
  • Slice the yam and steam for 30 minutes until soft. If you have extra energy you can actually shred the yam which will result in a finer texture later.
  • Mash the yam. If it is not as fine as you like, you can smoosh it through a sieve and remove the hard bits. I just leave them because I like the different textures.
  • Add tapioca starch to the mashed yam while it's hot. Add warm water gradually until you get a nice dough consistency, i.e. smooth and not sticky.
  • Make the abacus seeds by rolling a small amount of dough into a ball and making a dent in the centre.
  • Very nice!
  • Boil a large pot of water and cook the abacus seeds gently until they float to the top. Drain, rinse in cold water, and set aside.
  • Completing the Dish
  • Separate the mushroom stems and caps. Julienne everything.
  • Heat 2 tbsp of oil over medium-high heat in a non-stick pan. Fry the ginger and mushroom stems.
  • Add the bamboo shoots and vegan ham and Chinese cooking wine. Toss for a minute or two.
  • Add the abacus seeds, vegan oyster sauce, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Toss to mix well.
  • Add the red bell pepper, spring onions, and white pepper. Toss to mix well.
  • Serve hot!

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