Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Yam or Taro Cake

A long time ago, food was scarce in Sibu and the frugal Foochows tried to be self sufficient all the time. All cash earned had to be saved for the rainy day. Housewives tried their best to plant all the vegetables they needed.

Life was simple and every one had enough to eat at least. Only the lazy did not have anything to eat.

It was often considered important to plant some taro at all times. Taro fetched a lot of money. I remember an uncle who had a garden full of them. One plant was able to bring him at least 20 dollars. He was delighted by the productivity of his taro farm.

Whenever I went to visit my grandmother I would enjoy the taro soup, the mashed taro and dried prawn (before the days of mashed potatoes), and the taro kuih.

Thus, from those early days, came one of the most interesting kuih or snacks - the Yam Cake or Wuoh Kuih. Yam is a root vegetable which comes from below the elephant ear like leaves. The best yam or taro is the "bin long" taro which has very intricate purplish streaks.

Any other type would be the secondary types and would be hard to cook and hard to soften in the mouth.

To make the best taro cake, one has to use the bin long wuoh or bin long taro. Be very choosy here.

The Taro cake is really delicious. Some like to have it as it is fresh from the steamer, but some of us may like to stir-fry it with some egg and spice it up with some chillies. Have your pick.

Ingredients (Non - halal):

1 medium sized yam or taro
200g rice flour
80g non-glutinous (gluten-free) wheat flour
2 1/2 cups of water
a few pieces of deep fried pork fat, chopped into small pieces
3 tbsp dried shrimp, rinsed & soaked in half a cup of water

4 tablespoons vegetable/olive oil
2 tablespoons fried onion (sliced & deep fried before hand)
1 teaspoon fried sesame seed
A handful of chopped spring onion (green bit)
2-3 sprigs of coriander, roughly chopped
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1/2 teaspoon sea salt


Peel the yam, cut into 1cm cubes & soak in water.

Strain mushrooms and dried shrimps, & cut into small bits (about 0.5cm). Leave it aside. Keep the remaining water used for soaking both ingredients.

Mix rice flour & wheat flour with water, & stir into a smooth paste.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a saucepan, shallow fry mushroom, dried shrimp, for 2-3 minutes. Strain, remove & keep aside.

In the same saucepan, roughly stir-fry the cubed yam. Add in sea salt, vegetable stock, & the water used for soakingdried shrimps. Reduce heat to medium & bring to a boil with the cover on.

Stir in flour mixture paste & mix well. Add in the dried shrimp, & sausage cubes, followed by the remaining vegetable oil. Stir constantly till the mixture turns into a thick paste.

Transfer thick paste mixture into a greased baking tray (about 6cm depth), & level the surface with a flat wooden spoon.

Steam it over high heat for about 45-50 minutes. Poke a thin bamboo stick (or do it as you would normally to a sponge cake) through the rice cake. If there is sticky flour paste on the stick, then you can further steam it for another 3-5 minutes.

Sprinkle the fried onion, fried sesame seeds, chopped coriander & spring onion. Cut into desired size & serve with some sprinkle of sesame oil & light soya sauce.

Enjoy the feast and remember the hardships our forebears had gone through!!

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