Monday, July 12, 2010

A-Z Food fun: Y for yam


In my Kwong Liang dialect, we call yam HU TOU. We eat them different ways, and there are different types and sizes. We eat the leaves and stems as well.
The Polynesians have some very big ones, and by the time they ship to Auckland, they are very expensive. They also eat their leaves. Often at parties and pot luck dinners, they will bring a big pot of boiled taro with corn beef, or leaves.
During the reunion dinner, I met S & R for the first time. S is a Foochow, E. is a Teo Chew. We started talking about Teo Chew food and the Teochew restaurants I have been. I was describing their famous teo Chew dessert ORH NEE. It's literally a glob or lump of white paste. Everyone just spoons froom the communal dish. S. explains that it is yam made with lard and ginko nuts. It is very sweet and you don't have to chew the paste. It is a dish that you have to get used to. But the Teo Chews like it, because when ever they have a function, they always serve it.
A friend brought some Yam fritters and some fried NIEN GAO. She sliced the NIEN GAO very thinly and sandwiched it between two thin slices of yam, then put in a batter of glutinious rice flour. This is a New Year goodie. For nostalgic reasons, and knowing how much work has been put into making it, I tried some. I don't normally like NIEN GAO, but I like yam. My friend K. back in Singapore knows this, and gives me raddish/daikon cakes instead.
When I was in primary school, the school tuck shop operator was a Foochow Family. They sold yam cakes or ORH KUEH. They were big slabs and we ate them with chilli sauce. years later, I was in Kuching, where there were mainly Hakkas like the water engineer. The yam cakes were dainty and I voted with my legs.
In my junior secondary school, my teacher Mrs. T taught us beef puffs with a yam pastry. I took some home and everyone liked it. Mum was very smart, and in no time, she learnt to make it. You can eat this at restaurants serving HU KOK during the Dim Sum.
In some restaurant, they have a yam basket. Thin strips of yam are sandwiched between two Chinese sieves, and deep fried. The result is like a basket or bird's nest. Fried veg and morsels of meat are served inside the basket.
Then for a sweet watery dessert, there is the Bobo Chacha. It's a concoction of tiny cubes of yam, sweet potatoes, sago pearls in coconut milk. I don't like this because it is very sweet and the coconut milk makes it very rich.
There is a smallish red yam which comes from China, and they eat it during the Moon cake festival. I first saw them in Singapore.
I actually prefer the yam boiled, and eaten with some salt and a little butter. My Grandpa used to grow them, he also had a smallish ones, but are brown and bigger than the China red ones.
***The yam here is what people in the West call Taro. In South Est Asia, they call it yam***
Another thing mother made was abacus, it was the 1st time I ate it and super nice, it was not like the abacus I see in Singapore. Maybe mother wasn't successful, hers was very spherical, but it was better than the sticky and chewy ones here. It is not easy to find it here, so every time I see it, I buy and I remember mother's. Grace

My dad didn't like Yam, it reminded him of when he was living under the Japanese War. There were no rice, and they had to eat yam, sweet potatoes and tapioca. When I tell him it like yam with butter and salt. He said," Wait till you have to eat them day in and day out without any salt or oil, then you will tell me that you still like it."

For more A-Z Food fun, visit Jen @
A-Z on Monday~~Letter W

Welcome to A-Z on Monday
where the alphabet gets tastier
every week!


Anonymous said...

A very interesting post Ann. What I call a yam is a reddish/orange sweet potato. I like to bake them and serve with a little butter.

Minerva said...

Interesting post, indeed! We used to know some people form the Philippines. They made a dish that was like an egg roll, but filled with yams. It was good. I think I've had Bobo Chacha from a Thai restaurant.
My Australian friend calls green peppers capsicum, too!
To answer your question..I stuff my peppers with a mixture of rice and meat, just like my mother did.

Ginny Hartzler said...

The orh nee sounds pretty bad, but the little baskets sound crunchy and very good. So your yams are taro and not the same thing as our yams? We have yams and sweet potatoes, and some people can't tell the difference, though they are different species.

Ben said...

I am sorry you joined us so late in the alphabet. Your posts are fascinating for someone like me who has only sampled "real" dim sum (in San Francisco) once in my life.

Connie said...

I learned a lot from this post, Ann. Very interesting. What we call yam is like a sweet potato. We cook it and serve it with melted butter and brown sugar. Happy Monday to you! :)

Jen said...

Happy Monday Ann
Very interesting.
Our Yams are different- I usually only have them at Thanksgiving, but lately we have been eating them more on a regular basis. They are good and good for you.

Cindy said...

Interesting post about food. I also love yam puff. Anyway, thanks for commenting on my blog.

The JR said...

I use sweet potato, but have never cooked yam.

Yam are not as common in the stores here. I could probably find some in the speciality market.

Flo de Sendai said...

"sato-imo" in Japanese, I like it too !
You eat them with butter ?! wow.....never tried....

betchai said...

i call the pictures "taro" and the yello/orange sweet potato "yam". i love both taro and yam, but like your father, i do not think i can eat them everyday just by themselves. i eat rice everyday, but i have something with rice :)

Kay L. Davies said...

The pink yams looked like hams until I enlarge the photo.
Yes, a very interesting post, Ann, and very educational.