Sunday, February 20, 2011

scenic sunday: Taro/yam

On the 15th of the Lunar New Year, the Chinese like to eat yam. I asked my older and wiser siblings if they knew the history to it.

y sister Elizabeth: The Chinese people likes anything fa fa fa. U plant 1 stem of yam it will multiply very fast. Fa sounds like prosperous.

My brother Charles: Becos Yam can be kept for more then 6 months it is important staple food especially if the usual growing season pattern is severely disrupted by unusual seasonal factors

I just like to eat it once in a while, but I don't like preparing it as the sap can make you itch. I don't serve it because the rest of the family don't like it and don't adhere to Chinese values.


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.
Yesterday, J brought some Yam fritters and some fried NIEN GAO. J 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


Ginny Hartzler said...

I only know abacus as an ancient oriental counting instrument! I had no idea there were so many different kinds of yams! In fact I thought there was just one kind, the orange kind. People here get them confused with sweet potatoes because they look alike but they are not even in the same family. I'm glad you showed the pictures so I can see how different they are! Oh, I think a bridge post below that I missed, I'm heaing there now!

Judy said...

People here use the name yam and sweet potato interchangeably, and neither looks like your photos. My mother is not good at cooking it, so I have no idea where I learned to cook it. I prefer it baked, just scrub the skin and put it in the oven, on a baking sheet, as the sweetness drips out. Then just add a bit of butter, and eat it. They say that yams are better than white potatoes for people with diabetes, because the yams take longer to digest.
You asked whether the stems of the forsythia could be rooted after forcing them in the house - yes, I imagine they can. I do not prune the big bush outside, and where the branches touch the ground, they are likely to root. I have shared them with people, too.

lina@home sweet home said...

I guess we call it 'talas' here.
We prefer to slice it into french fries size, add salt and then fry it. Crispy!

Unknown said...

Interesting post. The Chinese do a lot with Yam. I am not fond of Yam except in Bono Chacha and fried with Nien Gao.