Mention Lui Cha and most Malaysians know – yes, that popular Hakka vegetarian dish cooked with vegetable, beans and garlic. It is normally served in a green tea-based soup and is not just a dish but a whole meal as it contains all the nutrients of a meal. A good lui char is one of the hallmarks of Hakka cooking and the preparation can be time consuming as a lot of different vegetables and ingredients have to be finely chopped before it is served.
Perhaps less well known is the Hakka Abacus noodles/beads. The reason why it is named as such is because it resembles the Abacus wooden beads, used in the days of yore, for accounting and calculating, much like how one would use a calculator or their mobile phones these days.
Hakka Marble, a.k.a. Hakka Abacus Noodles
The Hakka Abacus noodles, or known in Chinese as “suan pan ji” is also considered another one of the hallmarks of good Hakka cooking as it is made by hand, is time consuming and looks really pretty once it is done and served on the plate. The Abacus noodles are by far the most esthetically pleasing looking of the noodles.
The mere fact that its production is labor intensive, the abacus noodles are usually reserved for household consumption. Occasionally you will find it at a street-side food stall but never in large quantities. Chinese restaurants shy away from this dish because it doesn’t make economic sense to sell it. However, a restaurant has been serving the Hakka Abacus successfully for several years now, giving the recipe an unusual twist and calling their signature dish, the Hakka Marble.
Chefs heating it up in the ‘live station’ kitchen
Cumi likes to call the abacus beads the Chinese equivalent of the Italian gnocchi! The texture is pretty similar, but the taste differs a little. At this restaurant, the dough is made from a mixture of pumpkin (giving the beads that gorgeous orange color) instead of the traditional yam/taro root (which lends a pale purple color), and tapioca flour. It is then rolled long and by hand, little sections are broken off, and the thumb is used to place the depression right in the centre of that little disc of dough. The beads of dough is then boiled till it floats before being drained and then stir fried with minced pork, Chinese mushrooms, black wood fungus, tiny thin squares of cuttlefish, chopped coriander and spring onions. The process is tedious and must be done by hand, and each abacus bead or ‘marble’ must be perfectly symmetrical – that’s the cook’s true skill in making this Hakka noodles. Also the other added ingredients need to be cut down to size, so that they all harmoniously add flavour to the dish. Here you see the man laboriously cutting down the cuttle fish to size – square symmetrical pieces that will later imbibe the sauces and add flavour to the fabulous tasting Hakka Marble.
cuttle fish cutter!
These cute round Hakka Marbles have a nice chewy bite not unlike that of gnocchi, and the shape helps to catch the flavorful sauces and mince in the center of the depression. Totally addictive and definitely the pièce de résistance at this shop.
Hakka Marble.. ready to go
The restaurant focuses only on noodle dishes therefore diners can order their favourites such as the Lor Mee, Fried Hokkien Mee, and Cantonese Fried Noodles. Another unusual dish here is the Fried Assam Laksa Tapioca Noodles. I loved the fried assam laksa but felt it lacked the strong flavor and sharp sourness distinctive to the traditional broth dish. It could also have done with more of the pungent ginger flower/bunga kantan as well. The restaurant owner later mentioned that the chef had to tone down the Fried Assam Laksa flavors as most diners didn’t enjoy the strong taste, but we could always request for the ‘extra kick’ in our future orders. We ended up improvising, and adding vinegar to the Assam Laksa! The vinegar served on all the tables at this shop is a good quality vinegar from China – not too sour and with a lovely aroma.
Also, I did not enjoy our other order of Fried Hokkien Mee as much, as I found it lacked wok-hei (smoky aroma from frying in the wok).
the fried assam laksa.. check out the prawn sashimi!
we added the vinegar that’s actually used for the Lor Mee broth, to heighten the sourness of the assam laksa!
Tossing it all up with vinegar, we created a punchier tasting fried assam laksa
not terribly exciting hokkien mee
Yes, the Hakka Marble is definitely the highlight of this dinner experience. We highly recommend you visit this restaurant for these chewy, delectable morsels of their Abacus Noodles.
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Restoran Hakka Marble
Taman Bukit Anggerik,
56000 Kuala Lumpur GPS : 3.057984,101.748144 Business hours start from 3pm. Closed on Tuesdays.