Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Woo Ha .... It literally translates as Taro Prawns. A Cantonese Chinese New Year Treat.
Is it almost extinct here? Is it so?
I'm not sure. But I think it's not very well known because it was super tedious to make. Very!!! And expensive too. Taros are not cheap.
When people ask me what am I making with the taro I bought, they went blank when I said Woo Ha. They asked what is Woo Ha? . Prawns wrapped with taro?? There's no prawns in it, but the old fashioned way of making it, does look like prawns. See Lily's take on this.
When I first learnt to make this back when I was in my teens. It was taught to me in a cooking session during Girls' Brigade by my Captain, Ms Wong. How I hated curling the taro shreds with a chopstick and holding the "prawn" in the hot oil all the time (with chopstick still on). My hands and arms felt so tired and hot! One can only fry each prawn at one time, because the chopstick must hold on to the "prawn" or else the "prawn" will get loose and look like Medusa.
This time around, I told myself I need to find a way around this if I want to make this. I don't want to be pinching the taro shreds all the time to fry. I surfed the net and saw Hongkies making this ball shaped (see video) and they used a tea strainer to do it!! So cute. I went around town searching for one but found none. I could only get a HotPot wire ladle. Does it work too??? Hmm... not until I saw this video that I was conviced it could.
This is the tea infuser. Has anyone seen this anywhere in Malaysia?
And I'm happy to go handsfree to do it this time. Still needed to use my hands, but not being stuck over the hot oil all the time, you see. And it's very very easy this time.... I could do 1kg of taro in just 2 hours, with cutting, slicing and frying, hehehehehe. Thanks to the Hongkie's style of making them round with a ladle and not using chopsticks. And I also added in some coriander, just like how the Hongkies does it.
1. Prepare the ingredients.
First, wash and dry the taro in the sun for 1-2 hours or drip dry it for a few hours. Reason, taros are dirty and you can't rinse them after you peel them. The taro turns slippery and will ITCH your hands. So, peel clean skins to minimize soiling your taro flesh during peeling. Brush off any dirt or skin bits that happened to soil the flesh after peeling with a paper towel. Prepare other ingredients too. I used local taro which is long and has a more even width. Thai taros are round and short, thus giving uneven length shreds and shorter, unless you can get really long Thai taros.
2. Prepare the taro shreds..
*Warning* Do not use shredder, else the taro shreds will be too thick and wet.
Either you can do it the Hongkies way, which is slice with a knife and shred with a peeler. See video
But I find my fingers in a high risk position with the Hongkie method and reversed the method. I definitely prefer this way, slice with mandolin/peeler then shred with knife. No need to slice with knife too thinly, either one dimension is thin, that is enough. When both dimensions are the same, somehow it's not that nice to eat. Let's say, if the mandolin gives you 1mm thickness, slice it about 2-3mm with knife. The mouthfeel is better this way. The pictures below lets you see almost equal dimensions, but then.. I did another attempt with different dimensions, and I tell you... that is better.
3. Season the shreds
Mix the seasonings together, then toss it into the weighed taro shreds. When it turns slightly sticky, put in the sesame seeds and toss it around to stick well.
4. Shaping and frying
Either use chopsticks to roll up like eating pasta, or just use your fingers. Wrap a 2 inch long coriander in or leave it out, as you wish.
Put the shaped taro shreds into a heated wire ladle and fry (do not fully submerge until the base's shape is set). Release from ladle and fry until both sides are golden and drain on paper towels.
When woo har has cooled, keep in air tight containers.
Woo Har (Crispy Taro Shreds) 港式芋虾
Recipe source: Concocted by Wendyywy after watching the videos above
250gm taro shreds (not the weight of whole taro)
2 Tbsp glutinous rice flour
½ tsp chicken stock powder
½ tsp 5 spice powder (get a good one from the Chinese herbal shops that is w/o colouring)
Dash of pepper
2 Tbsp sesame seeds
Coriander, washed and air dried (optional)
Method: Refer above
Warning: Do not bulk season. Do it batch by batch, weigh each batch properly. Taros get overseasoned very very easily. And when they are left seasoned for too long, they get too sticky and will clump together too much.
How does this taste like???? If you love noodle snacks like Mamee, I guarantee that you will love this. I am a Mamee monster myself, so I loved this to bits, hahaha. The coriander doesn't leave any fragrance in it at all, but just enhances it visually only. So, all you coriander haters, don't worry about this green thing.