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Woo Ha (Crispy Taro Shreds, Hong Kong Style) 港式芋虾 - CNY Crispies # 2

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.

5. Storing
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.

49 lovely notes:

Mel January 11, 2012 at 11:35 AM  

I have not come across this. What should I describe for this, a snack or a dish? Since you store it in the container, it is a crispy snack. Hard work making this, isn't it, peeled, sliced and shred and....fry! But I know it must be yummy and delicious, anything that out from your kitchen!!!

wendyywy @ Table for 2..... or more January 11, 2012 at 11:38 AM  

It's a snack. Treat it like Taro Mamee. LOL

busygran January 11, 2012 at 11:40 AM  

I have eaten sweet potato ones but not taro! Wah.....! I want to munch on these! Crunch! Crunch! Yum!

wendyywy @ Table for 2..... or more January 11, 2012 at 11:45 AM  

then, that won't be wooha, but fanshuha, LOL.
i've never heard sweet potato version, but I think it's a lot more economical to use sweet potatoes

Elin January 11, 2012 at 12:37 PM  

Wendy you are a gem...though I am not fully recovered yet but I so want to make this for Jo and bring it uo for her :p . Muax & hugs for sharing this...Jo loves this to bits and I want to tell her now I got the recipe LOL!

ICook4Fun January 11, 2012 at 12:42 PM  

A friend of mine taught me how to make this snack a long time ago and she is Cantonese. She too coil up the shredded taro with chopsticks and fried them. The dimsum place here do serve this snack with shrimp on it but they are not as crispy as I like them to be. I like how yours look like. Round round and cute cute. I will definitely try this out.

ReeseKitchen January 11, 2012 at 1:08 PM  

Very pretty & cute leh....I'll try to make some...hehe!

Sonia (Nasi Lemak Lover) January 11, 2012 at 1:59 PM  

Yesterday i saw two similar recipes in other blogs, I have not tried before, must find time to make this.

Joyce January 11, 2012 at 2:05 PM  

Wow.. that really seems like a whole lot of work to prepare this dish. But then it really look very tempting !

Jessie-CookingMoments January 11, 2012 at 2:55 PM  

Wow, what a great discovery! I never heard/tried this b4.I know that it certainly tastes great! I bought a peeler 2 weeks ago, planning to use it to slice sweet potato/taro in making chips. Will do after CNY!

Hody Loh January 11, 2012 at 3:21 PM  

this woo ha is new thing for me.i think my boyfriend will love this woo ha.he like mamee very much...i watch the video already.i see ah so eat the woo ha like very nice.this sunday go pasar buy taro and try to make.

Sharon @ Feats of Feasts January 11, 2012 at 3:43 PM  

I think that milk can won't last very long in my house. :) Delicious!!

Belly Good Cooking January 11, 2012 at 4:50 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Belly Good Cooking January 11, 2012 at 4:54 PM  

This " Woo Ha " snack is very new to me. And it's really very tedious to make too!!

Mae January 11, 2012 at 5:56 PM  

thanks a lot wendy for this.It really brings back my childhood memories whereby my grandma will always fry these for CNY. Unfortunately, she has passed on when I was still young and did not learn this from her. didn't know it was so tedious. I will now want to make this for my Dad. BTW, where to get the tea stariners ? Is it pricey ?

Small Kucing January 11, 2012 at 8:22 PM  

First time i heard of this. Sound rather tedious to make but should taste very yummy.

Vera Peter @ Princess Bex January 11, 2012 at 8:43 PM  

Hi Wendy,

I love ur food blog and I think u are an amazing cook :)

Yummy owh our taro snack hehehe

wendyywy @ Table for 2..... or more January 11, 2012 at 9:16 PM  

I'm surprised ur daughter knows of this old fashioned CNY snack. I hope she loves this.

ahah, a luxurious version ah.
SF should have more CNY feel, I heard chinatown is very yit lau ger ler


Try la, introduce this Cantonese snack to ur kids, I'm sure they will love this, if they love Mamee

Prep is tedious, but frying is a breeze, that is with the new found method

why after CNY?? Too much cookies now oredi?

Experimental Cook,
Yeah, the ancient person who invented this is really brilliant

wendyywy @ Table for 2..... or more January 11, 2012 at 9:21 PM  

make! I'm sure ur mamee bf will love this.

I hid it, ahahah!

Belly Good Cooking,
Actually quite ok one. that is if you enjoy the slicing and shredding part.

I didn't manage to get tea strainers of which I hope to get.
These are wire ladles for steamboat, made of stainless steel. I bought them at local crockery shops for a few bucks each, cheap cheap only.

Small Kucing,
If Mamee is delicious to u, then this is lor

Vera Peter,
haha, thanks!
It's easier than honeycomb cookies, seriously!

lena January 11, 2012 at 11:10 PM  

tedius for me!!even shredding the taro. I once attended a class in wah seng and they taught this too, also using that small ladle. eh, are these the ones that you're bringing to the potluck?

wendyywy @ Table for 2..... or more January 11, 2012 at 11:40 PM  

Haha, yawoh, this la.
What kuih are u making for the potluck?

lena January 12, 2012 at 12:28 AM  

dont know yet..something that i can make the night before..hehe..

Swee San @ The Sweet Spot January 12, 2012 at 1:39 AM  

oh i see that u are bringing this to the pot luck eh? hehe i've never eaten this before. probably extinct at this part of malaysia lol. i've seen the tea strainer somewhere b4. can't remember.. u'd have to check out specialty coffee and tea shops.

Patricia January 12, 2012 at 7:56 AM  

Wendy, you are fantastic. I think the wire ladle is easier to use than the tea strainer. My auntie used to make this 60 over years ago when I was a kid but she just curled them up to deep fry. It has definately been around a long long time. Congrats for all the nice recipes you have posted and the effort you take to make them.
Patricia, Perth

To Food With Love January 12, 2012 at 8:42 AM  

You're good! Slicing those really take a lot of effort, but they turned out looking great! By the way, is the texture hard and crunchy, or crisp and crumbly? The one I made was a little harder than I expected, and I've eaten those which are very light and airy.

wendyywy @ Table for 2..... or more January 12, 2012 at 10:02 AM  

Swee San,
I read somewhere someone got it from Carrefour.
I hope to see that soon.

Yeah, curl them up and hold them in place with a chopstick all the time while frying, that was the old way. Actually the tea strainer will do a better job, because one can fully immerse the shreds and the heat will fluff up the ball and when it's released, the ball remained fluffed up(but can't escape) and crispy. With the ladle, it's not as fluffed up because if not, the shreds will all escape... hmm.. how to say... once u do it, you will understand.

To Food with love,
Mine is like a loose Mamee. Not a bit hard. I think it has do do with how you form the "ball". It has to be loosely rolled. The looser it is, the lighter the mouthfeel. Since you said yours is 2mm strips, I think mine is finer, or at least thinner. I wonder if the type of flour we used is different? Hongkies all use glutinous rice flour.
I like ur Malaysian take on this, Next time I'll try it with a local twist too!

Cass Tan @ 揾到食 January 12, 2012 at 11:13 AM  

Look at the title, i thought they are kind of appetizer with prawn inside :)

yvonne January 12, 2012 at 12:07 PM  

This looks like some "fried stuff" in dim sum restaurant. Indeed, it is very special. And since it tastes like mamee, 1 kg for me is surely not enough, lol!

Dumpling Love January 12, 2012 at 12:18 PM  

The wire ladle idea is so innovative, Wendy! And these look amazing! It's such a rarity to find fresh taro here =(

Bunnies,  January 12, 2012 at 4:05 PM  

Hehehehe.. I know this!! I used to make this when I was a young child. I love this!!

However, I dont curl them into a bomb.. i just fry them losely.. free style. Not so hard to eat.

This is an old fashion treat. I must make some soon!!

FiSh January 12, 2012 at 9:28 PM  

wow looks kinda complicated, but it must have taste really good! perfect for CNY

Latest: CNY Is Less Than 10 Days Away!

Quay Po Cooks January 12, 2012 at 9:38 PM  

My grandma used to make this when she was alive. I have yet to taste some that is as good as hers after she passed away. Yours looks so nicely done. Hope to get to taste your someday:D HInt! Hint! hehe

wendyywy @ Table for 2..... or more January 12, 2012 at 9:45 PM  

no.. it's an old fashioned CNy treat

I reckon at least 5kg for u, ahhaha

dumpling love,
oh, it's not my idea, I learnt it from those videos I shared.

Free style fry ah.. then the last bits, need to eat with spoon lor, sure all pecah habis!

It is a CNY treat.

quay po,
Eh, you haven't been checking email, really u haven't!!! U bocor rahsia oredi!

Min January 12, 2012 at 10:05 PM  

I haven't eaten this before, they look new me. I think they taste great, because I love Mamee too, hehe. I don't have the patient to make this myself, really admire your skill :)

Anonymous,  January 12, 2012 at 10:07 PM  

Hi Wendy, have been following your blog. You are such an amazing cook and so creative. Thanks for sharing your wonderful recipes! Amy

Pete January 12, 2012 at 11:47 PM  

Interesting finger food.......i can try that with my leftover glutinous rice flour!

kitchen flavours January 13, 2012 at 10:21 AM  

Hi, these sure look addictive! This is a lot of work and it takes no time to gobbled them all up! And taro happens to be my favourite, any way it is done!
Thank you for stopping by my blog! Have a nice day!

Shirley @ Kokken69 January 15, 2012 at 6:53 PM  

This is so interesting! I will definitely reach out for one if I see this!

pickyin @ LifeIsGreat January 17, 2012 at 3:14 PM  

I've never seen, heard of or eaten this before! When one of my friend in UK mentioned she'll be attempting for CNY I thought she was referring to some sort of prawn dish. Looks and sounds absolutely addictive.

katCL January 18, 2012 at 12:45 AM  

I had given up ever finding this recipe!! Wendy, you are a gem!! Thanks so much for sharing!!

Elin January 19, 2012 at 3:36 PM  


Some years back when she was in primary, I used to order this from a friend but the friend retired from making this , thus no more to eat lo. But she still crave for it. Mine was oily so not taking it up for her. Will make some for her after the CNY and take it up for her on my next trip up to see her :)))

I made some but didnt turned out that good looking and I think my oil was not hot enough, the taro shred absorbed some oil eventhough I drained them on paper towels :p The taste was good perfect infact. I think the mistake is in the oil temperature and the shredding using a shredder. I see you cut with knife but I am just too lazy to do that :p So tell me where did I go wrong ? :)))

J.C. January 20, 2012 at 10:21 PM  

I think your method of slicing with mandolin and then cut into strips is faster. I am keen to try this out. Hopefully I can get some yam from the market tomorrow. Hope I can also do it as fast as your timing.

Jane Chan January 17, 2013 at 5:44 PM  

hi Wendy, where can i get the wire ladles ? i urge to make these but i do need this essential equipment as my mum used to make using chopsticks but turned out not very good in looking..

Jane Chan January 17, 2013 at 5:45 PM  

hi Wendy, where can i get the wired ladles?

Adelaine,  January 17, 2013 at 9:59 PM  

I have been looking for this recipe for years...have been asking around..no one seems to know about this snack.. my aunt (80+) used to make but couldnt remember the recipe anymore..I'll definitely do for my family for this coming CNY..and surprise my siblings on this long lost snack!!!

WendyinKK @ Table for 2..... or more January 18, 2013 at 12:07 AM  

Your aunt will be sooo proud of you!

I got it from my local crockery shop.

Adelaine,  January 29, 2013 at 11:50 AM  

Hi, I bought the tea infuser in Ace hardware in IPC, PJ. only RM3 but not user friendly..too short therefore very hot to hold and too tight to release...will try your wire ladle instead.

WendyinKK @ Table for 2..... or more January 31, 2013 at 1:28 PM  

Wow, that's cheap! I also got it from Ace after CNY, but mine is RM13 if I'm not mistaken.

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