Johor Kaki Travels for Food

Tony Boey johorkaki@gmail 🇸🇬 Singapore based food history researcher

History of Fried Yam Basket by Chef Hooi Kok Wai


You will find this popular fried yam (taro) ring or yam basket dish in almost all Chinese restaurants in Singapore and Malaysia. It is a relatively recent creation and we can hear its story directly from its creator chef Hooi Kok Wai, founder of Dragon Phoenix Restaurant in Singapore.



Creator chef Hooi Kok Wai's then fiancee's adoptive mother was a nun. In 1958, to ask for her hand, chef created a yam bowl filled with stir fried vegetables like carrot, celery, red and green capsicum, mushroom, baby corn, wood ear fungus, cashew nuts etc.

Mashed yam is carefully hand formed into a ring and deep fried to a golden brown crisp outside. The thin crisp layer outside sealed in the yam's natural sweetness and kept the grease outside. The mashed yam is clean and refreshing tasting.

Vegetables cut to bite size are then stir fried in a hot wok with soy sauce and oil. The naturally sweet stir fried vegetables infused a bit of savouriness from the sauce and oil. They are juicy and crunchy to the bite.

The stir fried vegetables are heaped in a colourful pile into the yam bowl and the dish is served.



Hooi chose the shape of a bowl to represent a monk / nun's alms bowl 佛砵. He used only vegetables because nuns are vegetarians.

Needless to say, chef's future mother-in-law was touched by the gesture and impressed with the flavours - otherwise we won't be having this dish today 😄



Fried yam ring was introduced into the menu chef Hooi's Dragon Phoenix Restaurant which he founded in 1963. It was a huge success and today, every Chinese restaurant or zhi char shop in Singapore and Malaysia will have yam basket in its menu. The more popular versions have chicken, prawns and scallops besides stir fried vegetables.

Date: 8 Jun 2020

Image of yam ring courtesy of flickr.

1 comment:

  1. I would think it is referred to a monk rather than a nun.

    ReplyDelete

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