Lunar New Year is just around the corner and you know what that means? It’s time for some good ol’ celebrations. While I’m certainly thrilled to catch up with my relatives and get some ang pows, the only thing that’s really on my mind is the Chinese New Year snacks.
If there’s one thing I have to eat this CNY, it has to be my Ah Ma’s Hae Bee Hiam Rolls. This fiery snack is a family favourite and my grandmother used to make a ton of them for relatives and friends.
All it takes is one bite. Feel the crackle of the crispy roll and taste the explosive flavours of the savoury fried chilli shrimps – it’s the best thing ever.
As the saying goes, “sharing is caring”, and this is definitely me caring enough about your New Year snacking. Here’s my Ah Ma’s Hae Bee Hiam Rolls recipe to give you a taste of my favourite CNY snack.
Do note that when it comes to my grandma’s cooking, everything is agak agak. You’ll have to learn how to gauge and feel your way through the culinary process.
The items listed below are a mere estimation of the ingredients needed and you’re advised to adjust according to your personal palate. What you’ll need (for a one-to-two persons’ portion):
- Three – four handfuls of dried shrimp (about 80g)
- Three medium-sized shallots
- Two cloves of garlic
- Eight chilli padi
- One packet of spring roll pastry (cut into nine squares)
- Three – four tablespoons of cornstarch
- A sprinkle of salt (if needed)
- Vegetable oil
- Pestle and Mortar, or blender
- Wok or pan
First things first, give the dried shrimps a quick rinse under running water. According to my grandmother, this is to flush out any impurities.
I don’t find this step absolutely necessary as I’m afraid the natural flavours of the shrimp might be washed away in the process and I usually eat the dried shrimps raw anyway. Rinse or not, your call.
Divide the shrimps into two portions and grind them up with your pestle and mortar. My Ah Ma typically works with her age-old stone pestle and mortar as it tends to accentuate the flavours.
You’ll also get the handmade quality with the textured bits in comparison to the evenly-textured floss from the average blender.
I have to warn you that the pestle and mortar take some work to master. Aside from your aching arms, pounding away at the ingredients without having them spill all over is nearly impossible for a novice. But hey, that’s the fun of it.
If you really don’t have a pestle and mortar, a blender would do just fine.
Next up, add the chilli padi, shallots and garlic to the shrimp paste. Keep pounding away until you get an even thicker paste. The entire process of pounding should take you about 20 to 30 minutes.
Once you’re done with that, you can turn up the heat under your oil-filled wok. Plop the paste into the hot wok and fry away. Remember to give the mixture a good flip now and then to avoid charring it.
Fry the hae bee paste over medium fire. You’ll know when it’s ready if you spot a dark golden-brown colour. The shrimps will be slightly crisp on the outside.
Have a taste and add a pinch of salt if necessary. Take a moment to catch a whiff of that aromatic scent. Trust me, you’ll be salivating at this point.
What do you need to hold your hae bee hiam rolls together? Cornstarch slurry.
Prepare your cornstarch slurry by adding small amounts of hot water gradually to the cornstarch. Give it a good mix and you should get this translucent glue-like mixture.
Here’s the best part of making hae bee hiam rolls, rolling them!
Put 1/4 teaspoon of the hae bee hiam paste on the spring roll pastry and apply some cornstarch slurry on all corners.
Then, grab a corner of the pastry and pull it inwards to the centre. Repeat this step for the diagonal corner.
After which, you can grab any of the remaining corners and start rolling. Not all that difficult huh.
The final step is simply to deep fry the rolls till you get little browned pastries. You should hear a distinct snap when you break the roll in half. Let these fiery crackers sit for a little to cool off and they’re good to go.
Voila! There you have it, your very own hae bee hiam rolls.
I’ve always had one heck of a time during Chinese New Year making these hae bee hiam rolls with my grandmother. One, I actually get to feast on these delicious crackers. Two, I get to hang out with my grandmother. How cool is that!
This Lunar New Year why not celebrate the festivities by whipping up hae bee hiam rolls and spending some family time together? There’s no better way to bring people together but through food.
Happy New Year!