There are not many purple foods. That's a good thing, for the food photographer. On vittles, purple is not a particularly photogenic tint. A purple dish does not make for a droolworthy photo.
So you're just going to have to trust us on this one. They may not look it, but these unevenly shaped blobs of purple dough - called abacus beads (or abacus seeds) - are a delight.
Fare of the Hakka Chinese dialect group (creators also of yong taufu, liu cha, and rich porky dishes like char yoke), abacus beads are made from a kneaded dough of steamed taro (white or purple) mixed with tapioca flour. Marble-sized balls of dough are 'dimpled' with the thumb, boiled in water until they float, then drained and tossed with oil to keep them from sticking together.
This Bangsar vendor, a Hakka hailing from Kuching who's known for her stunning Sarawak laksa, fries her abacus beads with dried shrimp, bits of pork, a touch of soy sauce, and loads of white pepper. An exceedingly skillful fry job it is; the beads absorb little to no oil. They're served, room temperature, on a bed of ever-so-slightly blanched bean sprouts and showered with chopped Chinese celery and red chile. Blandish, chewy dough comes head-to-head with crunchy sprouts and celery and the zing of white pepper. A dab of sweet tomato-chile sauce is served on the side, but it's extraneous. Porky meatiness and dried shrimp saltiness are all the seasoning these abacus beads need.
This lady of many talents also offers up a fine, tongue-tingling pepper-and-pork stomach soup, to enjoy plain or with noodles. Even an innard equivocator like myself has to admit that, as guts go, this is a tasty preparation.
Abacus beads and pepper-pork stomach soup (and Sarawak Laksa), Nam Chuan Coffeeshop, Lucky Garden, Bangsar. Early morning till late afternoon. Closed Wednesdays.