28 August 2014

Taiwanese Dessert Taro & Sweet Potato Balls 九份芋圆 - AFF Taiwan Aug 2014

Of all the Taiwanese food that we ate in Taipei many years back, hubby enjoyed this dessert 九份芋圆 from Jiufen 九份, a mountain area  in the Ruifang District of New Taipei City, the most. This Taro and Sweet Potato ball dessert is a traditional Taiwanese dessert made popular in Jiufen and hence most people refer it as 九份芋圆.
Honestly, I cannot remember how it tastes like, vaguely remember it as chewy and sweet? Since hubby likes it, decided to give it a try since the preparation is pretty straightforward.

Attempted only a very small portion because not sure if the homemade version is to hubby's our liking. So I just bought a piece of the yellow and orange sweet potato each, and a few pieces of baby taro that's in season now.

Basically steam till cooked, add sugar and tapioca starch and knead till the dough is smooth and slightly soft. Thereafter, cook in boiling water and serve with molasses syrup. For more elaborate version, some people serve the taro balls in red bean dessert soup and topped with black pearls and grass jelly.

*Update: According to Alan of Travelling Foodies, sweet potato flour would produce better results. Will be re-making with sweet potato flour soon for taste-test again. 

Taiwanese Dessert Taro & Sweet Potato Balls 九份芋圆
(serves 2-3; references Rumbling Tummy, Table for 2... or more, Meishijie)

  • 50g Taro + 10g sugar + 20g Tapioca Starch + water if necessary
  • 50g Yellow sweet potato + 10g Sugar + 20g Tapioca Starch + water if necessary
  • 50g Orange sweet potato + 10g Sugar 20g Tapioca Starch + water if necessary
  • 1 cup water + 2 tbsp Molasses
  • Grass Jelly (to your preference)
 ** sweet potato flour might produce better results (will be re-making and update again)
  1. Peel and cut the taro and yellow/orange sweet potato into small cubes, place them in 3 separate bowls. Steam until fork tender.
  2. Work with 1 bowl at a time (I started off with taro), leaving the other 2 bowls in the steamer to keep warm.
  3. Mash the taro with a potato masher and add sugar. Stir till sugar is melted. Then add the tapioca starch, mix till a rough dough forms.
  4. Turn the dough to a non-stick mat and knead the dough till smooth, non-sticky and medium soft, adding water if necessary.
  5. Repeat with the yellow and orange sweet potato.
  6. Roll the dough into thin logs and cut into small cubes using a dough cutter.
  7. Heat a pot of water, once water boils, add the balls and cook until the balls float. Cook for 1 min more, drain and place the balls in a bowl of ice cold water.
  8. Heat 1 cup of water with 2 tbsp of molasses.
  9. To serve hot, add the taro and sweet potato balls, and grass jelly or any other desired ingredients into a bowl, add some hot molasses syrup.
  10. To serve cold, prepare the molasses syrup beforehand and chill. Add the taro, sweet potato balls and grass jelly into a bowl and add the chilled molasses syrup.
  11. The taro and sweet potato balls must be eaten fresh to maintain the chewy texture. If not eating immediately, dust with some tapioca starch and chill/freeze till ready to use. 

The taro and sweet potato balls taste quite soft and chewy when first cooked, I prefer eating it with warm molasses syrup. The taste of taro and sweet potato is in fact quite subtle. Won't say I like it very much. I think I prefer eating glutinous rice ball (Tangyuan) as it's much more chewy than this.

I prepared the dessert in the afternoon and intended to serve hubby after dinner in the evening. Made the mistake of cooking and soaking the balls in the syrup and chilling them beforehand. By the time hubby ate the taro/sweet potato balls, the texture changed and not as chewy and soft as freshly prepared. I left some overnight in the fridge and the next day, the taro/sweet potato balls turned quite hard and not palatable at all. I should have chilled the taro balls in the fridge and cook them fresh just before serving. Guess I have to make it again to pacify the hubby, one of these days :p (Update: will be re-making with sweet potato flour).

I am submitting this post to Asian Food Fest #10 Aug 2014 : Taiwan hosted by travelling-foodies.


  1. Hi, did you manage to try out the recipe with sweet potato flour? Was looking through your blog but I couldn't find it. =]

  2. Hi,
    Actually I bought a packet of sweet potato flour from Taiwan in Dec, but till now no time to make :p Hope to do it soon!