Buddha’s bowl

Buddha’s bowl

Have You Eaten
Billy Law

This dish is so called because of its resemblance to the bowl used by Buddhist monks to collect alms from their community. Here the ‘bowl’ is a ring of deep-fried taro, which is filled with stir-fried chicken and vegetables. My favourite part is definitely the taro ring: the inside is soft and fluffy like potato mash, and the outside is golden and crispy. Due to getting ‘lost in translation’ many recipes refer to this as a yam ring. Although these two root vegetables are similar, the ring is made from taro, not yam. Taro usually has a white flesh with some purplish fibrous specks throughout – make sure you get the right ingredient or it won’t work.

Chicken and marinade


Quantity Ingredient
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2 cm cubes
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon shaoxing rice wine
1 teaspoon cornflour

Taro ring

Quantity Ingredient
300g taro, peeled and cut into 2 cm cubes
1 teaspoon sesame oil
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch ground white pepper
60g wheat starch, (see note)
1 1/2 tablespoons hot water
vegetable oil, for deep-frying
100g dried rice vermicelli noodles


Quantity Ingredient
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 carrot, diced
1/2 celery stalk, diced
2 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 1 hour, stalks discarded, thinly sliced
1/2 green capsicum, diced
6 fresh baby corn, cut into 2 cm pieces
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon shaoxing rice wine
1 teaspoon sugar
pinch salt
small handful cashew nuts, toasted


  1. Put the chicken in a mixing bowl. Combine the marinade ingredients and pour over the chicken. Cover and place in the refrigerator to marinate for 30 minutes.
  2. To prepare the taro ring, set a steamer over boiling water and steam the taro cubes for 25–30 minutes until soft. Mash the taro through a sieve into a bowl, then mix in the sesame oil, vegetable oil, sugar, five-spice, salt and white pepper. Combine the wheat starch and hot water in another bowl, then knead into a small ball of dough. Add the dough to the mashed taro and knead until it becomes elastic and pliable.
  3. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled surface and roll the dough out into a long thick strip, about 40 cm in length. Lightly oil the inside of a round cake tin or a medium saucepan to use as a guide, then carefully wrap the strip of dough inside the tin to form a hollow ring, about 2 cm thick, 6–8 cm high and about 15 cm in diameter. Gently remove the taro ring and set aside on a tray.
  4. Pour the vegetable oil into a wok until about one-third full (the taro ring needs to be at least half submerged in oil), then heat the oil to 180°C over medium–high heat. Test to see if the oil is hot enough by dipping a wooden chopstick into the hot oil — if the oil starts steadily bubbling around the chopstick, it’s ready. Working in two batches, drop a handful of vermicelli into the hot oil — the noodles will puff up within seconds. Remove and drain on paper towel.
  5. Using 2 spatulas, carefully lift the taro ring and lower it into the hot oil. Deep-fry for 5 minutes, or until golden brown, then carefully turn it over and cook for a further 5 minutes. To make sure the taro ring is cooking evenly, use a metal spoon to ladle hot oil over the ring while it is deep-frying. Remove and drain on paper towel.
  6. To make the filling, heat 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a wok over high heat. Add the chicken and stir-fry for 3 minutes until cooked, then remove and set aside. Wipe the wok with paper towel. Reheat the wok with the remaining 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, then add the onion, carrot and celery and stir-fry for about 1 minute, or until the onion is translucent and fragrant. Add the mushroom, capsicum and baby corn and stir-fry for another 2 minutes. Add the oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil and rice wine. Season with sugar and salt, give it a quick stir, then toss the chicken back into the wok and mix well. Remove from the heat.
  7. Spread the puffed crispy noodles on a large serving plate. Place the taro ring on top and fill the centre with the chicken and vegetables. Sprinkle sparingly with cashews.


  • Wheat starch, or tung meen fun in Chinese, must not be mistaken with wheat flour. Wheat starch is a non-glutinous flour and is usually used to make dim sum, resulting in a translucent skin and chewy texture. Wheat starch can be found in Asian grocers, or can be substituted with cornflour (cornstarch), but the texture won’t be exactly the same.
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