Tuesday 20 January 2015

Chinese New Year Snack - Arrowhead Chips/Ngaku Chips炸芽菇饼

Whenever you see these little round things sold in the supermarket, you know Chinese New Year is around the corner. Yes, I am talking about arrowheads or more fondly known amongst the Chinese as ngaku 芽菇. I always wonder why is it only available around this time of the year. Does it take a year to grow? These chips are so delicious somebody should commercialise and mass produce it like Pringles or Lay's. I bet these chips would give the famous, or rather infamous, potato chips a run for their money.

At the moment, these chips are only available around Chinese New Year. A word of caution for first timers - it is very, and I repeat, very addictive! I have to muster up tremedous self-restrain every time I make this. If you still wonder why I need to do so, here's your answer ------>  Arrowhead Chips calories.

Now that we have had our introduction, let's get technical. If you are a person who have made arrowhead chips at home, and think it is a breeze, you can move on. Go read another post. You already passed the ngaku test and perhaps, became a ngaku guru already. But if you have trouble getting your ngaku right no matter how many tricks you have tried, my post might be of help to you. My rendevous with ngaku only started two years ago. When I first experimented, I had a lot of failures. Most often the ngaku chips were not crispy enough. No matter what way I tried, somehow the quality was not on par with those sold outside. That was two years ago. I have since made and sold many jars of it. Here are some pointers that perhaps would be of help to you:

How To Get That Perfect Crispy Ngaku Chips

1. Find big ones without cracks at the bottom. Although there is nothing wrong with using small ones, it will give you additional work of peeling and slicing. In the real world, time is always of essence.

2. When you peel the ngaku, leave the stem intact for easier slicing. Unless you have a slicer that comes with a holder, this is very important. Else, you would not be able to slice the last part of your ngaku without risking slicing a piece of your hand off.

3. The most common complaint is that the ngaku is not crispy. Here's a list of reasons:

  • Ngaku cut too thick.
  • Oil too hot making the ngaku brown before it is thoroughly cooked.
  • You did not stir enough. Ngaku did not cook evenly.
  • You put in too much ngaku leaving no space for the chips to cook thoroughly.
  • Ngaku is not fresh anymore.

4, If your ngaku is too oily:

  • Fire too slow. Need to increase heat a little.
  • You did not strain the ngaku chips enough after taking out from fire.

I don't claim to make perfect ngaku chips everytime. In fact, I am still looking for ways to improvise. Do let me know your secrets as well. Thanks.

Cooking Instruction

1. Peel, wash and slice ngaku. Soak in water, preferably cold, for a while to release the starch. This will make it crispier and less brown.

2. Remove from water and strain excess water. Make sure it is reasonably dry to avoid oil splatter.

3. Heat oil. Use moderate fire. Once oil is hot enough, put in the ngaku slices bit by bit. Use a spatula or a pair of chopsticks to stir while putting in so that the slices wouldn't stick together. Make sure there are no slices sticking together.

4. Leave the ngaku in oil for a while (just a while) until it hardens a little a form its round shape. Otherwise, if you just stir, it will just fold up because it is too soft.

5. Once it forms its shape, stir constantly. I use the pushing motion of pushing the chips with the back of the spatula until they are lifted and fall back into the hot oil. Stirring tends to make the chips crispier.

6. Fry until chips turn crispy with a hint of brown starting to form. By this time, your chips should not have any bubbles forming indicating the chips are cooked.  Remove with a strainer and strain oil. If your chips are already brown and you still get bubbles, try lowering the heat a little in the next batch. Always increase the heat when you are about to remove the chips so that it wouldn't be too oily.

7. Scatter chips on a wide area to cool completely before storing into air tight containers.

Find out how to fry these yummy Crabstick snack for Chinese New Year here:


  1. I had never tried it when I was growing up in Butterworth, Penang, Malaysia.

    1. Actually this was relatively new. Only in the past 10 years I saw it sold widely in the market.


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