Playing With Recrystallization of Sugar–Sugar Coated Yam Sticks (反沙芋头)

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This is an easy peasy recipe but hard to master… I have tried many times and comes out with these rather ugly sugar coated yam stick.. Well, just to assure readers that if you are not able to do the coating properly, it is still nice to eat and worst come to worst, it will become thick syrup coated sugar sticks and that is another Teochew delicacies.

IMG_4160 Thick syrup coated yam cubes (高烧芋)

As this Teochew or Chazhou dessert is not really common in Singapore and Malaysia restaurants, I do not expect many readers of other dialects know about this delicacy. However, it is rather common in Hong Kong and China’s Teochew or Chaozhou restaurant. I do have a fair share of nicely sugar coated yam stick.s It is supposed to be crispy but when you bite it, the sugar become very sandy.


Is it too sweet? Whether sweet or not will depend on one’s skill of coating and the size of the yam stick. If you have over coated some tiny sized yam stick, it will definitely be sweet. If you have a thin coating of thick yam stick, it will not be sweet at all and pleasure is to bite the sandy sugar coated with the yam. Traditional, this dessert is served with a type of Chinese tea called kungfu tea which is not sweetened. Is it not balance off the sweetness.

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This recipe requires practise as it deals with recrystallization of sugar. When sugar is boiled with water, a syrup is formed. At 18 degree Celsius, sugar syrup is stable, When one continues to boil, water moisture is lost and syrup will become unstable as it is super saturated.When super saturated syrups cooled down, excess sugar crystals will precipitate and crystalize out of the solution those forming white crystalized sugar. Further boiling will caramelize the sugar syrup and when cooled, becomes a big piece of brown sugar is formed.  Therefore, essentially, one will only have probably 1 minute to properly coat the yam stick with white sandy sugar…. It does need practise and possibly that explains why the restaurant is charging rather high for a white coloured sugar coated yam stick..


For those who understand Mandarin, Chinese Wikipedia records that :

反沙芋中國潮州的一道很講究烹調功夫的甜點,把切成手指般大小的芋頭,加入沙糖炒勻至芋頭塊乾身及香脆。難度是先把沙糖下鑊慢火炒溶成液狀,下芋頭條繼續炒,使芋頭條在炒熟的同時要全條被糖液全包裹並慢慢轉乾回沙糖狀全包裹着芋頭條,由沙狀轉液狀再轉回沙狀此過程稱為「反沙」,習慣上進食反沙芋時配合喝鐵觀音,有消除滯脹感的作 用。” (Source:

However, the method that I am sharing is slightly different from what is written in Chinese Wikipedia. To make the yam more fragrant and easier to coat, it was pre-cooked before sugar coating was done.



Servings: 5-6 adult servings


  • 500 grams of yam or taro
  • 220 grams of white sugar
  • 100 grams of plain water
  • 1 teaspoon of deep fried shallots or garlics (optional)
  • Adequate cooking oil for deep frying






  • Skinned the yam, cut into finger size length and thickness. Deep fry in a pot of hot oil under medium heat until the yam is cooked. The yam is considered as cooked when one can easily insert a chopstick into the centre of of the yam. Drain and set aside.

  • In another pan, add the sugar and water , bring to boil. Once it boils, you will witness some big bubbles being formed. The bubbles will become smaller and smaller upon further boiling as the syrup has thickened. Once the small bubbles are formed, add the deep fried yam stick and coat with syrup as evenly as possible. After 1/2 a minute, off the heat and continue . It is considered as done when you take a piece of yam stick out of the pan, the sugar starts to crystallize on the yam stick when it touches the air.


  • Best served as a dessert with a cup of Chinese tea.


  • If it refuses to crystallize, continue stir frying under low heat to get rid of excess water vapour. If it over crystallizes, add a bit water to let the sugar dissolve and repeat the process again. However, the colour may not be whitish but slightly caramel in colour.

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Personally, I need more practise on this Teochew dessert. The method is there and let learns together to master it. I hope this post will benefit readers who are looking for the recipe of this less known Teochew dessert. Again, sweet or not sweet is up to you how thick is your coating and how big is your yam stick.  Even the coating is too thick, you can always scrap off the sugar when you are eating.

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Hope you like the post today. Cheers and have a nice day.

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7 thoughts on “Playing With Recrystallization of Sugar–Sugar Coated Yam Sticks (反沙芋头)

  1. Hi Kenneth,
    Thank you for posting this recipe. I am a pure Teochew from Taiping but my mother never made this before. More than 40 years ago, my Hokkien neighbour used to make this sugar coated yam for every festive occasion and for prayers. She would gave me a big portion as I seemed to be the only one to enjoy it. Since going separate ways, I have not eaten this dish for more than 4 decades. Your recipe reminds me of yesteryears when neighbours shared dishes and this neighbour auntie who brings this delicacy for me to enjoy.

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