Jiu Hu Char (Jicama and Cuttlefish Stir Fry with Lettuce Wrap)


I went back to my hometown Penang last weekend for the Qing Ming Festival. Qing Ming is when Chinese people visit the graves of their ancestors, to give thanks and honour the forefathers. Young and old pray before the ancestors, sweep the tombs and offer food, tea, wine, chopsticks, joss paper accessories, and “paper gifts” to the ancestors. It is also a time for family from near and far to gather and it was common to see big families having a feast at the grave sites after praying. However over the years, as more young people move to big towns and foreign countries, the numbers of people celebrating Qing Ming have dwindled.

When I was younger, I always see this festival as an obligation – as a granddaugther and later as a daugther. Mainly because I do not like the burning ceremonies involved as it defied my beliefs and my values. This time around, I finally feel deep in my heart the meaning behind Qing Ming. The ceremony is the only way most Chinese know how show their love as children, grandchildren & great grandchildren. Because in their knowledge and tradition, this is their only way to give thanks and to remember their ancestors, and I totally able to respect that.

As with any Chinese festival, food is always the center of the attention. In my family, Jiu Hu Char (Stir FryJicama & Cuttlefish) is a must-have dish that is prepared for all festivals, even Qing Ming. Jiu Hu Char is actually a Nyonya cuisine of the Straits Chinese (Straits born Chinese) with the influence of Chinese and Malay cooking styles. This dish is not only for special festival, we love it as an everyday dish too. My younger sis CH will always ‘pre-oder’ this dish before her visit to my mama’s place and she will be a happy cow with just this dish alone for a meal.

Jicama / Sengkuang / Yam bean

Jiu hu char is a dish of stir fried jicama (sengkuang) with carrots, cuttlefish and dried shiitake mushroom, normally eaten wrapped with fresh lettuce leaves with sambal (Malaysian spicy chili sauce). They can also be eaten plain and go extremely well with rice. Jiu hu char is also one of those dishes that gets better overnight and after multiple reheating.

My mother’s secret tip to make this an unforgettable dish of jiu hu char is manually slicing the jicama into fine thin threads (instead of using a grater) and cabbage – the secret ingredient. I’ve prepared this dish myself a couple of times, but it just taste different from my mama’s. Just a week for before Qing Ming, I’m happy finally got it right, tasted just like my mama’s. I’m proud to finally learnt her trick of the trade to continue on the tradition.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Jiu Hu Char (Jicama & Cuttlefish Stir Fry with Lettuce Wrap)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Appetiser / Main
Serves: 4
  • 5 cloves Garlic - minced
  • 3 Shallots - sliced
  • 50gm Pork - sliced (I omit for my dish)
  • 200gm Jicama / Sengkuang - shred finely
  • 1 Carrot - shredded finely
  • 3 leaves of Cabbage - shred finely
  • 8gm Dried Cuttlefish - shred finely and soaked for 5 minutes
  • 5 small Dried Shittake Mushrooms - soaked in hot water for 10 minutes and thinly sliced
  • Salt to taste
  1. In a wok, heat oil. Saute garlic and shallot until lightly brown and fragrant.
  2. Add pork, cuttlefish, and mushrooms. Cook until they soften.
  3. Add jicama, carrot and cabbage and fry until cooked. Add 100ml water and switch fire to low, cover wok to slow cook for about 20 minutes until water has been almost absorbed and jicama is soft. (the longer you braise it, the more flavourful the dish will be).
  4. Season with salt to taste.
  5. Serve wrapped in fresh lettuce leaves with a side of sambal for a bit of zing.

* Note: The post is meant to be shared as part of my culture and heritage. I do not mean to offend anyone with the photos.

More Nyonya Dishes:


  1. Hi Shannon,
    Jiu Hu Char is one of my favorite nyonya food and your recipe looks really good too.. I’d like to give it a try but it seems like it’s really difficult to get jicama in the Netherlands. Do you know where I can get them or if there are any substitution for it?

  2. This dish takes much time in preparing that it’s seldom available in restaurants. Great tasting & will forever be one of my fav Nyonya dishes!!

    • It cut preparation time by half if you grate the sengkuang, instead of cutting it manually. after that, it’s just letting it simmer. hope you get to try cooking it

  3. Pingback: Malaysian Food Fest PENANG – Introduction | travellingfoodies

  4. shannon! I’m making this for a party on saturday (: fingers crossed x

  5. It sounds like a lovely celebration, I would imagine as a child not understanding the true meanings behind something, make it less special. But as an adult the importance seems to come to life. And this is a wonderful dish to celebrate with…great flavors!
    Magic of Spice recently posted..What’s on the side? Red Quinoa and Jade Pearl Rice with Sage Brown ButterMy Profile

    • I love how you explain it. A lot of our views change as we go through different phases of our life. That’s the beauty of ‘growing up’ 🙂

  6. This sounds great, especially wrapped in the lettuce leaves.
    Biana | TastyGalaxy.com recently posted..Spring Salad RecipesMy Profile

  7. Looks so tasty & it’s been ages since I had these! One of favorite dish back home! My mom use to cook these jiu hu char! I don’t even know that it’s actually a Nyonya dish! Great to know! Thanks for sharing, at last I can make it myself but I wonder I can find dried cuttlefish over here!
    Kit recently posted..Carrot CheesecakeMy Profile

    • I’ve eaten this dish since childhood, didn’t know it’s nyonya dish until a few years ago when I saw it in a Nyonya restaurants 😛 My mama also didn’t know it’s Nyonya.. haha. Maybe dried scallop can replaced the dried cuttlefish?

  8. I love to eat jiu hu char raw 😉 Stir-fried with cuttlefish looks great too!
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  9. I’ve never tried it but I think I can ask my pure bred Chinese friend to cook it for me. It feels so good to have international friends. 🙂
    Joniel recently posted..Just Like Great Coffee Beans, You Have to Keep a Blog FreshMy Profile

  10. I love this dish and never get tired of it. It really does taste better with repeated heating but there usually isn’t much left over with it being so popular. Looking at your pictures make me want to cook some soon. 🙂
    Biren @ Roti n Rice recently posted..Salted EggsMy Profile

  11. I love Jiu hu char … anytime! But I need a good sambal belacan to go with it as well as some nice, fresh, crunchy lettuce. Oh yum! Beautifully done, Shannon! That’s as Penang as it gets! I could never get a nice shot of that mixed bunch of shredded stuff so I’ve never posted my version. I’m going to refer anyone who asks me for this to you!

    • Thank you Ping! this is the 2nd time I tried to take some shots. 1st time was too embarassing to post it but this one I’m still not completely satisfied but it’s good enough to be posted 😛 and oh that’s an awesome sambal from penang!

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