Citizens! As the Western New Year approaches with rapidity, let us also not forget that Chinese Lunar New Year is following shortly thereafter – and this recipe is not only a dim sum specialty you may have already enjoyed, but it is also a MUST for Chinese New Year! I speak of the less-than-perfectly translated “turnip cakes” that are in fact made from daikon radish! The awe-inspiring majesty who ALONE is TFD shall now impart His culinary wisdom, so attend and pay heed!
Turnip aka radish cake (luóbo gāo or in Cantonese: lòbaahk gōu) – just to confuse matters even more – is traditionally called carrot cake in Singapore.
Turnip cake is commonly served in dim sum parlors, usually cut into rectangular slices and sometimes pan-fried before serving. Each pan-fried cake has a thin crunchy layer on the outside from frying, and is soft on the inside. The non-fried version is soft all over. It is one of the standard dishes found in the dim sum cuisine of Hong Kong and China as well as overseas Chinatown restaurants.
It is also commonly eaten during Chinese New Year, since the word for radish (菜頭, chhài-thâu) is a homophone for “good fortune” (好彩頭, hó-chhái-thâu) in the Hokkien language. In Taiwan, turnip cake is also commonly eaten as part of a breakfast in Chinese speaking areas.
To prepare a turnip cake, roots of Chinese radish are first shredded. Chinese radish, either the white-and-green variety or the all-white variety (be sure it’s supremely fresh, as it makes up a large portion of the cake). The other key ingredients are water and rice flour.
Cornstarch is sometimes added as it aids in binding the cake together, especially when a large number of additional ingredients (see list below) are added. The ingredients are stirred together until combined.
Additional ingredients that provide umami flavoring can (and should, IMHO) also be added. They include diced or minced pieces of:
These flavoring ingredients may first be stir-fried before being added to the radish and flour/starch mixture. Somewhat more luxurious cakes will add larger amounts of these ingredients directly to the mixture. Cheaper variants, especially those sold in lesser dim sum establishments will often just have a sprinkling on the top, to keep costs down.
This combined mixture is then poured in a steamer and steamed at high heat until it solidifies into a gelatinous mass.
Although the steamed turnip cake can be consumed straight with soy sauce, they are commonly cooked again to add additional flavors. For instance, turnip cake can be sliced into rectangular pieces when cooled and then pan-fried until both sides turn golden. It is served with chili sauce and/or Hoisin sauce on the side, as condiments.
Citizens, my version of this recipe started with a recipe disclosed by a leading Taiwanese restaurant on the famed eGullet forums – but I have majorly upped the meat and luxury quotient with Chinese bacon, shredded dried Chinese scallops, and a hit of Shaoxing rice wine.
I’m very partial to this radish cake recipe – I hope you find it as much to your liking as I do! To aid in your quest, I’ve included the Chinese names of all the ingredients – just print this out and show it to the people in the Chinese grocery store or herbalist shop so they can help you find things. 🙂 I have every imaginable confidence that you will find this recipe to be beyond savory and supremely delicious – there can be no doubt or equivocation in your mind to the contrary!
Battle on – The GeneralissimoPrint
The Hirshon Chinese Dim Sum Radish Cakes – 蘿蔔糕
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- 170ml Water 水 (use the liquid from soaking dried mushrooms/dried shrimp/dried scallops)
- 20ml Shaoxing wine 紹興酒 – preferably Huadiaojiu-style 花雕酒
- 180g Rice flour 在來米粉
- 23g Cornstarch 太白粉
- 2 pieces Chinese lap cheong sausage (diced) 臘腸
- Equal amount of lap yuk – Chinese cured bacon – to the sausage, diced 腊肉 – if you can’y find lap yuk, use the best artisanal slab bacon you can find
- 45g Dried Shrimp, top quality (soaked) 蝦皮
- 20g Dried Shiitake mushrooms – top quality with very cracked tops (soaked and diced) 乾香菇
- 20g Dried Chinese Scallops, top quality (soaked and shredded by hand into threads) 江瑤柱 – you can buy these in Chinese grocery stores or even better, from a Chinese herbalist store which usually has much better quality. If you can’t find them, omit if you have to – but do try and find them!
- 15ml Vegetable Oil 植物油
- 800g Daikon (peeled and grated or cut into strips) 白蘿蔔(絲)
- 15ml Vegetable oil 植物油 – use only if needed, the fat from the Chinese bacon and sausage may be enough!
- 50ml Water 水
- 10g Sugar 糖
- 4g Salt 鹽
- 5g Sugar 糖
- 6g Chicken base 雞粉 or use an equivalent amount of grated chicken bouillon cube
- 1g White pepper powder 白胡椒粉
- 12ml Sesame oil 香油 – TFD endorses Kadoya brand only!
- 15g scallions, diced 蔥花
- Peel the skin off and grate the daikon – squeeze out excess water and set aside.
- Mix all of the batter ingredients together in a large bowl until there are no lumps, set aside
- Sauté savories with oil in a hot wok until fragrant, then take them out and set aside, reserving the rendered fat and oil in the wok.
- Stir fry the daikon with the fat and optional extra oil (if needed) in a hot wok, add in the sweetener and cook until the radish becomes soft. Add in the spices and mix well, then pour into the binder mixture, add in the savories altogether and mix well.
- Pour the combined mixture into a greased tin and steam for 60-75 minutes. Cool overnight and remove from pan. Cut into slices, then pan fry until crispy and serve!
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