AANHPI Heritage Month Cookbook: Chinese Turnip/Radish Cake (Lo Bak Go/蘿蔔糕)
My grandmother used to make this popular Cantonese dimsum dish when I was a little. My mom rarely made it, even during holidays, because it is so labor intensive. And if I’m being totally honest, I thought her “homestyle” cakes were a bit too thick and I oftentimes preferred the store-bought ones. Alas, it’s the perfect social distancing time-consuming meal activity to try out. In true Asian cooking fashion- much of this recipe can be adapted to your preference and measurements are all approximations.
Total cook/prep time: 3 hours (including soak time and cool time)
- 1 Chinese turnip/daikon radish grated (~20 oz)
- 2 cups of water
- 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
- 1/3 cup of dried shrimp, washed soaked, and chopped
- 1/3 cup of dried shitake mushrooms, washed soaked, and chopped
- 2 Chinese Sausage, diced
- 1 cup of rice flour
- 1 tablespoon of cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon white pepper
- Optional: Chinese 5-spice mix
- Optional: 1 scallion/ green onion
- Hoisin sauce (or oyster sauce) for dipping
Substitutions: You can use a turnip if you’re not able to find daikon. The traditional cake has dried mushroom, Chinese sausage, and dried shrimp- which typically is found in Asian markets, but feel free to use ingredients you like and have. Rice flour is essential, but you might be able to substitute corn starch with potato flour or cake flour.
Directions: Add grated turnip and a cup of water to a large pan and bring to a simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with some salt, white pepper, sugar, Chinese 5-spice mix. Scoop out and leave in a large mixing bowl. Next, add oil to the pan and sauté the sausage, mushrooms and shrimp for about 5 minutes. Stir in scallions if you’re using them and set aside. Add rice flour and cornstarch to the mixing bowl with the radish. Add about 1 cup of water. Mix well until dry ingredients is well incorporated. (I added an extra half cup of water since I like my cakes to be a bit smoother- texture should be slightly waterier than oatmeal). Add the cooked shrimp, mushrooms, and sausage and mix well. Pour batter into a metal or glass pan. (I used an 8-inch cake pan, steam rack, in a large pot) You can use an Instapot- and use it steaming function. Here’s a post that might help you brainstorm steaming options). Steam the cake on medium heat for about 50 minutes- make sure to add enough water ~3 cups on the stove). Remove pan from steamer and let the cake set- I usually put it in the fridge (if you added more water, it may need more cooling before cutting). Once cooled, loosen the sides with a spatula and slide into a cutting board- cut into ½ inch thick pieces. You can pan fry until sides are golden and crispy. Serve with Hoisin or Oyster sauce.