Turnip Cake/Lo Bok Cake/Radish Cake/Daikon Cake (蘿蔔糕)
Updated February 9, 2013
Finally, a recipe!
Mama T. was out of town for Chinese New Year (yes, I understand that was almost two months ago) but my New Years wasn’t short of celebration! I had epic Chinese New Year’s Eve feasts with mine and B.’s families, and a third epic feast during the New Years with my family again.
B.’s family had an epic potluck feast so I decided to make something festive to contribute. If you’ve followed this blog for a while (thank you, fans!) you may recall that I’ve made Chinese New Year’s Cake (年糕) before back in my Montreal days, but I wanted to make something savoury, and a little more challenging.
Enter Turnip Cake (蘿蔔糕), aka Radish Cake, Lo Bok Cake or Daikon Cake…
Mama T. usually makes large batches of Turnip Cake and New Year’s Cake during Chinese New Year, steaming them up in metal tubs and giving them out to family and friends. Like the New Year’s Cake recipe, her Turnip Cake recipe comes from the Towngas Cooking Centre in Hong Kong, where Mama T. still goes for cooking classes! I actually remember being a young kid in HK for Chinese New Year, and Mama T. marking on the calendar the day she went in to learn this recipe. That was about 20 years ago, and now, Mama T.’s copy of the recipe has tons of notes, including calculations for 1.5, 2 and 2.7 (?) x the recipe.
The ingredient list is much longer than that of the New Year’s Cake, but the recipe is still pretty easy, especially if you have a food processor with a grater attachment.
Mama T. still grates by hand.
Then you dice up the “filling” of dried mushrooms, dried shrimp, Chinese sausage and Chinese pork belly before pan-frying it.
This is a good time for a quick Chinese lesson!
Chinese pork belly = 臘肉 (also written as 腊肉), “preserved meat”. I’m sorry to have only thought of taking the picture when I’d already chopped up the pork belly, but it essentially looks like thick slabs of bacon marinating in a dark, sweet soy sauce.
Chinese sausage = 臘腸 (also written as 腊腸), “preserved sausage”.
Since both are preserved meats, if you are able to find one, the other shouldn’t be far away at the Asian grocery store.
Next, you cook the turnip with a bit of Chinese rock sugar (冰糖) to bring out the natural sweetness. The sugar should look like a brown brick; don’t buy the yellow rock sugar by mistake! If you can’t find it, then you can substitute with regular brown sugar.
B.’s family seems to be ++offended by the smell of cooked turnip, but its never bothered me.
Obviously the turnip doesn’t give the cake its cake-like texture. That comes courtesy of rice flour (沾米粉) – don’t buy the glutinous rice flour by mistake! – and a bit of wheat starch, less commonly known as “tang” flour (澄麵, also written as 澄面)
I was definitely worried about whether the recipe would be successful as the batter seemed quite thin.
But it set! It was a Chinese New Year miracle.
Despite there being too much white pepper (the original recipe calls for a whole tablespoon of salt, so I didn’t add the full amount, but still added the full amount of white pepper… duh!), the turnip cake was still a hit with B.’s family. This recipe makes enough for two cakes, so I garnished one and gave it to my grandparents.
I didn’t have a chance to snap any photos of them fried and ready to eat, so my cousin Joyce was happy to oblige. Thanks!
In reading the recipe, I apologize for the weird weights (yes, you need a scale!) – they are converted from the Chinese measurement of taels/”liang” (兩), which are 1⅓ oz.
- Serves: 12
- Calories: 262
- Fat: 9 g
- Saturated fat: 6 g
- Trans fat: 0 g
- Carbohydrates: 36 g
- Sugar: 6 g
- Sodium: 361 mg
- Fiber: 3 g
- Protein: 9 g
- Cholesterol: 12 mg
Makes 2 x 9" round cake pans/pie plates
- 1 tsp (5 mL) vegetable oil (植物油)
- 4 dried black/shiitake mushrooms (冬菇), soaked until softened, diced
- 8 oz (227 g) Chinese pork belly (臘肉), skin removed, diced
- 2 Chinese sausage (臘腸), diced
- 4 tbsp dried shrimp (蝦米), soaked until softened
- 3.3 lb (1.5 kg) daikon radish/lo bok (蘿蔔), peeled and shredded
- ½ piece of rock sugar (冰糖), chopped, or 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 10.7 oz (302 g) rice flour (沾米粉)
- 2.7 oz (76 g) wheat starch (澄麵粉)
- 1½ cups (375 mL) water (水)
- Salt (鹽) and white pepper (胡椒粉), to taste
- Chopped cilantro (莞茜), chopped green onion (蔥) and/or sesame seeds (芝麻), for garnish
- Grease two round cake pans or pie dishes. Set aside.
- Heat oil in a wok over medium heat and stir-fry mushrooms, pork belly, sausage, and dried shrimp until fragrant. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Clean the wok and cook daikon and rock sugar together in two batches over medium-low heat. Do not drain.
- In a large bowl, mix together rice flour and wheat starch. Stir in water. Add daikon with liquid into flour mixture (Be careful, it’s hot!), then add in the cooked ingredients and salt and pepper. (Don’t worry if it looks a little thin!)
- Pour batter into prepared cake pan. Steam over high heat for 45 minutes, or until the cake has set - it should look slightly yellowed and gelatinous.
- Garnish with chopped cilantro, green onions and/or sesame seeds. To serve, slice and pan-fry for a few minutes per side until golden.