Radish Cake (No Shrimp!)
Gluten-free options included

Radish Cake by Food the Wong Way: homemade, with gluten-free ingredients and no dried shrimp bits.

A super-processed food recipe! Special exceptions must be made for once-a-year-events. Happy lunar new year! Special thanks to my mama, and also to my co-conspirator Sarah, for providing her grandma-made childhood memories and decisive nature to help with quality assurance, with decision-making, and for even loaning me a steamer.

Other names for this dish:

Turnip cake
Lo bak gao (phonetically in Cantonese dialect, often found via dim sum restaurant lingo)
Carrot cake (in Singapore)
蘿蔔糕 (Luo Bo Gao written, traditional Chinese)
萝卜糕 (Luo Bo Gao written, in Simplified Chinese)

Why no shrimp?I tried this labor-intensive recipe at home because lately when I go to some Chinese restaurants in the States, they’ve sprinkled their radish cake with bits of shrimp so I can’t eat it unless I want to risk anaphylactic shock (re: crustacean allergy, i.e. shellfish that has an exoskeleton). This is one of my favorite standard dishes for dim sum both in the U.S. and abroad, I especially love when they get the outside just-right crunchy, and a soft, squishy inside.

The finished product: take 2 post freezing and thawing.
The finished product: Take 2, post-freezing and -thawing.

蘿蔔糕 (Luo Bo Gao)! Radish Cake!

Makes: 2 medium steamers and one rice cooker 4″ x 4″. Enough to serve a dozen ppl as a small side
Overall Time: 60+ Minutes to Multi-Day

Ingredients

1.5 long daikon/Chinese radish (2lbs), skinned & shredded
2-3 chinese sausages, thinly minced into tiny pieces (for vegetarians: you’ll still get umami if you do the mushrooms and no sausage)
16 oz. rice flour
3-5 shiitake mushrooms, minced (you can also used dried, but fully rehydrate it before cutting, at least 1 hr or overnight)
1.5 teaspoons salt

2 1/2 cups water
high heat oil for frying

Optional but Recommended: choose a few for umami

1.5 Tbs fried shallots or onions
1/4 c bay scallops, fried (or dried bay scallops soaked in water)
1 teaspoon minced ginger
2 Tbs chopped green onion
1/2 tsp sugar
¼ tsp chicken bouillon powder

Optional for sauce: green onions, chili oil or chili sauce, soy sauce, 1/8 tsp ginger & dash of sesame oil (mix to taste), OR oyster sauce

To make gluten-free: replace soy sauce with tamari sauce, fry onions fresh rather than using the dry ones, and check the oyster sauce and boullion.

Supplies:
box shredder or food processor with shredder attachment (see
steaming implements (either a bamboo steamer basket or a steamer rack with dish to hold target food with) plus wok and lid to fit OR rice cooker with steaming feature* (pretty much all of them)
cheesecloth (or similar) to line steamer basket

So many packages of processed food, to be more processed! Bottom, left to right: dried scallops soaking, Cuisinart-shredded radish, chopped shiitakes and sausage, and diced green onions.
So many packages of processed food, to be more processed! Bottom, left to right: dried scallops soaking, Cuisinart-shredded radish, chopped shiitakes and sausage, and diced green onions.

Steps

Time Note: the prep time for shredding a giant daikon, rehydrating any dried ingredients, and mincing to tiny pieces is not to be underestimated. Optional: You can choose to prep by shredding and mincing the ingredients one day ahead, store in ziplock bag if shredding ahead, or just use a food processor to shred.
1) Heat oil on medium and saute sausage, mushrooms, and red onion, about 7 minutes.
2) Saute shredded daikon with no oil until half clear (I split it into 2 batches for even cooking), about 4 minutes per batch. Total 9-10 minutes’ cooking.
3) Mix in items from step 1 with daikon.
4) In a separate bowl, blend rice flour into water (bonus points for using the scallop soaking water in this 2/5 cups of water).
5) Pour daikon mix from step 3 into rice flour & water blend. Add optional scallops if you have them, for an added flavor punch.
6) Line steamer with cloth, pour your completed mix into the steamer, steam for about 30-40 minutes until firm.
7) Let sit to cool about 20 minutes.
8) Optional but recommended: once cooled, chill in fridge at least 20 minutes.
9) When ready to serve, slice cake into pieces to preferred size and lightly fry each piece until it reaches desired crispness, about 12 minutes for 9 pieces, flipping once in the middle until brown.
10) Optional: while waiting for cakes to sear, you can mix the sauce to taste.

See tips on materials & supplies.

Clockwise from top left:
Clockwise from top left: steps 3 – 7.
Ladling the mixture into the cheesecloth in the bamboo steamer.
Ladling the mixture into the cheesecloth in the bamboo steamer.
After ladling, smooth over top for even cake finish.
After ladling, smooth over top for even cake finish.
Steamer set up: the lid fit just right! Remember, "if you're lookin', it's not cookin'!" No peaking until you really think it's done.
Steamer set up: the lid fit just right! Remember, “if you’re lookin’, it’s not cookin’!” No peaking until you really think it’s done.
The cake, post-chilling, turned upside down, and before removing the cheesecloth.
The cake, post-chilling, turned upside down, and before removing the cheesecloth.
Finally on the pan to fry! Before & after.
Finally on the pan to fry! Before & after.

What’s that, you made tons of this and want to save some for later?

Aha, slice it up and freeze it on a baking sheet, then store in a freezer ziplock. I like to leave it in there the minimum amount of time to freeze to absorb minimum adjacent smells.

To cook after frozen

Best to defrost 15-30 minutes and fry up for about 10 minutes until it reaches desired golden brown color. If frying direct from freezer, this will take longer and give you a less even golden finish.

Laid out in the freezer after slicing.
Laid out in the freezer after slicing.

Trial Recipe Rating

Novelty Rating: 5 of 5
Definitely labor-intensive, but worth it every once in a year or so, plus now I have a bag full of home-made radish cake in my freezer!
Likelihood of Repeat: 40%
I’d like to try it again with lots more scallops in, I was maybe too conservative with the two pieces.
Lesson Learned: definitely easier and neater to cut if you take the patience to chill the cake first. I like slicing them only about a finger-width thin to get optimum crunch factor! *On the rice-cooker steaming function: this took less time to finish than on stovetop, probably due to the smaller portion, check in the 15-20 minute range.

Tips on Materials & Supplies


What’s the difference between Chinese radish, turnip, and daikon?
For the purposes of this recipe, I usually look for large white tubers about the size of an adult forearm (a..Western adult..). At the store I think it’s usually labelled as a Chinese radish or daikon, or Korean daikon (more stout shape but still good). You want a large one because otherwise it’ll take even longer to shred. Also see: this answer on Quora.

On choosing good daikon: the usual advice is to pick one that feels heavy for its size (with water!) I was worried about buying the squat-looking Korean daikon, but it tastes the same to me, and was fresher than the regular daikon left at Asian Food Center (currently one of my top favorite stores in Seattle). Just try to avoid any that appear to have that rubbery feel carrots get when they sit in the back of your crisper too long.

On rice flour: get the kind with the red text and an elephant on the package, NOT the green text one that is glutinous.
On scallops: as mentioned, this recipe often has shrimp, so scallops is a nice alternative
On shredding radish: or those of you who were gifted a Cuisinart (because who buys it on their own), I watched this Cuisinart video as a refresher, so you didn’t have to.

Okay I admit, this was take 1 of the final product: this is how shaggy and messy the pieces look when you are too impatient to chill in the fridge before slicing.
Okay I admit, this was take 1 of the final product: this is how shaggy and messy the pieces look when you are too impatient to chill in the fridge before slicing.
The squirrel in me says, "hooray! nuts for future munching STORED!"
The squirrel in me says, “hooray! nuts for future munching STORED!”

 

Citations

My Mama! I had a fairly long conversation going through her recipe with her, and it made about 80% of what’s above. She grew up in Taiwan, while my father’s from Hong Kong.
How to Make Chinese Turnip Cakes (蘿蔔糕) | Angel Wong’s Kitchen @AngelCooksFood
Radish Cake at Serious Eats
Epicurious: Golden Crisp Daikon Cake with Spicy Hot Sauce
The Woks of Life: Turnip Cake (Lo Bak Go)

Thanks also to my fellow food-obsessed friend Candace who gave me a tip on the rice flour type, and Angel Wong of Angel Wong’s Kitchen for her nice tutorial video that (a)confirmed the preferred rice flour type, and (b)filled in a few gaps in specifics for the recipe procedure.

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