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:
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.
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
1.5 long daikon/Chinese radish (2lbs), skinned & shredded
2-3 chinese sausages, thinly minced into tiny pieces (for vegetarians: you you’ll still get umami if you just 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 tablespoons chopped green onion
1/2 teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.