Radish Cakes

蘿蔔糕 (Luo Bo Gao)!

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 to my co-conspirator Sarah, for providing her grandma-made childhood memories and decisive nature to help with quality assurance, decision-making, and even loaning me a steamer. 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. Note: another reason to try this labor-intensive recipe at home: lately when I go to some Chinese restaurants, they’ve sprinkled their radish cake with bits of shrimp so I can’t eat it unless I want to risk anaphylactic shock.

The finished product: take 2 post freezing and thawing.
The finished product: take 2 post freezing and thawing.

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

Ingredients:
1.5 long daikon radish (2lbs), skinned & shredded
2-3 logs chinese sausage, casing removed, meat minced OR similar amt char siu meat, minced
16 oz. rice flour
3-5 shiitake mushrooms, minced (you can also used dried, but fully rehydrate it before cutting, at least 2 hrs or overnight)
2 1/2 cups water
1 small red onion (or dry pre-fried red onions)
high heat oil for frying
optional (if you make the big bucks): 3 dried scallop, rehydrated and minced into tiny bits

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

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

Supplies:
box shredder or food processor with shredder attachment
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:
Prep 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.
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).

Clockwise from top left:
Clockwise from top left: steps 3 – 7.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Inspiration:
My Mama! I had a fairly long conversation going through her recipe with her, and it made about 80% of what’s above.
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)

Various Notes:
On chinese sausage: http://www.seriouseats.com/2011/06/chinese-sausage-seriously-asian.html
On choosing good daikon: the usual advice: 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: sometimes people add 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!”

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