Thursday, October 31, 2013

Pan-Fried Radish or Turnip Cake 蘿蔔糕

If you have gone for dimsum before, it's very likely you have tried pan-fried radish cake. If you haven't, try it next time - it's delicious!

Similar to taro/yam cake, this dish has different names - some people refer to it as radish cake whereas others call it turnip or carrot cake. I conclude the root vegetable family is simply a confusing one. Regardless, this cake is made with Chinese white radish (or daikon).

For me, this cake is equally delicious whether steamed or pan-fried, though I know some prefer the pan-fried version with its fragrant crunchy layer. (For info: another popular way to eat this is to make a plain radish cake then pan-fry it with seasonings and condiments - affectionately known as fried carrot cake in Singapore and Malaysia).

Radish vs Taro Cake
The method to make radish cake is very similar to taro cake, except for these differences:
- radish contains and releases quite a bit of liquid, so we add less water to this recipe
- radish needs to be pre-cooked for a longer time to get rid of the raw taste

Rice Flour vs Wheat Starch

The "main body" of this cake comes from cooking then steaming rice flour mixed with water. If you do a search online, you may notice that some recipes use only rice flour whereas others use rice flour plus a little wheat starch. You may wonder why?

The cooked texture and taste of the two flours are similar with subtle differences. I compared them by cooking then steaming 1 Tbsp of wheat starch with 2 Tbsp of water, and doing the same with rice flour. See enclosed picture for the results - wheat starch is on the left and rice flour on the right.

In terms of texture, wheat starch has a very slightly firmer and more bouncy bite. In terms of taste, rice flour has a 'ricey' taste whereas wheat starch is more neutral. These differences are so subtle they may not be noticeable to some. Both methods will yield a good cake. In today's recipe I added some wheat starch to give the cake a little more 'springy' bite. If you don't have it you can omit it.

See my earlier taro/yam cake post on principles of adding water and cooking batter. The general rule is the cake will be softer if: 1) the water to flour ratio is higher 2) the batter is cooked to a thinner consistency. This can be slightly adjusted based on personal preference.

Recipe and photos updated July 2016.
Makes a 8 inch (20 cm) round cake

1 kg white Chinese radish/daikon, grated
1/2 cup (45g) dried shrimps - diced finely
2 Chinese sausages (60g) - diced finely
6 medium dried shiitake mushrooms - diced finely
cups (210g) rice flour
1/4 cup (30g) wheat starch
2 cups (480ml) chicken stock (low sodium)
3 shallots, chopped finely
4 Tbsp cooking oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper 
1 Tbsp soy sauce
chilli sauce and sweet soy sauce (optional) 


1) Rinse and soak the dried shrimps and dried shiitake mushrooms in hot water for 15 minutes or till soft.

2) Peel and grate radish. Dice dried shrimps, Chinese sausage and dried shiitake mushrooms into small pieces. Mix the rice flour, wheat starch and 1 cup chicken stock in a bowl.

3) Heat up 2 Tbsp of oil in a wok over medium heat. Once oil is hot, add chinese sausage, dried shrimps, mushrooms and fry for about 1-2 minutes till aromatic. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

4) Heat up 2 Tbsp of oil in the wok. Add shallots and fry till aromatic. Add grated radish, 1 cup chicken stock and cook till soft and translucent. Add the seasonings - salt, pepper, soy sauce.

5) Turn the heat down to medium-low, give the flour/chicken stock batter a good stir and add to cooked radish. Quickly stir and cook the batter till it becomes a thick paste, almost like a thick oatmeal (see picture below). Turn off the heat immediately, add Chinese sausage, dried shrimps, mushrooms and mix well. The batter will continue to thicken slightly due to the residual heat.

6) Transfer the batter into a greased 8 inch (20 cm) round cake tin for steaming. Steam over high heat for about 45 minutes. Check water level and replenish steamer with boiling water if necessary. When done, an inserted chopstick should come out clean or almost clean.

7) Transfer cake to a cooling rack. It will be quite soft initially but will firm up once it has cooled down. Refrigerate at least 3-4 hours for a firmer texture.

8) To pan-fry, cut cake into thick slices. Heat up 1-2 Tbsp of oil in pan over medium-high heat and pan-fry till golden-brown on both sides. It should be quick since cake is already cooked. Serve with chilli or/and sweet soy sauce.

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