Lo Bak Go “Radish Cake”

People tend to get very confused about what to call this.  Depending on who you talk to, this Dim Sum favorite is typically referred to in English as Turnip Cake, Radish Cake or even Carrot Cake in Singapore.  I, for example, was raised to call it both Lo Bak Go (Cantonese for radish cake) AND Turnip Cake in English??? But I’m here to tell you it is a RADISH.  A RADISH.  Either way, you can call this dish whatever you want. 

Lo Bak Go (pronounced loh-bawk-goh) is a savory pan fried, steamed caked made from a batter of grated daikon radish, its liquid, a variety of flours (depending on who you talk to) and a filling of your choice (including no filling!).  It’s then steamed, cooled, cut into small pieces and then pan fried making them crispy on the outside and soft on the inside!

Sorry for the half-bitten piece, I find action shots VERY SEXY lol

Your standard Lo Bak Go you’ll experience at a Dim Sum restaurant will likely be filled with dried shrimp, mushrooms & Chinese sausage.  I’ve chosen to go the vegan route and fill mine with shiitake mushrooms & pickled Chinese mustard but you could basically use any filling you want provided you can chop it finely and it will keep its shape when cooked, ie it won’t disintegrate.  Anyone who is familiar with eating Lo Bak Go might think it to be a complicated dish, but it is surprisingly easy to make, only a few steps and requiring a bit of patience in between.  It is essential, however, that you have a steamer which can accommodate a 9-inch cake pan or casserole dish.

Lo Bak Go “Radish Cake

Makes about one 9-inch Cake, to be cut up

Batter:

1 Daikon Radish, about 700g or just over 1lb, grated finely or coarsely depending on if you want a more solid texture or something a bit looser and stickier, respectively.

12oz/350g Rice Flour

1.2 oz/35g Tapioca Flour or Corn Starch          

1.5t Salt

2t Sugar

1/2t Ground White Pepper (or Black Pepper)

Filling:

2T Green Onions, chopped

Approximately ¼ cup each of 2 chopped ingredients.  For example:

Shiitake Mushrooms, Chopped – if using dried, let sit in boiling water until softened, then reserve the liquid to use for the cake batter.

Pickled Chinese Mustard

Note: Chopped Sausage or Bacon will also work nicely here! Chinese Sausage and Dried Shrimp are very popular. You can basically choose anything that will retain its shape and not disintegrate.

Set some water to boil in a small pot on the stove and grate your radish while it’s heating. When it comes to a boil, add the grated radish and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. When done, drain the radish over a bowl to collect the cooking water. Let the radish rest until it’s cool enough to handle and then squeeze the excess water into a measuring cup. Then add enough of the reserved cooking water to measure out 700ml in total with the squeezed out liquid. If you have mushroom water reserved as described earlier, use that too. Just make sure the total amount of liquids equals 700ml.

Mix the flours, radish liquid, salt, sugar and pepper together until it resembles a watery batter.

Heat up some canola oil in a wok and fry the fillings until fragrant.  Turn the heat to low and add the batter.  Cook the mixture for about 3 minutes, stirring the entire time so it doesn’t brown. It will thicken into a paste.

Pour the batter into a greased 9-inch baking pan, smoothing out the surface with a spatula.

Place the pan into the steamer and steam on high heat for about 45 minutes.

Remove the cake and allow it to cool completely before you cut it into pieces.  Some people place it in the fridge to chill completely so its ready for the next day. If you do, allow it to come back to room temperature when you take it out of the fridge.

When cooled, carefully tip it out of the pan and cut into pieces the size of your choice.  Dust the top and bottoms with rice flour and pan fry on both sides until browned and crispy. 

Plate with a side of chili sauce or chili oil and enjoy!

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