Monday, August 24, 2015

daikon radish/turnip cake | luo bo gao | 萝卜糕

It took me a few tries to get this recipe right. I wanted a luo bo gao where you can actually taste the turnip. But I found out the hard way that if you add too much daikon, the cake is a mushy mess that's impossible to pan-fry and smells a little like fart.

The easiest ratio to work with are these nice round numbers in grams: 100 grams of rice flour, 200 grams of water, 600 grams of turnip, 5 grams of salt. But if you are metric units or measuring-by-weight averse, the best approximation is (key word being approximation): 

1 cup or 4 ounces of rice flour
8 ounces or 1 cup of water
1 1/2 pounds of daikon radish
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Please note, daikon, radish, and turnip are being used interchangeably.

some tips and tricks
texture is good
tip #1: Skip to the next tip if you like your food to be one uniform texture. Pan-fried turnip cake is so much better than plain steamed turnip cake. It's like French toast vs. soggy bread, obviously there is a clear winner. That's why I highly recommend you wait, let the cake chill overnight in the fridge, then fry the slices the next day.

tip #2: Only grate two thirds of the turnip and chop the remaining third into small cubes. That way the finished cake will be studded with slightly sweet, juicy cubes of turnip suspended in tender rice cake.

control the water content
The water content of the turnip can vary tremendously depending on its age. I usually make this when I find a slightly-moldy-on-the-outside-but-still-good-on-the-inside daikon that's been in my fridge for who knows how long, not much water content in a flabby radish. The one time I made it with a fresh turnip, I didn't account for the extra water so the cake was a goopy disaster.  

tip #3: You must salt the grated daikon and let it sit for 20 minutes while you prep the other ingredients. Then squeeze fistfuls of the grated daikon and use the collected juices as part of the liquid for the batter. This way you can always control the water content in the cake regardless of how much water is in the daikon.

daikon radish/turnip cake | luo bo gao | 萝卜糕

(see note above for metric units)
600 grams daikon radish
100 grams rice flour
200 grams water
5 grams salt
2 Chinese sausages aka la chang/lap cheong (my favorite brand is Kam Yen Jan, which can even be found at Costco in SF)
3 - 4 rehydrated dried shiitake mushrooms 
2 stalks of green onions
dried shrimp

the day before
soak the shiitake mushrooms in water to rehydrate them (I really like Andrea Nguyen's shiitake mushroom tips).

the day of 
line the bottom of a wide shallow bowl or a square glass baking pan with a layer of parchment. Brush oil on the sides of the pan and set aside. 

prep the ingredients
Grate 400 grams of daikon, sprinkle salt over the surface and massage it in with your hands and set aside.

With the remaining 200 grams of daikon, cut into 1/2 inch cubes and set aside. 

Cut the Chinese sausage in half lengthwise, then chop into 1/4 inch slices. Cut the mushrooms into 1/4 inch dice.  Chop the green onion in half separate the dark green leaves from the light green stem. Chop both parts into 1/4 slices but keep separate. 

Let the grated daikon sit for 20 minutes. After twenty minutes, set a sieve over a bowl and drain the daikon. Take fistfuls of daikon and squeeze out the excess juice. 

make the batter
Add additional plain tap water to the drained daikon water to make 200 grams total. Add this water to the rice flour and whisk until no lumps of flour remain. 

cook the ingredients
Add the sausage and mushrooms to a skillet and cook over medium heat until the sausage and mushrooms start to brown. Add the daikon cubes and the bottom half of the chopped green onion. Cook until the green onions are fragrant and daikon is slightly soft. Turn off heat. 

make the cake 
Add the grated daikon to the pan and break up the big clumps. Add the batter and try to mix the batter and daikon up as evenly as possible. Scrape the batter into a pan or large wide bowl and steam over medium low heat for 1 hour. Cool to room temperature and chill overnight in the fridge. 

the next day 
Turn the cake out of the steaming dish. Cut into 1/2 inch slices. Pan fry over medium high heat in a skillet until both sides are crispy. Serve with XO sauce or sambal chili paste or sriracha + soy sauce. 

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