As I mentioned before – I have a mad love for Chinese turnip cake (aka lo bak goh/luo bo gao/蘿蔔糕) and that my Aunt makes a ridiculously delicious version. Well, after a short visit with her the other day, she invited me to come over and document the Chinese turnip cake process! I was all over this because that means there will be goodies to take home afterwards (yay edible results!). Just a reminder of what Chinese turnip cake looks like:
I went over to her place with my Mom who apparently also knows how to make turnip cake (that’s news to me!) and we whipped up (eh ok it took awhile so whipped up is probably not the best word choice) a batch of turnip cake. I took copious notes and some photos so I could reasonably replicate this in the future. *sigh* My Aunt like my Mom subscribes to the “a bit of this and a bit of that”/no exact measurements school of cooking, so that means, as with all the recipes I’ve posted – measurements are semi-exact but it’s a good starting place!
Argenplath Aunt’s Amazingly Delicious Turnip Cake (Lo Bak Goh)
Makes 2 – 3 pans
Ingredients (All ingredients can be found in places like Superstore [usually the Asian food aisle] and T&T):
- ~1.25kg Daikon (It’s about 3 medium size daikons)
- 3 Chinese sausage (Lap Cheong) (In the refrigerated cases – normally somewhere near to tofu)
- 5 Chinese mushrooms (These are normally dried so soak in cold water first – Argenplath Mama likes to soak them overnight and then squeeze the excess water out because she finds them bitter if you don’t do that)
- Handful of dried shrimp
- 2 tsp Salt (2 separate occasions of 1 tsp each)
- 2 tsp Sugar (2 separate occasions of 1 tsp each)
- 1 tsp Soy Sauce
- 1 tsp Salted Cooking Wine
- White Pepper (to taste)
- 3 cups Water
- 2 cups Corn Starch
- 2 cups Rice Flour
- Shred daikon (my Aunt used an attachment on her grinder but you can also use a box grater – it’s just more effort) and leave it sitting in a bowl.
- Chop Chinese sausage, mushrooms and dried shrimp.
- Cook the chopped sausage, mushrooms and dried shrimp in a pan.
- Once the chopped ingredients are cooked (you can smell the deliciousness of the Chinese sausage), add in 1 tsp each of salt, sugar, soy sauce and rice wine. Give everything a good stir to mix up all the flavor and turn off the heat.
- Since your daikon has been sitting for a while, there should be “daikon water” in the bottom of your bowl. Drain that into a measuring cup/bowl (squeeze out excess water from the daikon as well) and add water until you have ~2 cups of the daikon water/water mix (if your daikon water is already 2 cups, just forgo water).
- Once you have finished draining the daikon, toss it into a wok and stir fry it for a few minutes.
- Add the daikon water/water mixture into the wok and stir fry until the daikon is translucent (it gets really “shrinky”).
- Cover the daikon and let it cook for about 15 minutes.
- While your daikon is cooking, mix together the 3 cups of water, 2 cups of cornstarch and 2 cups of rice flour.
- Once your 15 minutes are up, check on the daikon and it should have reabsorbed most/all the liquid you poured in – if there is still a lot of liquid left, just cover and let it cook for a little while longer.
- Add in 1 tsp each of salt and sugar as well as some white pepper (to taste) to the cooked daikon.
- Add the cooked chopped ingredients from earlier.
- Turn the heat down to medium.
- Add in the rice flour and cornstarch mixture.
- Things will start out looking like a paste, but just keep stirring it all together until you get a dough like consistency.
- Depending on the size of your pans, you can get about 2 (9″ pans) or 3 (6″-7″ pans) with this recipe so pour the mixture into the appropriate number of pans but DON’T pack everything in tightly (you just get really dense turnip cake), just gently level off the top with a spatula.
- Steam your turnip cakes for about 1 hour.
- Let your steamed turnip cakes cool and then you’re done!
P.S. These freeze pretty well so don’t worry about eating it all at once.
You just have to slice yourself a piece of the turnip cake and pan fry it. I like a really hot pan coated with a smidge of oil because I love the crunchy-ness you get when you sear the slices of turnip cake. This is probably the easiest part of the whole process (well other than eating).
As for making it – that didn’t seem so hard right? I thought it was pretty difficult but my Mom and Aunt just laughed really really hard at me when I said that. Apparently they “don’t cook difficult things so it must be simple” – sounds logical to me? I guess we’ll see what happens when I tackle this all by myself (with no supervision?!) – the potential for failure is there but whether I tell y’all or not is a whole other story (^_~).
So What Would Argenplath Pay?
Chinese turnip cake aka lo bak goh is pretty priceless if you ask me, but let’s do a price comparison anyway (just for fun). A plate of 3 pieces ala the very first photo will usually run you $3-$5 at dim sum depending on where you go and that’s really not a lot for $3-$5, but that’s the price you pay for having someone else carry out 18 steps of turnip cake making.
So what was the cost of making this ourselves?
- Daikon – if you can get it on sale – no more than $5
- Chinese sausage – $5/package but there is about 8 – 10 or so in each package – ~$1.50 for 3 sausages
- Chinese mushrooms – they come in a pretty big package so let’s guesstimate this at ~$1.00 – $1.50
- Dried shrimp – minimal cost – <$1 for what we need
- Salt, Sugar, Soy Sauce, Salted Cooking Wine – minimal costs – <$1 total for what we need
- Cornstarch – 2 cups is maybe 1/3 of a package? – ~$1?
- Rice Flour – 2 cups is about half a package – ~$0.50
My best guess for price on producing 2 pans of turnip cake is about $12 (probably less). That will get you between 2-3 dishes at dim sum pre-tax and pre-tip. So like usual, making it at home is cheaper ingredient wise but what is your time worth? This can be a process that takes about 2 -3 hours depending on if you have a grinder to shred your daikon (5 minutes) or if you’re using a box grater (I don’t know how long that takes – 15-30 minutes?) and then comes all the cooking and steaming and cooling. Although during the steaming time – you can do other things at home (never leave your stove on if you’re going out – Talk about safety hazards) like read, clean or peruse randomly awesome blogs? And of course once it’s out cooling – you can go and do whatever you like – the turnip cake won’t care.
So if you have a few hours to kill and you have a love of delicious delicious turnip cake, I say, consider experimenting with making your own (I know I will – well maybe).