Turnip Cakes

Whenever I go for dim sum, I’m always hopeful that I’ll find turnip cakes on the menu. Their name is confusing, as they are not made out of the North American idea of turnip (probably a good thing), but from a vegetable called daikon which is a Chinese radish.

Maybe it would be better to call them radish cakes? Or be sure to always eat at a dim sum spot which has trolley service and point at these when I spot them. The times I’ve tried to pronounce the name–Lor Bak Goh—I get amused head shakes. My pronunciation can’t be too bad though as I do get turnip cakes. I guess the servers are taking pity on me.

Turnip cakes are especially favoured for Chinese New Year to promote good fortune. I eat them all year round… it can’t hurt, right?

Here’s what happened when I made turnip cakes at home.

Got a daikon.



Grated the daikon, then cooked it for 15 minutes.

cooked daikon

Cooked daikon.

While that was going on, diced some Chinese sausage,

Chinese sausage

Chinese sausage.

diced Chinese sausage

Diced Chinese sausage.

finely sliced a green onion,

green onion

Green onion.

finely sliced green onion

Finely sliced green onion.

and chopped some cilantro.



finely chopped cilantro

Finely chopped cilantro.

All that was stir-fried.

Chinese sausage, green onions and cilantro

Chinese sausage, green onions and cilantro.

When all that cooking was done and the ingredients had cooled, the batter was made.

There was non-glutinous rice flour.

rice flour

Rice flour.

Which, along with the white pepper,

adding white pepper

Adding white pepper.

and the white sugar,

white sugar

White sugar.

was added to the daikon.

non-glutinous rice flour

Non-glutinous rice flour.

Then the Chinese sausage, green onions and cilantro were added in. Here’s the batter.

turnip cake batter

Batter for turnip cake.

The batter was poured into a 9 x 9″ pan and steamed for 40 minutes.

cooking the turnip cakes

Cooking the turnip cakes.

Here’s the finished product.

turnip cake, ready for the next step

Turnip cake, ready for the next step.

When the cake had cooled, I cut it into 8 bars and pan fried as many as I wanted to eat in some oil. I thought 2 would be enough.

frying the turnip cake

Frying the turnip cake.

Here’s the finished product. Crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, sprinkled with sliced green onions and some hoisin sauce.

Lor Bak Goh

Lor Bak Goh.

This tasted pretty good, but not as good as when I order it at a dim sum restaurant. And considering the amount of time it took and the special trip to Chinatown to get Chinese sausages and daikon, I won’t be rushing to make Lor Bak Goh again soon. Thank goodness I live in a city where dim sum isn’t hard to find.

The recipe is from the beautifully illustrated book Dim Sum: The Art of Chinese Tea Lunch by Ellen Leong Blonder.

Turnip Cakes

1 Tbsp. small dried shrimp (optional)
12 ounces daikon radish
, pared and coarsely shredded (about 2-1/2 cups, lightly packed)
2 tsp. peanut or vegetable oil, plus additional for pan-frying
1 Chinese sausage, finely diced
1 scallion (white and green parts), finely sliced
1 Tbsp. finely chopped cilantro
1-3/4 c. rice flour (not glutinous rice flour)
1-1/2 tsp. salt (adjust up if not using shrimp)
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. ground white pepper

If using the dried shrimp, put them in a small bowl and cover them with hot water. Let them stand for 30 to 45 minutes to soften. Drain; then mince the shrimp.

Put the shredded daikon radish in a saucepan with 1-1/2 cups water. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes, or until tender. Remove the mixture from the heat.

Measure the radish with its cooking water and add enough water to make 3 cups. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and cool to lukewarm.

Heat a large skillet; then add the 2 teaspoons of oil. When it is almost smoking, stir-fry the Chinese sausage, scallions and dried shrimp for 1 minute. Stir in the cilantro and remove the mixture from the heat. Set it aside to cool.

Mix the rice flour, salt, sugar and white pepper. Add the mixture to the radish and its cooking water and stir to make a thick batter. Stir in the Chinese sausage mixture.

Oil a 9-inch round cake pan. Pour the mixture into the pan. Set up a steamer and bring the water to a boil. Steam the turnip cake for 40 minutes over high heat, replenishing the water in the pot as necessary.

Remove the turnip cake from the steamer and allow it to cool to room temperature. (The turnip cake may be covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days ahead at this point.) Cut into diamonds or squares. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat; then add 1 Tablespoon oil. When it is almost smoking, pan-fry several pieces of turnip cake for about 3 minutes or until browned., then turn to brown other side. Add oil to the pan as necessary. Serve hot.


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