Chinese New Year is just around the corner! In my family, the Radish Cake (蘿蔔糕 or “Luo Bak Go” in Cantonese) is a vital part of our celebration. It is not only popular among Cantonese families during Chinese New Year, it is also one of the popular items in dim sum restaurants, served either steamed or pan fried throughout the year.
I learned to make this cake from my mother. It is probably more accurate to call it Radish Pudding but its Chinese name is translated as ‘cake’. There are several variations of this recipe. Every Cantonese family probably has its own favorite family recipe. For example, my 2nd aunt in Hong Kong swears by her own version. Whichever recipe you use, it does require a lot of hard work – grating by hand of 3 or 4 large radishes and lots of chopping and stirring. So, I only make it once a year. The radishes are most juicy and sweet during winter and the other ingredients are very simple. Once I get started on this task, I usually steam 2 or 3 pans of radish cake. It keeps well in the fridge for 2 weeks. I prepare them in advance of Chinese New Year. Just before serving, it is sliced into pieces of 1 cm thickness, then lightly pan-fried. A quick and ready treat for guests or for my family’s breakfast.
So, here’s the recipe for homemade Radish Cake for those of you who miss waking up to the smell of your mom’s Luo Bak Go. Kung Hei Fat Choi!
3 or 4 white radish (also called daikon or turnip, about 2 kg)
500 g finely ground rice flour (look for “粘米粉” on the label for the correct type of rice flour)
4 Chinese sausages (chopped)
1/2 cup dried shrimp (soaked for half an hour)
1/2 cup dried shiitake mushrooms (soaked overnight and chopped)
1 Tbsp corn starch
1 small pot of boiling water (about 3-4 cups)
1 1/2 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
1. Grate the radish and put aside.
2. Stir fry together the chopped Chinese sausage, shiitake mushrooms and baby shrimp and put aside.
3. Fry the radish over slow heat. Add salt and sugar to taste. The radish will cook in its own juice. (If your radish is not very juicy, you may add a little bit of water). Cook for about half an hour or until the radish is soft and moist.
4. Mix the flour into the radish slowly. Add a bit of flour at a time, stirring to make sure it is well mixed in. Add a bit of boiling water each time the mixture gets too dry and difficult to stir. The mixture will be lumpy.
5. Stir into the mixture, the corn starch and 3/4 of the fried ingredients from step 2.
6. Grease the bottom and sides of a shallow pan with vegetable oil.
7. Pour the mixture into the pan. Smooth the top with the back of a spoon and garnish the top with the remaining fried ingredients.
8. Steam for about 1 hour or until a chopstick, stuck in the middle of the pan, comes out clean.