Pan-fried turnip cakes with served with oyster sauce (Photo Credit: Danielle Tsi)
Lately, I've been enamored with this vintage gem of a book that Hua found on one of his eBay cookbook binges: Dim Sum, by Rhoda Yee.
Just one look at the cover and I was in love. How adorable is she? She looks like she could be one of my aunties. Auntie Rhoda, I trust you completely.
Inside the book was even better. It is filled with recipes for all the dim sum dishes I could ever dream of making, with funny anecdotes, helpful glossaries on cooking equipment and Chinese ingredients, instructional diagrams, suggested menu groupings, and best of all, these amazing old-school 1970's era black & white photos.
The first recipe that caught my eye was White Turnip Pudding Cake (Lo Bok Go). This is a dish that is near and dear to my heart. Crispy on the outside, creamy and smooth on the inside. The cake is made with Chinese white turnip, and studded with dried shrimp, barbecued pork, and bits of preserved turnip. Scallions and cilantro are also incorporated in the mix and scattered on top for extra fragrance.
The turnip (lo bok) itself tastes like a radish with a sharp, spicy bite to it. When it's cooked, the flavor mellows out and it loses its spiciness, but retains a distinct savory taste. If I had to compare this pudding cake to a Western dish, I would say that it is comparable to potato pancakes.
My grandmother used to make Lo Bok Go on special occasions, and it was always such a treat! Better than any that we would ever have in a restaurant -- not sure what her secret was. My mom has her recipe written down somewhere at home, but in the meantime, I decided to give Yee's version a shot.
I started out by finely dicing the turnip and boiling it in chicken broth. Then, stir fried together Chinese dried shrimp, barbecued pork, and turnips that had been preserved in salt and garlic. Scallions and cilantro went into the mix, and then I combined all of it into a batter of cake flour and chicken broth. Into the steamer it all went.
Final verdict? The cake was surprisingly easy to make, and while it wasn't quite as good as my grandma's (not as smooth and light) the flavors were right on. You can eat Lo Bok Go right out of the steamer, but I prefer letting it cool and pan frying it – extra crispy, please.
White Turnip Pudding Cake (Lo Bok Go)
Recipe from Rhoda Yee's Dim Sum.
Makes: one 9-inch round cake
2 ½ cups finely diced Chinese turnip (lo bok) – about ¾ of one large turnip
2 ¼ cups chicken broth
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/3 cup dried shrimp
1 cup barbecued pork
2 tablespoons salted turnip, minced (preserved with salt and garlic)
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup green onions, chopped
½ cup cilantro
2 cups Swans Down cake flour (no substitute)
1. Soak dried shrimp for 1 hour, then finely dice after draining.
2. Bring diced turnips, 2 tablespoons oil and 1 cup chicken broth to a boil and simmer for 12-15 minutes or until turnip is soft. Do not drain liquid.
3. Heat wok and add 2 tablespoons oil and stir fry diced shrimp for 1 minute, then add diced pork, salted turnips, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/3 cup each of the green onions and cilantro. Set aside.
4. Mix 2 cups of Swans Down cake flour with 1 ¼ cup of chicken broth until smooth. Add stir fried mixture and the boiled turnip, including the remaining liquid in the pot. Mix well. Pour mixture into 9 inch cake pan.
5. Set cake pan over steam rack in wok. Cover. Bring water to a boil and turn heat to simmer. Steam for ½ hour or longer until cake is set. Sprinkle remaining green onions and cilantro over cake. Cool for at least ½ hour before cutting.
6. Cut into ½-inch thick slices and pan fry with a little oil until the outside is browned and crunchy. Serve immediately with oyster sauce.
Do-ahead Notes: Can be made ahead and frozen. Reheat by thawing first, then cut in thin slices and pan fry.