So, a couple of weeks ago marked the beginning of the Year of the Snake. The Water Snake to be precise. Coming from Vancouver, I am used to the dancing dragons, firecrackers, amazing food and red pockets that ring in the Chinese New Year and always love participating in the festivities. This year however, for the first time ever, I decided to try to make those delicious turnip cakes that are eaten at this time, all by myself.
I have always loved eating turnip cakes (more like inhaling them) at dim sums all over the world. In fact, once I left Vancouver, Sundays were never really the same again as dim sum Sundays were a sort of tradition there. Still, my love of those scrumptuous turnip cakes never faded and with a large kitchen, mooli in the fridge, and hungry stomaches waiting, it was time to get started!
Before I lay out the steps to savoury success though I’ll let you that I have no idea why they are called turnip cakes. I know there are other “cakes” which are savoury but it still seems rather odd to call anything not sweet a “cake”. Nevertheless, we are going to push forward and make these yummy bundles of deliciousness…
Total waiting time until taste explosion: 90 minutes (40 minutes to prepare everything and 50 minutes to steam)
Kitchen things you need:
- 3 small/medium sized tinfoil rectangular pans about 5″ wide, 8″ long, 2″ deep
- a wok and lid or better yet, a steamer
- big pot
- frying pan
The team to assemble:
- 1 large mooli radish (approx. 30 cm and a couple cm’s thick all around), peeled and chopped in thin strips
- 4 Chinese sausages (feel free to substitute bacon, ham cubes, dried prawns, or even walnuts if you are vegetarian)
- a bunch of green onions (or substitute regular onions), finely chopped
- 4 or 5 Chinese mushrooms (or substitute Chestnut mushrooms)
- a bunch of coriander leaves, chopped
- regular rice flour (DO NOT USE glutinous rice flour. You will curse the day you ever saw that stuff if you do. Trust me, that’s what I used my first attempt :D)
- a bit of black pepper
- a splash of soy sauce
Let’s get this party started!
- So the first step is to soak your mushrooms to get them to soften a bit. (If you are not using Chinese mushrooms, you can still do this but don’t have to as they would already be soft).
- Now, peel and chop your mooli into nice thin strips. Don’t worry about the shape too much as long as they are not too thick.
- Put all of your chopped mooli in your big pot and fill with just enough water to cover the mooli. Now, boil until the pieces are soft enough to break in two easily.
- While the mooli is boiling, chop your onions nice and tiny, along with the coriander and mushrooms. Next chop your sausages as you like. The smaller the better as you will have better distribution in the cake. Or just add more sausage/substitute 😉
- Now add as much rice flour as you had mooli into a bowl. So, if you had a big bowl full of mooli strips, fill up the same big bowl full of rice flour. Slowly add water to the flour and stir with chopsticks, if you have them, while adding water every so often until you have mixed the flour and water completely. Set aside.
- Pan fry your onions, mushrooms, sausages and coriander on medium heat until everything is nicely glistening with oil from the sausages. A couple minutes before the mix is ready, sprinkle black pepper all over and throw in a splash of soy sauce. Mix well and check on the mooli. By now, they should be ready so turn off the heat for all.
- Dump the fried mixture into the mooli and stir it all in.
- Now add the rice flour that you have set aside (Make sure the heat is not on or else the rice flour will immediately start to stick to the bottom of the big pot) and stir it all in, making sure that you mix everything very well so that all ingredients are spread throughout. It should look like a fried onion and sausage milkshake in the big pot. Mmmmm yum yum 😀
- Put 2 pints of water in the wok and place it on high heat. Cover with lid.
- Pour your mixture into the tinfoil pans.
- Put your tin foil pans in the wok and cover with lid.
- Make sure you check on the water level in the wok every 15 minutes to ensure that it does not burn. Keep refilling with water.
- Check with chopstick or fork that the cake is firm. Once firm enough, take out and set on cooling rack.
- Repeat for as many trays as you have made.
- Congratulations! Your turnip cake is steamed and ready. Now, you need to cut it up into squares and panfry it for a few minutes. Once golden brown on all sides, serve with sriracha hot sauce and/or soy sauce. Enjoy!