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Plate of traditional Chinese turnip cake (lo bak go) served with chili oil
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5 from 4 votes

Chinese Turnip Cake (Lo Bak Go, 萝白糕)

A traditional Chinese turnip cake made with daikon radish, Chinese sausage, shiitake mushrooms, dried shrimp, and dried scallops. 
Prep Time45 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Total Time1 hr 45 mins
Course: Main, Side, Snack
Cuisine: Chinese
Servings: 6 Servings
Calories: 582kcal
Author: Joyce | Pups with Chopsticks

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs Chinese turnip (Daikon Radish, approximately 10 inches in length and 3 inches wide), approx. 3-4 cups
  • 1 Chinese sausage (lap cheong)
  • 4 large dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 4 small dried scallops or 2 tablespoons of dried shrimp (optional)

Turnip Cake Batter

Garnish (Optional)

Bacon, Cheese and Onion Variation (Not Traditional, See Notes)

  • 1 cup sharp old cheddar (Grated)
  • 1 small onion (Sliced, pan fried)
  • 8-10 slices bacon (finely chopped and pan-fried)

Instructions

Preparation

  • Soak the shiitake mushrooms in hot or boiling water until it is soft.
    Depending on the size, it may take 30 minutes to an hour. Try to fully submerge the shiitake mushrooms under water by placing a small plate into the bowl to weigh them down.
    Once it is soft, remove the stems and discard them, then chop them into small pieces and set them aside.
  • Chop up the Chinese sausage into small pieces and set it aside.
  • (Optional, if you are using dried shrimp or scallops) Add the dried scallops into a small bowl and cover it with ¼ cup of hot water. Make sure the scallops are fully immersed in the hot water. Keep it covered to 'steam' in the bowl for at least 30 minutes or until soft. Hand shred it into small pieces when it is soft and set it aside.
    Alternatively, you can use dried shrimp as well. Make sure you rinse the dried shrimp to remove any sand before you soak it. Roughly chop the shrimp once it is soft and set aside.

Preparing the Turnip

  • Remove the ends of the turnip and peel it. Cut the turnip into half or thirds to make it easier to cut or grate if it is larger than 6 inches long.
  • Option 1 - Smoother Turnip Cake: Grate the turnips by hand or with a food processor. I recommend this method if you plan to pan fry it because it will give you a smoother and flatter surface to get the most crispiness.
    Option 2 - Heartier and Chunkier Turnip Cake: Alternatively, you can cut the turnip by hand. Cut the smaller pieces in half lengthwise so that the turnip can sit flat side down on the cutting board so it doesn't roll around while you are cutting it. Cut them into thin 2mm slices and then stack them 3-4 slices high and cut across into 2mm matchsticks. (See blog post for photos). Set it aside

Preparing the Batter and Steamer

  • In a large bowl, combine the rice flour, corn starch, sugar, miso (or salt), and white pepper. Mix everything together until there are no lumps and the batter is smooth. Set it aside for later.
  • Prepare the steamer on the stove over medium heat. Make sure there is enough water in there to steam for 45 minutes to an hour. Fill it with enough water so that the water level is right below the steaming tray.
    If your wok or steaming tray doesn't have enough water after 25 minutes of steaming, you may need to add more water.

Cooking the Ingredients

  • In a frying pan set to medium heat, add about 1 tablespoon of oil and wait for the oil to get hot.
  • Add the shiitake, dried shrimp, or dried scallops and Chinese sausage in and toast the Chinese sausage until it turns dark red and the oils come out. It should take about 2-5 minutes
  • Add in the turnip and 3 tablespoons of water into the pan. Cook it for 5 minutes and then cover it with a lid to steam it for another 1-2 minutes
  • Once the turnip is soft, pour the hot turnip mixture from the pan into the large bowl of rice flour batter and mix well. The batter will still be runny, don't worry it will solidify when we steam it.

Steaming the Turnip Cake (Lo Bak Go)

  • Oil the pan you are steaming the turnip cake in very well so that it doesn't stick to the bottom and the sides.
    I also like to cut out a small round piece of parchment paper to place it on the bottom to make sure that the turnip cake cannot stick to the bottom of the pan.
    I use an 8-inch round aluminum pan that is 3 inches deep.
  • Pour everything into the oiled pan and press any turnip that is sticking out down and flatten the top of the cake with a spatula.
  • When the steamer is hot, place the pan gently into the steamer.
  • Steam it in a steamer for 45 minutes.
    To check if it is cooked, poke a wooden skewer or chopstick into the middle of the turnip cake - it should come out clean. If it has wet batter stuck to the skewer, add 10-15 more mins to the cooking time.
  • Remove the pan from the steamer with oven mitts and let it rest for about 30 minutes. A little water may accumulate on top of the turnip cake from the water dripping from the lid. That's okay, the water will absorb back into the cake.
    Run a spatula or a small knife along the sides of the pan. Put a plate on top of the pan and flip it upside down, the turnip cake should release and fall onto the plate.
    Remove the parchment paper from the turnip cake (which should be at the top after you flip it upside down).
    Be careful, the pan is very hot. I like to use oven mittens to do this entire process.
  • If you are going to eat it freshly steamed, garnish it with green onions and some sweet soy sauce, and dig in!
    If you are pan-frying it, let it cool at room temperature for an hour, and then put it in the fridge to let it fully cool before cutting it. This is very important because freshly steamed turnip cake is too soft to be cut and it will break apart if you pan fry it before it has had a chance to solidify.

Pan Frying the Turnip Cake (Lo Bak Go)

  • Once the turnip cake has had at least 3-4 hours to cool in the fridge, cut the turnip cake into 2 cm cubes, or the traditional rectangles, and pan-fry it in oil in a non-stick pan on medium heat. (If you have extra bacon fat from browning the bacon, you can use some of that as well with a bit of oil! :)) Pan fry them until they are brown and crispy.
    Don't be shy with the oil. Turnip cake likes to stick to the pan if you are not using a well seasoned or non-stick pan.
  • Enjoy immediately with a bit of chili oil or sriracha. Turnip cake tastes best when it is hot or still warm.

Notes

  • IMPORTANT: You must make sure the turnip cake has been cooled in the fridge and had enough time to solidify before cutting it so that the turnip cake can hold its shape in the frying pan.
  • When you are picking daikon radishes at the supermarket, make sure it is firm and not turgid. It shouldn’t be very soft and bendy. The firmer it is, the more water it contains and the fresher it is.
  • When you are buying rice flour, make sure you are buying rice flour and not glutinous rice flour. Rice flour usually comes in clear packaging with red writing. Glutinous rice flour comes in clear packaging with green writing.
  • Instead of salt, I like to use miso to give the turnip cake its savory flavor – it also gives it a nice umaminess as well, but if you don't want to use miso you can use salt.
  • When you measure out the rice flour, make sure you are not using a heaping amount. Use the back of a knife and level out the measurement by running it along the rim of the cup to remove any excess rice flour.
  • Lo bak go is notorious for sticking to pans because of the rice flour, which makes it difficult to get that crispy exterior. I personally think it fries the best using a Teflon non-stick pan, and don't be shy with the oil as well.
  • Pan-Fried with XO Sauce - Once the turnip cake has cooled, you can cut them into 1-inch cubes and pan-fry them until crispy perfection. Once they are crispy, toss them with a bit of XO sauce or Chinese chili oil (we like the Chili crisp, from Lan Gao Ma) and you have a simple and delicious snack!
  • If you are making the bacon, cheese, and onion variation, pan fry the finely chopped bacon and sliced cheese during the step you would normally pan fry the Chinese sausage and shiitake and follow the same steps afterwards. Add the grated cheese to the batter when you mix in the cooked turnip.

Nutrition

Serving: 1Serving | Calories: 582kcal | Carbohydrates: 77g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 22g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 49mg | Sodium: 510mg | Potassium: 545mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 297IU | Vitamin C: 37mg | Calcium: 263mg | Iron: 1mg