Daikon, a winter radish originally from the east Asia, is one of the most popular vegetables on Asian people’s winter table. Among thousands of dishes daikon has been made into, the Cantonese styled savory turnip (daikon) cake is one of the most famous plates, which has also gained great popularity through the Southeast Asia. Besides being a regular in Cantonese dim sun restaurants, the turnip cake is also regarded as a lucky food to welcome the Chinese New Year.
THOUSAND WAYS TO ENJOY DAIKON
In my childhood I remembered every year when it was daikon harvest season, families in the north China would stock up hundred kilos of daikon (and cabbages) and stored them for winter. Through the whole season Grandma would serve daikon in various dishes: soup with beef and daikon, dumplings with daikon filling, fermented daikon, and daikon pancakes, etc.
One common expression the older generation always told the younger, in order to convince the kids to eat more daikon, was “冬吃萝卜夏吃姜” eat daikon in winter, ginger in summer. In fact, it is indeed a vegetable rich in nutrition.
Check my recipe of the dumplings with pork and daikon filling on the blog.
A LUCKY FOOD FOR THE CHINESE NEW YEAR
I have been eating Daikon since childhood. But not until I went to live in Canton province, I learned that eating daikon was also a way of sending good wishes for the new year.
Daikon, commonly known as white radish (白萝卜) in north China, is also called 菜头 (Cài Tóu) in the south. Cai Tou sounds similar to 彩头 ((Cǎi Tóu, good omen, lucky sign). So having a dish made of daikon is a way to pray for a prosperous year.
Check out my eBook for more lucky dishes for the Chinese New Year.
The favourite Cantonese way to enjoy Daikon is to make it into the savory cake, together with some local specialties such as dried scallop, dried shrimps, Cantonese fermented sausage. However, Cantonese people are not content with eating the savory turnip cake only in festival season. To show their love, they have listed it on the menu in many Cantonese dim sum restaurants.
KEY TO SUCCEED IN MAKING TURNIP/ DAIKON CAKE
The major steps of making daikon cake are stir-frying, steaming and pan-frying. It may sound complicated but if you follow the recipe step by step, it won’t be mission impossible.
The only tricky part is the ratio of the water and starches in the batter preparation.
A watery batter won’t be able to hold all the ingredients firmly into a cake. While too much starch may give the cake a gummy consistency.
In my recipe I am following the formula in batter preparation:
- Weight of the rice flour = 1/7 weight of the daikon
- Weight of the wheat flour = 1/2 rice flour
- Weight of water = weight of rice flour + wheat flour
During the cooking process, the juice of daikon will come out. The juice together with the water (in the batter) should be no more than 1.5 of the total weight of the flours (of rice + wheat).
To do the math correctly, you could take out the juice from the wok and weigh it. Or measure with your eyes to count the juice into the total quantity of liquid.
CANTONESE STYLE SAVORY DAIKON CAKE (广式萝卜糕)Course: FIRST COURSECuisine: Cantonese, CineseDifficulty: High
Daikon is one of the most popular vegetables on Asian people’s winter table. Among thousands of dishes daikon has been made into, the Cantonese styled savory turnip (daikon) cake is one of the most famous plates. Besides being a regular in Cantonese dim sun restaurants, the turnip cake is also regarded as a lucky food to welcome the Chinese New Year.
Daikon (peeled): 910g
Shallot: 1 (around 30g)
Shiitake mushroom (dried): 4-5
Dried shrimps: 1 tbsp
Dried scallops: 4-5
Lap Cheong (Cantonese sausage): 150g nota 1
Sunflower oil: 2 tbsp
- The condiments
Oyster sauce: 2 tbsp
White pepper: 1/2 tsp
Sugar: 1 tsp
Salt: 1 tsp
- The batter
Rice flour: 130g
Wheat starch: 65g
Corn starch: 30g nota 2
Water: 200ml nota 3
- Cut the ingredients
- Soak the dried shiitake mushrooms, shrimps and scallops in water until they are hydrate and soft enough to handle. You could do this step the night before.
- Cut the shallot and Cantonese sausage into small pieces. Shred the daikon.
- Squeeze out the excess water from the soaked ingredients in Step 1. Cut the mushrooms and shrimps into small pieces. Break the scallops into stripes. In the meantime, collect the water used to soak these ingredients in a big bowl for later use.
- Prepare the batter
- Measure the water gathered in the previous step. Add more if needed to make it reaching around 200ml. Bearing in mind that later there will be more liquid coming out from the daikon.
- Mix all ingredients listed in the group "The batter" in a bowl to get the batter. Leave it aside for later use.
- Heat up a wok with sunflower oil. Then add in the shallot and stir-fry it for 1 minute.
- Add in the sausage, shrimps and the scallop. Stir-fry them for 2 minutes. Then take them out from the wok.
- Put the shredded daikon into the wok. Cook it with the lid on for 15 minutes.
- (15 minutes later) measure the juice in the wok following the method and standard mentioned above. Add all "The condiments" and the stir-fried ingredients in step #2 and mix well.
- Stir the batter before pouring it slowly into the wok. Keep stirring to mix the batter with other ingredients.
- After 1 minute, the batter shall become condense and start to hold all ingredients together. Keep stirring until all ingredients in the wok become compact, with no liquid remains.
- Move the compost into a container. Shape it using a spatula/ spoon into a regular form.
- Put the container in steamer and cook it on steam for 40-60 minutes. Take the container out and leave it to cool completely.
- Cut the daikon cake into slices. Pan-fry each side for 2 minutes. When the surface turns into golden brown color, take the slice out and serve when it is hot.
- 1. It can be substituted by fermented meat in Italy, such as salami, pancetta di suino, prosciutto crudo, etc.
- 2. Optional but is suggested to the first-time maker, in order to have a better control of the result.
- 3. Gather the water used to soak the dried seafood and shiitake mushrooms, which is full of flavor.