Stir Fried Vegan Turnip Cake (Lo Baak Gou)
This classic dim sum dish is a Lunar New Year staple. Lo Baak Gou fits the saying "you can't judge a book by it's cover" to a T (😉), because it doesn't look or sound the most appealing... but let me explain.
Firstly, the name is confusing. Turnip cake, or “lo baak gou” in Cantonese doesn't contain any turnips. It's also known as carrot cake in Singapore, but it doesn't have any of those either. And it's not actually a "cake" in the way that many people would think because it's not sweet at all. The only thing it has similar to cake is that it contains flour (rice) and is in a cake-like shape. I strongly believe that whoever made up this name just wanted to keep more pieces for themselves... but now you're in on the secret!
Since I've told you what it's not, let me explain what it is. Chinese turnip cake is a savoury dish made from a Chinese radish or Japanese daikon. These root vegetables are tangy, juicy, refreshing, and mild in flavour. When mixed with rice flour, shiitake mushrooms and optional dried meats, before being pan-seared and doused in a combination of sweet soy sauce and chilli, these radishes turn into light umami crispy perfection.
Traditionally this recipe has dried meat (sausage) and seafood inside but I'm not a big fan of those, so I decided to attempt a Vegan version. The result was really good, even meat-lovers enjoyed it! So as the Year of the Rat rolls in, here is a delicious recipe that symbolizes 'good fortune' to you to try.
serves 6 people (2 tins- this recipe is easy but it takes time, so it's worth it to make more and store in the fridge even if you are serving fewer people).
Prep time: 20 min
Cook Time: 1 hour, then store in fridge for a minimum of 4 hours, then fry 20 min.
*Note: You need to soak the dried mushrooms in water the night before (stored in the fridge) in order to rehydrate them first.
For the Lo Baak Gou:
- 1 Japanese Daikon, grated or thinly chopped
- 6 dried shiitake mushrooms (rehydrated), chopped
- 1/2 a carrot, grated
- 2 vegetable bouillon cube
- 2 cups hot water
- 3 tbsp Canola Oil (or vegetable oil of choice)
- a pinch of salt and white pepper
- 1 tsp of Five Spice Powder
- 400ml of rice flour
- 2 tbsp + 2 tsp of tapioca starch
- 2 tsp of sugar
For the sauce:
- 3 tbsp of tamari
- 1/2 tsp of sugar
- 3 spring onions, chopped long
- 3 red chillis, chopped (add less or none depending on preferred spice level)
- handful of bean sprouts
- optional for garnish: 1 handful of coriander (cilantro), chopped
- Peel then grate or thinly chop daikon and carrot.
- Chop mushrooms.
- In a wok or a large heavy-bottomed pot, add 1 tbsp of canola oil (or vegetable oil of choice).
- On medium heat, add daikon and keep cooking/stirring until softened.
- Dissolve the vegetable bouillon cubes in 2 cups of hot water.
- Pour over the softened daikon, add in mushrooms and carrots, cover and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally,
- Drain the daikon mixture over a colander and keep liquid (there should be about 2 cups). If there isn't 2 cups, add in cold water and set aside until the liquid cools down.
- Add daikon mixture back to wok (the wok is turned off still). Season with salt, pepper, sugar, and five-spice, toss well.
- Once the daikon liquid has cooled down, add rice flour and tapioca starch. Mix it together well so that there are no clumps.
- Add the flour mixture to the daikon mixture in the wok. Turn it on to medium heat and toss well.
- When the mixture thickens and sticks together, turn off the heat.
- Take a lined pan and pour the mixture inside.
- Steam for 1 hour. (If you don't have a steamer like me you could use a wok with a metal platform set up at the bottom- if you don't have the metal platform you could use a few chopsticks placed at the bottom to hold up the pan).
- Allow the lo baak gou to cool down, then place in fridge for at least 4 hours (preferably overnight).
- Take it out and slice.
- Make the sauce by mixing the tamari and sugar together. Clean and chop the spring onions and chilis. Clean the bean sprouts.
- Add 2 tbsp of oil to your wok.
- Pan fry the turnip cakes on medium heat until they are golden brown on each side.
- Add bean sprouts, spring onion, chilis and sauce to the pan. Stir fry briefly until bean sprouts are wilted and the sauce is absorbed (about 1-2 min).
- Plate it, then garnish with sesame seeds and coriander. Serve with soy sauce and chilli paste on the side.
Happy Lunar New Year! ❤️