Dim Sum Classic – Turnip Cake (蘿蔔糕)

by Yi on April 6, 2011 · 69 comments

Post image for Dim Sum Classic – Turnip Cake (蘿蔔糕)

So you’ve heard of the term Dim Sum and probably learned from your Chinese friends that it means small bites and snacks in Cantonese. In fact, dim sum is loosely defined term and depending on the context and occasion it means different things ranging from sweet desserts to delicate seafood soup to salty fried meat. But for me, dim sum means going to a Cantonese morning tea place(yum cha) and ordering up a few push cart dishes such as shrimp dumpling (Har Gaw /蝦餃), barbecue pork bun (Cha Siu Bao /叉燒包), egg tarts (Dan Ta 蛋撻), and of course the famous turnip cake(蘿蔔糕).

Turnip cake is a popular dim sum dish as well as a common appetizer served during Chinese New Year dinner in Cantonese region. Over the years I’ve learned to appreciate this little delicacy and become pretty picky. At its core a good turnip cake should be filled with detectable radish inside  If Ican’t see or taste a good amount of radish I know I am probably just eating mostly the flour. I also like my turnip cake pan fried to golden brown but still soft in the middle. As I bite into it, I want to feel the crunchiness of the smell the aroma from the flavoring ingredients from as shiitake mushroom, dried shrimp, and meat…..

With that said, I have researched, tried, and finally concluded that the only place you can find decent turnip cake is either in an authentic Cantonese dim sum place (one that filled with old Chinese patrons) or from someone’s home kitchen. In any case I try to avoid the pre-made turnip cake because you have not found a single one of them that’s nearly as good as a homemade one. The bottom line is if you just stumbled onto this page and have no idea what turnip cake is, I suggest you try it first in a Cantonese dim sum place. If you are like me who is serious about the turnip cakes (or food in general), you’ll appreciate every effort you put on making this.

My early attempts on making the turnip cake were full of heartbreaking failures and occasional mediocre success at the best. It was frustrating to see my cake came out either too soft or too hard.  My real success came after I used the recipe from Alice C’s mom, whom by the way has been making turnip cake every year for the past two decades! I religiously followed her 6 to 1 guideline and the turnip cake just comes out top quality. Ever since then, I had not had any turnip cake that was not homemade.

I am sharing this recipe in its entirety with a small modification. The turnip cake is normally filled with preserved Chinese meats (sausage or pork belly). I used fresh ground pork instead for the sake of new flavor and it’s totally wonderful. I hope you get to try this fabulous recipe!

Turnip Cake – Ingredients (making 2 9 inch loaves)

1 lb Plain rice flour (not to be confused with glutinous rice flour)
6 lb Fresh long radish (aka daikon/turnip)
5 Dry shiitake mushroom
3 tbsp dried shrimp
1 lb ground pork (use Chinese preserved sausage or pork if preferred)
3/4 tbsp + 2 tsp Salt
½ tbsp + 1 tsp White pepper powder
1 tbsp Soy sauce
1 tbsp cooking wine
You will also need 2 9-inch loaf pans and a shredder such as Mandolin or electric chopper.

Turnip Cake – Step By Step

1. Soak the dried shrimp and shiitake mushroom for at least two hours until all softened. Clean and drain well.
2. Chop the shrimp and shiitake mushroom and set aside. Peel the radish skin.

3. Use a Mandolin or an electric shredder to shred the radish into the size of matches. My food processor comes with a shredder so it was fairly easy for me. This is the most tedious and laborious part of the recipe.

4. In a large skillet or wok, combine the radish, 2 tsp of salt, and enough water to cover. Boil in medium heat until boils. About 15 minutes. Drain off most of the liquid from the radish and save about 2 cups of the liquid for later use.

5. In a oiled pan, combine the pork (or Chinese preserved meat), shrimp, shiitake mushroom, soy sauce, cooking wine, and 1 tsp of white pepper powder. Stir fry until the pork is cooked. About 4 minutes.

6. In a large mixing bowl, combine the rice flour, radish, and cooked ingredients. Also add 1 tbsp of salt and ½ tbsp of white pepper. Stir with a spatula to mix.

7. Gradually add saved liquid to the mix while you stir. Depending on how well you drained your radish you’ll need about ½ – 1 cup of liquid to make a thick batter  such it will not fall off your spatula. Try to avoid putting too much liquid in there.

8. Fill a 9-inch loaf pan with the batter. Steam the batter with lid on for 40 minutes over medium high heat.

9. Once it’s done steaming, cool it down to room temperature. It can be served now but more commonly it is sliced to 1 inch thick pieces and pan fried to gold brown on both sides.

To serve, I like to dip in hoisin sauce and a dash of sriracha would have been the icing on the cake!
What is your favorite turnip cake dipping sauce?

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{ 63 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sunnyside Homes for Sale April 4, 2014 at 12:05 pm

This is my first time pay a quick visit at here and i am actually happy
to read everthing at one place.

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2 fong lien February 26, 2014 at 2:54 am

trying to subscribe to your free chinese new year cookbook but i cant download
can you pls kindly adv
mthks

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3 Yi March 3, 2014 at 12:04 am

Hello Fong, sorry for the late reply but you should be able to download now. Thanks for subscribing!

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4 Esther February 3, 2014 at 12:31 am

Thank you for this recipe! My grandmother and mom used to make this and it was my favorite, but they were ‘old-school’ and never worked from a recipe so I could never remember how to make turnip cake. Your recipe brought back the smells of my grandmother’s kitchen during Chinese New Year! I used ground pork, shiitake mushrooms and minced crabmeat. It turned out a bit more stiff than I would’ve liked, so I probably needed to add a bit more water, but it was still delicious. We used oyster sauce and Sriracha. I can’t wait make it again! Thanks for the recipe!

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5 Yi February 3, 2014 at 5:20 pm

Hello Ester, thanks for the feedback! I am glad to hear that you got to try out this recipe! I like the idea of using crab meat and would like to try that next time! Thanks again for visiting my blog!

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6 Elim January 27, 2014 at 11:43 am

Hi Yi. I tried this recipe yesterday. It’s part of my new year’s fare. It’s kind of advanced but i wasn’t sure if I will be able to poull it. Luckily, I did! Thank you so much for making the recipe easy to follow.

Note to everyone who have a moment (or two) of doubt regarding the batter consistency: HOLD IT! Do not give in to adding more water. I may have super drained my radish [ Isqueezed them dry :-( ] but I only added 2 cups water. It was very lumpy at first and of course kept falling off the laddle. But I vigorously mixed it for about 5 more minutes and got the desired consistency.

As I did not have the 9-in pans, I used 3 7-in tin pans. They still look great :-)

Thanks again. I’m off to try the mantou and char siu. Btw I’m still looking forward to a TARO PUFF recipe :-)

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7 Yi January 27, 2014 at 9:46 pm

Hello Elim, thank you very much for the feedback on the turnip cake recipe!! I am glad that it all worked out for you at the end! I’d love to the picture of your finished turnip cake one day. I’ve also got a CNY cookbook out and it’s free for download so please help yourself with a copy :)
Wish you and your family a happy Chinese New Year!

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8 buy new keys for my car January 4, 2014 at 9:59 am

You on Google plus or Facebook? Would really like to follow your latest videos or posts.

Reply

9 electric griddle Target January 2, 2014 at 4:45 pm

Do you have a spam issue on this blog; I also am a blogger,
and I was wondering your situation; we have developed some nice methods
and we are looking to swap techniques with other folks, please shoot me
an email if interested.

Reply

10 John Pierre October 28, 2013 at 10:22 am

I’ve already successfully cooked your savory sticky rice which turned out to be a hit at home. I’m planning to try this radish cake next. I’d just like to clarify one thing. Do you just drain or squeeze most of the water from the radish? Thanks.

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11 Yi October 28, 2013 at 10:24 pm

Hi John, thanks for your feedback on the sticky rice. To answer your question, you want to squeeze to remove most of the water from the radish. If you can, put the radish in the a cheese cloth and squeeze as hard as possible. I hope this helps. Please don’t hesitate to drop a line if you have any other questions. Thanks!

-Yi

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12 CPR October 20, 2013 at 8:49 pm

Have you tried baking these loaves in a bain marie instead is steaming? My wok only takes one pan at a time and the bain marie would allow me to cook all of them at once.

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13 Yi October 20, 2013 at 9:04 pm

hi CPR, first of all thanks for checking out my blog. To answer your question, the cake would not come out the same if you were to bake it. It would come out a little drier and with a less smooth consistency. If you had to baked the cake, make sure you cover it with aluminum foil and leave a pan of water in the lower level of your oven. This will keep your cake moisture and as close as the steamed version. I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have any other ideas.

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14 Irish May 20, 2013 at 7:06 am

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this place at this webpage, I have read all that, so at this time me also commenting
at this place.

Reply

15 Lauren April 1, 2013 at 1:39 pm

This may sound naive, but I am still confused how to seam the 9 inch pan? Do I put the whole pan in the wok with water and cover it? Sorry for the potentially silly question. Very excited to try to recipe!!

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16 Leng March 22, 2013 at 10:17 pm

Hi Yi! Made this sometime last week. It was a hit! Thanks for the great recipe! :)

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17 Yi March 26, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Hello Leng, thanks for your feedback. I am so glad that the turnip cakes came out good!

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18 Daria February 26, 2013 at 9:41 pm

You have no idea how much I miss my grandmother’s turnip cake – this recipe is SO AMAZING, THANK YOU!!! Even halving the recipe and winging it, it turned out absolutely spot on.

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19 Yi February 26, 2013 at 11:25 pm

Hi Daria, thank you for the feedback. Turnip cake is one of favorite Cantonese dim sum dishes and I am so happy that you liked the recipe!

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20 Mare February 8, 2013 at 9:04 pm

Yi, if I were to omit the pork would the quantities for the other ingredients remain the same? Thanks, Mare

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21 Yi February 8, 2013 at 9:44 pm

Hello Mare, if you were to skip pork, you can replace pork with extra shiitake mushroom and dried shrimp. This way you could keep other ingredients the same. Otherwise, I’d decrease the radish and rice flour slightly. Thanks.

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22 Mare February 9, 2013 at 4:09 pm

Thank you Sir! :)

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23 Jennie February 3, 2013 at 11:56 pm

How did you manage to steam the the turnip cake in a 9 inch pan?

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24 Yi February 4, 2013 at 1:47 am

hey Jennie, I steamed it in a 16 inch wok I have. Please let me know if you have any other questions!

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25 taro December 29, 2012 at 2:31 pm

I thought this stuff was taro…

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26 Anonymous January 1, 2013 at 12:42 pm

You can use Taro too.. We have made it with Pumpkin too..

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27 Zaw January 1, 2013 at 12:45 pm

sorry.. did not put my info..

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28 Yi January 2, 2013 at 9:48 am

Thanks Zaw. I agree with you on that Taro cake is just as popular as turnip. I also enjoy the cake made from waterchestnuts although it’s on the sweet side. I have yet to try the cake made from pumpkin but i’d love to try it. Is it done with the same method? Thanks.

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29 Zaw January 2, 2013 at 12:52 pm

Yes. It can be done with the same method. We did not put pork in it tho. just dried shrimps.

30 GregorSamsa July 2, 2012 at 10:25 pm

Can Lo Bak Goh really be frozen?

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31 Yi July 2, 2012 at 11:01 pm

Yes it can. Just wrap the cake with a Ziploc and seal it well so it won’t dry up in the freezer. Before you want to cook it just leave it in room temperature for a few hours and you are ready to pan fry!

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32 Zaw June 30, 2012 at 9:32 pm

Any recipe for soup dumplings??

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33 Yi July 2, 2012 at 10:08 pm

Yes I’d love to share the soup dumpling recipe for a special occasion. Please stay in tuned. Thanks.

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34 Zaw June 30, 2012 at 9:30 pm

Thank you so much for the recipe. I have been looking for this for long time.

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35 Yi July 2, 2012 at 10:08 pm

Hello Zaw, thanks for stopping by my blog. I hope you get to make this delicious turnip cake :)

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36 lori June 20, 2012 at 7:45 pm

Wow, i love these….never had any idea how they made them!! This site looks great..all kinds of “secrets” one would never know! Keep them coming!

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37 Yin May 5, 2012 at 10:09 am

Thank you for this recipe! Your website looks great. I’ve made it, because I was not satisfied with the dimsum restaurants’ version or the frozen ones from Chinese shops. As it was way too much for me, I now have homemade frozen lo bak koh! Yummy!

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38 Jackie | Sweet and Salty SF March 7, 2012 at 7:22 pm

Yummm, turnip cake is one of my favorite dishes at dim sum. This recipe doesn’t look toooo difficult, so I will definitely need to try this at home! Thanks for posting!

I’m trying to learn to cook, especially Chinese dishes, and I’m glad I found your blog!

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39 Yi March 8, 2012 at 10:55 pm

Thanks for your visit Jackie.

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40 Yuzana February 11, 2012 at 2:51 pm

Thanks for sharing turnip cake recipe.
It is my favorite.

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41 Yi February 12, 2012 at 7:57 pm

Thanks Yuzana!

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42 jeremy January 20, 2012 at 1:50 am

Thank you so much for sharing this recipe! It is radish right? Radish and turnip are 2 quite different ingredients. If ive eaten this at dim sum restaurants, it most likely had chinese sausage and mushrooms minced up in it, correct? Such a simple food but so good! Thanks again!

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43 Yi January 20, 2012 at 7:39 am

Hi Jeremy thank you for stopping by! Yes I agree the ingredient I use is radish not turnip. I label it as turnip cake as that’s how the package ones called – incorrectly of course. I thought calling it this way would cause less confusion. Anyway, you can add sausages and any other ingredients to it. That’s the beauty of doing it at home. Hope you get to try this recipe!

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44 Gregor January 15, 2012 at 6:22 pm

I never imagined anyone made these at home. In New York’s Chinatown, it is so easy to buy it ready made. I guess once one knows the basic recipe, one can add in a few extra ingredients like watercress or goji berries or chives or strands of calamari. The mind runs wild.

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45 Yi January 15, 2012 at 7:57 pm

Hi Gregor, thanks for stopping by! I still buy the packaged turnip cake in Chinese grocery store from time to time because it’s convenient. However the quality is nowhere near the homemade version. And you are right that another advantage of making this at home is you can put almost any ingredients to the turnip cake :)

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46 Jonathan Rogers January 8, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Wow! I lived in China for almost 9 and 1/2 years and I LOVE to cook authentic Chinese dishes. This site looks GREAT!!

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47 Yi January 8, 2012 at 5:16 pm

Hi Jonathan, thanks for checking out my site. I hope you find some of the recipes useful to you!

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48 Manny September 2, 2011 at 12:39 pm

WOW! You actually made these?!? These are one of my fav yum cha dishes! Sorrily I have not had them since I left Hong Kong a year or so ago. I gota find a dim sum place…

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49 Yi September 3, 2011 at 6:34 am

Hello Manny,
Thanks for checking out this site.
Yes most of the dim sum places around the world has it so you’ll definitely find it somewhere! But if you like turnip cake you gotta try the homemade version. It just tastes so much better.

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50 xq April 11, 2011 at 11:35 pm

i love turnip cakes, but never really thought about what was in them or what goes into making them until reading this post. thank you for sharing!

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51 Yi April 12, 2011 at 6:47 am

Thanks for stopping by xq!

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52 Amy April 11, 2011 at 9:24 am

I love this!!!

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53 Yi April 11, 2011 at 7:33 pm

Thanks Amy!

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54 Vivienne April 11, 2011 at 7:10 am

i love love turnip cake (as well as the taro version) but its always such a hassle making at home – altho much healthier and u can add more radish hehe.

yours look delicious – will use this recipe next time i make this dish :)

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55 Yi April 11, 2011 at 7:33 pm

Good call on the taro cake, it is actually made in a similar way. Likewise I love both turnip cake and taro cake (especially the homemade version) !

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56 Alice April 10, 2011 at 10:00 pm

Mom modified this Turnip Cake recipe using fresh ground pork because all her three kids do not like preserved meat. To many Cantonese, preserved meat gives more fragrant to the festive Turnip Cake.

Using a food processor to shred the turnips definitely makes the production effortless.

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57 xing April 7, 2011 at 10:56 am

I am totally going to try this, but have to get a shredder first. and hopefully i pick the rice flour and not anything else.. usually not very good at that.. lol
Thanks for Posting!!

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58 Yi April 7, 2011 at 9:38 pm

Thanks Xing. Just keep in mind that you will be looking for the plain rice flour not the glutinous one. Otherwise you’ll end up making a “sticky turnip cake” :)

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59 Miranda April 7, 2011 at 10:33 am

I didn’t even know you can make this at home from sketch! Way to go~

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60 Yi April 7, 2011 at 9:35 pm

Thanks Miranda! This is one of those dishes that less and less people are willing to make at home.

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61 Darlene April 7, 2011 at 2:16 am

Lo Bak Goh is one of favorite dishes that my mom used to make. Due to her age, she hasn’t made it in a long time. I guess now that you’ve published this recipe, I’ll have to give it a try! My mom made her own rice flour by grinding it down to a powder in the blender. I like this with just soy sauce and a dash of sesame oil! But hoisin is good too. Thanks for posting!

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62 Yi April 7, 2011 at 7:07 am

Hi Darlene, I never thought of making my own rice flour before but I’ll try that next time when I make this! Thanks for sharing your story with me!
Mom’s homemade turnip cake is usually the best would you agree?

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63 Yi January 4, 2013 at 10:29 pm

thanks Zaw. Will try to make it soon!

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