January 19, 2015

Dim Sum Turnip Cake (Lo Bak Gou, 萝卜糕)

ahhh lo bak gou (Cantonese pronunciation) or luo buo gao (Mandarin pronunciation)
is my favorite dim sum food. However, i was brokenhearted when i came to the realization that
most pre-made dim sum that can be bought at the local asian store (or even those at restaurants) are
latent with 3+ kinds of glutamates (forms of msg) :( I always knew that Asian restaurants were notorious for adding
msg, flavor enhancers that typically leave my mouth wanting to gulp gallons of water and with a nasty aftertaste, but 
i guess i never "really knew" or realized that it's in my food.

and glutamates are not limited to just asian foods; they're often in cheese-flavored snacks (cheetos and doritos)
and pre-made meats :P (here's a more extensive list) so please do take care to try to minimize your consumption of these
foods; i don't think it'll be possible to completely avoid msg (especially given my family's habit of eating at traditional
chinese restaurants in NYC) but at least i'm not consistently surrounding myself with glutamates.

so because of that sad realization, i set out to make my favorite dim sum (that's vegan and gluten-free) right here, at home.
I've never made this before and neither has my mom, so it took some trial & error, and it might not be the most presentable, but hey, it tastes GOOD. and i'm happy to say that the vegan version (no chinese sausage or lap cheong, no dried scallops, no dried fish) tastes just as flavorful as the kinds with meat that i remember eating! 

(honestly, the vegan kind doesn't taste very different from the ones with meat in my opinion, so i don't think the meta really imparts a ton of flavor, so anyone who chooses to opt out of the meat won't miss out on much!)

the key to flavor is to use the water that the shiitakes were soaking in for flavor! we used this mushroom stock and a bit of the turnip stock

daikon radish 

let the shredded turnip impart some of its juice. my dad doesn't agree with adding the turnip juice back into the mixture because it's too bitter, but we did add 2 tsp of sugar to the overall mix to balance that out; honestly, i don't mind the bitterness (it's not that bad!), but feel free to just use extra water if needed.

my mom chose to cut some of the daikon into matchsticks, but i wouldn't do this next time! it makes the batter too chunky

before steaming

and after

not the prettiest, so what i did (below) is add the cooked turnip/mushroom mixture to the pan first, and then poured the rice flour batter over the entire thing. i think it looks better but i'm not sure about the texture (this is the one with meat)

you can serve it as is after it cools a bit after steaming, or, do what most people do, and cut the lo bak gou into rectangles and pan fry either side (i used very little oil, like 1/2 tsp for 2 pieces) until golden.

Recipe: Dim Sum Turnip Cake (Lo Bak Gou)
By: Hannah Claudia

mix ins:
10-15 dried shiitake mushrooms, washed very well and soaked in water overnight
4-5 daikon radishes, peeled and shredded

(opt) your desired amount of dried scallops, fish, shrimp (all washed well and soaked overnight)

2.5 cups of rice flour
1/2 cup of cornstarch or tapioca flour
about 2.5 cups of water

2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ponzu (or gluten-free soy sauce)
1/2 tsp white pepper

1-2 tbsp oil


1. Finely mince the mushrooms (reserve the water it was soaking in). Let the daikon sit in a sieve to allow the juices
to drip out of it for 5 minutes. Reserve the juices or throw it away. 
2. In a large wok, add the oil, and when it's hot, add the mushrooms and cook for 3-4 minutes.
(If using meat, add it with the mushrooms and reserve the water it was soaking in as well)
3. Add the shredded daikon and seasoning to the wok and cook until slightly softened (about another 3-4 minutes). 
If needed, add a little bit of the mushroom stock to prevent the veggies from sticking to the wok. 
4. Mix the batter ingredients until you get a thick pancake batter mixture (gradually add the water! add more rice flour if needed)

5. **This is where there are different ways of cooking (i'm sure either works fine though!):
a. Mix the rice batter into the veggies in the wok and stir
b. Add the veggies to the rice batter
c. Add the veggies to the greased pan and pour the batter over it

6. Prepare a steamer. Make sure your pan is small enough to fit in the steamer and can be covered by the lid!
7. Grease the pan and add the mixture (if you didn't do step 6c)
8. Steam for 45-60 minutes (depends on the pan you use), or until a chopstick inserted can almost stand on its own. The mixture should not be running and super super soft; even though it will firm up as it cools, you don't want it to be too soft!
9. Let it cool and serve, or pan cut into rectangles and pan fry until both sides are golden brown! Serve with soy sauce or chili sauce.

i dream about this sometimes ;) (jk)

xoxo, han

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