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Chinese turnip cakes (lo bak go)

Chinese turnip cakes (known to some as radish cakes), or lo bak go, are some of the most popular and delicious items at dim sum.

While Chinese turnip cakes are great for Lunar New Year, my mom loves making them year round to enjoy! I always prefer her recipe over anything we can get in a restaurant, because it’s filled with extra turnip, aromatics, and an abundance of cured meats. No need to skimp at home!

This recipe is not difficult, but it does take some time and patience. I’ve included pictures at each step of the recipe to make it as easy as possible to follow. You can also find the full video on the bottom of the recipe card, or on my Instagram @smelly.lunchbox. I hope you enjoy these as much as my family does!

How to choose Chinese turnips at the grocery store for the best Chinese turnip cakes

For the tastiest turnip cakes, look for Chinese turnips that:

  • Are heavy for their size (weigh a few in your hands)! This means they’re full of water and tasty.
  • Have bright green tops, and not too many roots growing out of them. This means they’re fresh!

Tools you’ll need to make Chinese turnip cakes

A steamer

This can be a bamboo steamer or a makeshift steamer with your wok or pan. Just make sure that the steamer can fit whichever dish you are using to steam the turnip cake in, and that the lid closes.

Pans that fit into your steamer

These can be baking pans, cake pans, or even glass tupperware. Ideally, they are at least 3 inches in height to accommodate the height of the cake.

I use two 6-inch round springform cake pans (the ones often used for cheesecake), which makes it super simple to remove the turnip cake from the pan once it’s finished. If you have a large wok or steamer, you can likely fit this all into one large pan.

Check out my other popular dim sum recipes:

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Chinese Turnip Cakes (lo bak go)

One of the most popular dishes at dim sum, Chinese turnip (or radish) cakes are not as intimidating to make at home as you may think! While this dish is perfect for Lunar New Year, my mom makes this year round, and I'm happy to share her delicious recipe with you all :)
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Resting Time 2 hours
Total Time 3 hours 40 minutes
Course Appetizer, Breakfast, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine Chinese
Servings 2 6-inch pans

Ingredients
  

  • 2 lb Chinese turnips/radish (lo bak)
  • 1 Chinese sausage finely diced
  • 2 oz Chinese cured pork belly (lap yuk) finely diced
  • 12-15 dried shrimp
  • 5-6 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 4 pearl onions, or 1 shallot finely diced
  • 3-5 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 stalks scallions sliced, whites and greens separated

Flour mixture (thickener)

  • 8 oz rice flour (not glutinous rice flour)
  • 4 oz cornstarch (~3/4 cup)
  • 2 cups room temperature water

Seasoning for turnip cake

Other

  • neutral oil for cooking
  • cilantro
  • sesame seeds

Instructions
 

Prepare the ingredients

  • In a bowl, soak dried shiitake mushrooms and dried shrimp in 2 cups hot water. Cover the bowl.
    5-6 dried shiitake mushrooms, 12-15 dried shrimp
  • In the meantime, prepare the aromatics and cured meats. I like to chop everything into small dices.
    1 Chinese sausage, 2 oz Chinese cured pork belly (lap yuk), 4 pearl onions, or 1 shallot, 3-5 cloves garlic, 2 stalks scallions
  • Peel the turnip. If it’s not fresh, peel a bit deeper. I like to peel until I see the translucent part of the turnip because the opaque white part can often be fibrous. Shred half the turnip with a grater (the one with larger holes), then slice the other half into small matchsticks or cubes. (I know matchsticks are pictured here but I actually prefer cubes!)
    2 lb Chinese turnips/radish (lo bak)
  • If your turnip has a lot of excess water, you can use this liquid towards the 2 cups room temp water that mixes with the rice flour and cornstarch.
  • Once shiitakes and shrimp are rehydrated (20-30 min), squeeze out the water, remove mushroom stems, and finely dice. Save the mushroom soaking liquid. 
  • To a measuring cup, add the mushroom soaking liquid, and fill it to 2 cups total with additional water. We’ll be cooking the turnips in this later. 
  • To make the flour mixture, mix the rice flour, cornstarch, and 2 cups room temp or cold water until there are no lumps.
    8 oz rice flour, 4 oz cornstarch, 2 cups room temperature water

Cook the ingredients

  • In a large nonstick pan or wok on medium heat, add 2 tbsp neutral oil. Once warm, add the aromatics and dried shrimp. Stir fry for 1-2 min.
    neutral oil for cooking
  • Add the cured meats and shiitakes. Stir fry for another 1-2 minutes or until fragrant. Remove everything from the pan and set aside. 
  • Add all of the turnip and the 2 cups of mushroom liquid + water. Increase the heat to bring it up to a boil. Season with salt, white pepper, chicken powder, sugar, and sesame oil. With the liquid gently boiling, cook the turnips for 4-6 minutes or until the turnip turns from opaque to translucent (you can also taste one of the matchsticks to be sure it’s cooked through — it should be fork tender but not mushy). 
    2 tsp salt, 1 tsp chicken bouillon powder, 1 tsp sugar, 1/2 tsp white pepper, 1 tsp sesame oil
  • Add back the stir-fried cured meats and aromatics, but save about 1/3 cup to top the turnip cake with. Mix well. 
  • Give the flour + cornstarch mixture a stir to ensure there are no lumps, then add it in 2-3 batches, mixing it very thoroughly with each addition. The turnip mixture should be thick (like very thick mashed potatoes), sticky, and not runny. If there's still a lot of moisture, keep stir frying with heat until it gets very thick (see picture). This step is important because if it's too wet here, it will be mushy even after steaming.

Steam the turnip cake

  • Lightly grease two 6-inch round cake pans (springform works best) or 1 large pan with oil. Make sure it’s a pan that you can fit in your pan or steamer with the lid on. 
  • Fill the pans with the turnip mixture, pressing down lightly to remove any air pockets. The turnip cake should be about 2-3 inches tall. With the back of a wet spatula, smooth down the top.
  • Top the cake with the leftover stir-fried cured meats and aromatics, and press them in gently.
  • Steam for 45-60 min, depending on the height of your turnip cake (the taller the cake, the longer it needs to steam). Remember to periodically check if the water needs refilling. Once a chopstick pokes through the cake cleanly, it’s ready! 
  • Top with cilantro, scallion greens, and sesame seeds. Let the cake cool before enjoying.
    cilantro, sesame seeds
  • For best results, put the cake into the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours (and up to 8 hours for my preference) to let it firm up. Slice into squares, then pan fry on medium with a bit of neutral oil on both sides until golden brown. Enjoy!!
Keyword chinese radish cake, chinese turnip cake
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