When I go to yum cha, one of my favourite items is the loh baak gao (that’s my Romanisation, in case you’re wondering; it might be wrong, but that’s how it sounds to my ear). It’s often referred to as radish cake in English. Something is lost in this translation, because goh in Cantonese refers to something creamy or gelatinous in consistency. It’s used variously in the words for cream, toothpaste, and various (usually steamed) desserts involving glutinous rice flour.
But enough with the language lesson. Loh baak gao is a savoury dish, with a dense texture, not unlike a flourless chocolate cake, but not as heavy, and not quite so heavy. It’s usually cut into tiles and pan-fried at most yum cha services. And while I love it there, not surprisingly, very few restaurants make it was well as my mother, in my opinion. So imagine my surprise – and I’ll admit, disappointment – when mum revealed to me that she didn’t have some arcane family recipe for the dish, but rather her version came from a Chinese cookbook!
Anyway, here’s the recipe (adjusted slightly by Mama cloudcontrol).
– 600gm rice flour (mum says the red packet, not the green packet – that’s glutinous!)
– 60gm potato starch (you can use cornflour instead if you want)
– 1.5L water
– 1kg white radish/daikon (I really still don’t quite get the difference some days)
– 4-6 Chinese sausages
– 150gm dried shrimp
– 100gm shiitake mushrooms (optional – a good alternative if you’re making this for vegetarians)
– 1 small knob of ginger
– 2 tbsp vegetable oil
You’ll need a wok, and a big steamer. Also a deep metal dish, or a baking tin. A spring-form tin here is very useful.
1. Soak the dried shrimp in a little boiling water.
2. Peel and julienne your daikon. It doesn’t have to be super-fine, but this will affect the texture of end product. I’d recommend you need it at least as fine as 5mm, if not finer. But it’s a preference thing. Some people like the end result a bit chunky.
3. Dice the Chinese sausage and/or shiitake mushrooms.
4. Add about 1L of the water to the rice flour.
5. Using a broad knife or cleaver, smash the knob of ginger, like you would a clove of garlic before you skin it.
6. Heat the wok (med-high heat) and add the vegetable oil. When it starts smoking, add the knob of ginger. A few seconds later, add the Chinese sausage. Fry this off until the sausage starts to brown.
8. Add the daikon, as well as the remaining water. Turn the heat down to medium, and continue to cook, stirring regularly. You’ll need to cook this through for about 5-10 minutes, until the daikon has softened a bit. It doesn’t need to be fully cooked yet, just kinda limp and a touch translucent.
You can check if it’s done like any cake: an inserted skewer should come out clean.
The way I was brought up eating it (which I still maintain is the best) was in the Vietnamese bot chien style, pan-fried with eggs and diced pickled radish and spring onions.