Cooking with Mum: Loh Baak Gao

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.

7. Drain the dried shrimp and add to the wok. Also add the shiitake mushrooms now if you’re adding them. Continue frying for another 30 seconds or so.

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.

9. At this point, remove the ginger and then add in your glutinous flour mixture. Be careful to continue stirring as you add; you don’t want it to cook on impact with the wok.

10. Continue cooking, stirring constantly. When the mixture takes on the consistency of a runny dough, it’s ready. Remove it from the heat.

11. Use a spatula or chan to transfer the mixture into a greased metal dish or tin. Transfer this dish to the steamer, and steam for about 45 minutes.

You can check if it’s done like any cake: an inserted skewer should come out clean.

Let it cool, and then slice it up. It’s easier to cut if you’ve refrigerated it for a few hours. You can just heat it up in the microwave or steamer, or you can pan fry it. Use a pan on a relatively high heat – no-stick is good, or else don’t skimp on the oil. You want the edges a bit crispy.

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.

7 Replies to “Cooking with Mum: Loh Baak Gao”

  1. Oooh, fantastic! It's my yum cha standard dish, but I can't find good ones in Melb. Maybe making it at home is the way! Thanks for the recipe!

  2. Oh, I've wanted to try this for so long – even when I used to go to yum cha with my family as a kid, we never came across this! I discovered it via blogs, and now have a recipe, woot! Thanks!

  3. OMG so cool. Thank you mama cloudcontrol! I will be making this for sure! I love banh bot chien, can't wait to try a homemade version.

  4. Oh yum! We made fried radish cake recently.. but that's obviously different from lo bak goa… thanks for sharing!! Have a great NYE!

  5. Thanks for the comments guys! My housemate is suggesting that we host an at-home yum cha sometime, so stay tuned!

  6. This is my one of my favourite breakfast back in SG. I do like it fried with eggs but I prefer the one fried with dark caramel sauce

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