Thursday, October 14, 2010

Turnip Cake (Luo Buo Gao 蘿蔔糕)

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In the B.C.G. (Before Carnivore Girl) era, VB thought Chinese food was boring. Like so many innocent Americans out there, VB knew Chinese food as fried rice, chow mein, chop suey, and pu pu platter (what is that, exactly?), all thanks to the proliferation of American-Chinese food that barely resembles its origin. I blame every P.F. Changs, Panda Expresses, Jade Gardens, and Dragon Houses out there. Shame on you for dumbing down Chinese food for the American palate! I think everyone can enjoy Chinese food in all its glorious deliciousness.

(Stepping off the soap box)

Now, VB really enjoys authentic Chinese food, particularly Szechuan/Hunan style, which is generally very flavorful and spicy. It's easy to see why -- vegetables doused with hot sauce and spices tend to taste a heck a lot better (it's the secret to Indian food too). VB is not particularly fond of Shanghainese or Cantonese style of Chinese food, partly because they tend to be a bit bland. I'm very partial to Shanghainese food, but I'm not a big fan of Cantonese food.

In an effort to highlight some of the more "bland" styles of Chinese food, I made this Cantonese dim sum classic -- turnip cake. It's a must-have for my family at any dim sum. Unfortunately, this is also generally not a vegetarian dish because it almost always contains dried shrimp and bits of meat. Come to think of it, what is actually vegetarian at a dim sum (apart from dessert)?

For my vegan turnip cake adapted from mmm-yoso's recipe, you'll need:
  • 1 small/medium turnip, shredded (you should have about 2 1/2 cups)
  • 1 cup of diced vegetarian ham (I found this ingredient at 99 Ranch, but you can substitute other fake-meat products like veggie dogs or tofurkey)
  • 6 medium dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in hot water then minced
  • 1 large shallot, sliced thin (or 1/2 cup of fried shallots that you can find at Chinese supermarkets)
  • 2 green onions, diced
  • 2 cups of plain rice flour
  • 1 1/2 cups of water
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of canola oil
  • 1/2 cup of canola oil for frying shallots (omit if you're using pre-fried shallots)
Start by heating up 1/2 cup of canola oil in a small pan over medium high heat until hot. Add sliced shallot and pan fry until golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towel. Skip if using pre-fried shallots.

In another pot, add shredded turnip and 1 1/2 cups of water. Cover and bring liquid to boil. Reduce to simmer and cook for 15 minutes.

In the meantime, saute diced vegetarian ham, minced shiitake mushroom in a tablespoon of canola oil until browned, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add soy sauce. Stir in diced green onions and fried shallot. Cook for a couple more minutes. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine rice flour, salt, sugar and ground white pepper. Pour cooked shredded turnip with all the liquid into the bowl. Add vegetarian ham, shiitake mushroom and shallot mixture. Stir to combine. At this point, the mixture should be very thick and sticky.

Prepare your steaming device. I used my extra large stock pot and placed a metal rack inside. I then found a round pan that would fit into the pot and sit on top of the rack. Fill the pan with turnip mixture and spread evenly. Fill the pot with water but water should not touch the bottom of the pan. Cover and bring water to simmer. Steam for 45 minutes to an hour. Remove pan and set aside to cool.

Once the turnip cake is cooked through, remove from the pan and cut into square pieces. Lightly pan fry each piece until golden brown on both sides, about 3 to 5 minutes per side. Serve with spicy yellow mustard and hot sauce.

    1 comment:

    1. Cantonese bland? Wow! That's quite an assertion!