While sampling the array of deliciousness at my favorite buffet, Ryce Oriental buffet, I found something surprisingly tasty in the dim sum section. Surprising because it was simply called "turnip cake," and while I'm a big fan of turnips, "turnip cake" doesn't sound all that appetizing. But, oh man, as soon as I tasted it I knew I had to try and recreate it.
So last week, while eating at another new favorite place, Lucky Spring, my Chinese-speaking friend asked the chef how to make turnip cakes. The chef sent me home with some rice flour, another white flour that my friend couldn't think of the word for in English (almost positive from tasting it that it's potato starch) and a big Chinese radish, along with some direction and a recipe written in Chinese. I supplemented these with a trip to the Asian grocery store and some research online.
Thanks, Lucky Spring Chef!
This is what I came up with. Success, according to a Chinese dude who loves to eat. I liked them, too. Next time, though, I will use less dried shrimp, as they impart a pretty strong flavor, and I will chop everything up even finer.
3 cups rice flour
1/4 cup potato starch
8 dried shitake mushrooms
2 ounces dried shrimp
6 ounces pork belly, chopped fine
1 large Chinese white radish or 2 large turnips, cut into matchsticks
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoons salt
Combine the flours with 2 cups of water. Stir until smooth. Set aside
Soak mushrooms and shrimp in water for about 15-20 minutes to soften. Squeeze out excess water and chop both mushrooms and shrimp very fine. Cook the shopped pork belly in a skillet until it just starts to crisp up. Add the mushrooms and shrimp, adding some vegetable oil if necessary. Add th rice wine vinegar, soy sauce and salt. Cook for about 4 minutes. Remove to a plate and set aside.
In same skillet, add another tablespoon of oil and stirfry the radish for about 3 minutes. Add 1 cup of water, cover and let the turnip steam for 15 minutes or so until just cooked.
Add the hot turnips to the rice flour batter and stir well. Add the mushroom mixture and stir to combine. Pour mixture into a large cake pan, or some smaller cake pans.
Bring some water to a boil in a pot big enough to hold your cake pan/pans (I used a stock pot that has 2 different size colander inserts, with a small rack on the bottom, so it was 3 stories of steaminess in one big pot). Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and let cake/cakes steam for 1 hour, until they are set. Remove cakes from steamer and let cool a bit.. at least 15 minutes. Turn the steamed cakes out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch slices. Pan fry until golden brown on both sides. Serve with soy sauce.
Shrimp & Shitakes soaking
Rice flour & (I think) potato starch batter
Turnip cakes fresh from the steamer
Slice for frying