Sunday, January 25, 2009

Luo Buo Gao (Chinese Turnip Cake)

Luo buo gao with oyster sauce

So for Chinese New Year's Eve I invited people over for a dumpling making party. I didn't even realize that making dumplings was a Chinese New Year's tradition, although I had thrown some in the past because I just figured it was an excuse to do something "Chinese" on the holiday. But apparently the shape of the dumplings resembles the gold that they used for money back in the day so it's an auspicious food to eat on New Year's Day.

I also decided to try my hand at making luo buo gao, or Chinese turnip cake. I usually see this at dim sum all fried up and served with soy sauce paste (or is it oyster sauce or hoisin sauce?), but according to the internets it is also something traditional to eat for Chinese New Year.

Steamed luo buo gao

Luo Buo Gao (Chinese Turnip Cake) (based on this recipe)
makes about 24 slices

2 1/2 to 3 cups daikon, peeled and julienned or shredded (about 1 1/2 to 2 lbs.)
1 Chinese sausage, finely diced
2 cups rice flour (do not use glutinous rice flour)
1 3/4 cups water, divided
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
Vegetable oil

Stir fry Chinese sausage in a large frying pan or work for 2 to 3 minutes. Add daikon, 3/4 cups water, salt, and white pepper. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat.

Grease a square cake pan or loaf pan and start the steamer.

Mix rice flour with 1 cup water. Add the daikon and sausage mixture and spread into the greased pan. Steam for 50 minutes.

Cool overnight in refrigerator. After cooling, cut the cake into 1/4" slices and pan fry in a liberal amount of oil until both sides are golden brown.

Serve with soy sauce paste (or oyster sauce or hoisin sauce).

Fried luo buo gao

You can also add shitake mushrooms and/or small dried shrimp, but I didn't have either and, as Annie said, you can't really go wrong with Chinese sausage.

The hardest part about making this was finding a dish to steam the cake in. Since I was using my stock pot and pasta insert to steam, I needed something that would fit, and none of my square (or even circular) cake pans were small enough. So I improvised with a large serving bowl, and it did the trick.

Another hard part? Reading the recipe correctly. For some reason, I thought it said 1 1/2 to 2 cups instead of lbs. so I only had about half as much daikon as I needed in there. The result was a drier cake than you get in the restaurants, but still edible, although boys will eat anything.... So learn from my mistakes and read the recipe correctly, okay?

Previously:  Scallion Pancakes
Next up: Xiao Long Bao (Steamed Soup Buns)


  1. ooooh yum. these are my favorite!!

  2. Ohhh i love this stuff. I buy the premade ones at my asian gorcer but it is very dry and not as tasty as the ones they serve at dum sum! I am going to try at home right away

  3. Joy, so glad to get your recipe. My Taiwanese wife calls this "tak wan" and uses her Cuisinart to chop the daikon. Our large ABC family LOVES this, but I couldn't find a recipe to put in my wife's book of home-cooking recipes. That's next!
    p.s. We lived in Cambridge from March 2007 to April 2008, and our daughter and family is there now.

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  5. I love this dish, and just got a new pan, so it was the perfect moment to try to cook it myself. When I joined the turnip and the rice flower and water toguether, it just looked too liquid, it did not look like it will set (I have no experience with rice flour whatsoever), so I added extra rice flower and it has come out a bit dry, but still really good. Thank you, I can now impress guests. I also added some spring onion with the chinese sausage for extra flavour

  6. mines came out dry and tasted very gritty, all i tasted was flour. i did exactly what the recipe said. i used a square baking pan and steamed it on high heat for 50 min. i guess i'll have to try to fry these to see if there edible.

  7. I followed your recipe and it came out nicely. I always see my mom making it and watched her do this every year but could only recall so much. I can't remember if it was this or the 年糕 where she would put in a huge amount of effort molding it to be perfect.
    This seemed a little bit too effortless when I was trying to make it and when I try to pan-fry it the cake would stick. I know it's not the pan since I made fried rice afterwards with no stick at all. Any comment you can give me if I try a second time before Chinese New Years?

    Even without frying it still tastes good... but I want it crunchy >.<

  8. Thank you for having a simple recipe! Every other recipe for this was SO intimidating that I didn't want to try, but I've got the ingredients and now I can't wait! My grandmother used to make these all the time (especially for Chinese New Year) and my mouth would water just waiting for them :)

  9. Do you have a recipe that uses a marinated tofu, dark brown on the outside. It can be purchased almost everywhere in the markets in Taiwan, I don't know the name. It has an oulong sort of flavor. And the sauce uses some sort of red pepper and light peanut flavor.

    1. I'm not sure, but it sounds like the tofu might be five spice pressed tofu? Not sure about the sauce though. Are you thinking of a tofu salad?