When I was trying to come up with a new blog name, “Turnip for What” was one of the names I came up with. Unfortunately, Michelle Obama beat me to that. So, I settled for Tablespoon of Salt. Anyway…
I don’t think I’ve ever had an “American” turnip, but Asian turnips / radishes / daikon were a big part of my upbringing. You can boil them with pork bones to make a really good soup. You can pickle them. Or you can make pan-fried turnip cake!
The recipe for turnip cake is one of those that isn’t very precise. Growing up, I would watch my mom make turnip cake. When I asked her what the measurements were, her answer was, you just keep adding rice flour or water until it’s sticky. Not helpful. Here’s my recipe for turnip cake, but keep in mind that you’ll probably end up doing what my mom said because cooking is never precise.
- 1 medium-to-large Chinese turnip, grated to yield ~4-4.5 cups
- 2 links of Chinese sausage, diced
- 5 shiitake mushrooms, diced
- 1/3 cup of dried shrimp
- 4 green onions, diced
- 2 cups (or so) of rice flour — it’s the red package. don’t get the green glutinous one.
- 2 cups (or so) of water
- 1 tablespoon EVOO
- 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- non-stick cooking spray
- Steamer or rice cooker with steam function (the kind where you put water on the outside)
Grate the turnip and squeeze out any liquid with your hands or sop the liquid up with a paper towel. In a large frying pan, saute the Chinese sausage, mushrooms, and dried shrimp together until the mushrooms are done. Add the grated turnip and keep sauteing until done. Add the green onions and season with white pepper and salt.
Add one cup of the rice flour and one cup of the water and stir the mixture together. It should start to thicken up. Add another cup of rice flour and add the water 1/4 cup at a time, mixing in between. Stop adding water when the mixture becomes like a sticky ball. If you added too much water, you can always add more rice flour to equal it out.
Place the mixture in a steam-proof container, like a corningware or pyrex. The best shape would be a square-like container. You could even use a rice cooker container. I chose a round pyrex container because it fits perfectly into my rice cooker. One trick is to spray the container with non-stick cooking spray, which will make it easier for the cake to come out. Place 3 cups of water on the outside of your rice cooker and let the cake steam for at least 1 hour. If you don’t have a rice cooker, you can always make a diy steamer from a large pot and putting water at the bottom. Just google it.
Carefully remove the container without burning yourself. Use a combination of kitchen rags, chopsticks, and spatulas. Or you can just wait until everything cools off 20-30 minutes later. Refrigerate the cake in the container for at least 3-4 hours until hard(er). Once cooled, flip the cake out onto a cutting board.
Cut the cake into rectangular size pieces, using a gentle back and forth cutting motion. You’ll get cleaner edges this way. Heat up a flat frying pan on high, add 1/4 tablespoon of cooking oil or EVOO, and pan-fry each side for 3-5 minutes or until it reaches a crispy golden brown.
Happy early Chinese / Lunar New Year!