Chinese radish cake (loh bak go)

dry ingredient soaking time: 4 hours to overnight
preparation time: 1+ hours
cooking time: 1 hour 45 minutes
emergency contact: dorothy

loh bak goh

With Chinese New Year just around the corner, it’s loh bak go time. There are many varieties of white radish available in Asian markets, and though they produce slightly different results, they all work for making these radish cakes. Just remember that you will most likely have to adjust the amount of water you add during cooking as this is highly dependent on the type and freshness of radish you use. We’ve included lots of photos and a short video in this post to help first-time loh bak go makers.

Chinese white radish (similar to Daikon) – 2000 g (3-4 radishes)
dried Chinese (shiitake) mushrooms – 6
dried shrimp – 3 Tbsp
dried scallop – 3
lop cheong (Chinese sausage) – 2
lop yuk (Chinese-style bacon/pork belly) – 10-cm strip
rice flour (regular, not sticky) – 400 g (1 package)
white pepper – 1/2 tsp
salt – 1.5-3 tsp
brown tablet sugar – 1-cm chunk
chicken bouillon – 1.5 cubes
shallots – 3
toasted sesame seeds

Soak the mushrooms and dried scallops, each ingredient in its own bowl of hot water, from 4 hours up to overnight, depending on how dry they are. Soak the dried shrimp for 20 minutes in hot water. Drain and shake dry before using. Steam lop cheong and lop yuk for 20 minutes.

Cut shallots into 2-mm slices. Dice mushrooms and dried shrimp in 2-mm cubes. Dice lop cheong in 2-mm cubes. Trim skin and fat from the lop yuk and dice in 2-mm cubes. Shred dried scallop. With a heavy knife or meat cleaver, chop brown tablet sugar into small chunks.

lop yuk
Peeled radishes, diced dried shrimp and sliced shallots.
shredded radish

Peel the radishes. Measure out exactly 2000 g on a kitchen scale. Shred in a food processor or with a coarse grater.

Put the shredded radish, dried scallop, sugar, 1/4 tsp white pepper, and chicken bouillon in a large pot. Add salt according to taste — 1.5 tsp is good for most people, or up to 3 tsp for real salt hounds. Cook over medium heat, stirring regularly. The radish will release some liquid as it cooks. If it looks too dry, add some water; if it looks too wet, scoop some water out. (You need enough water to allow the rice flour to combine well when it’s added (several steps down), but the resulting “dough” should still be quite thick. The photos of the finished dough (see video or “consistency” photos) should give you some idea of the desired consistency, but obviously, this will take a bit of trial and error.) The next step (sautéing) must be executed somewhat concurrently to this step, as the sautéed stuff must be added to the radish while it is still semi-raw.

In the meantime, sauté the shallot slices in oil until browned, remove from pan and set aside. Using the same small pan, sauté the mushrooms, dried shrimp, lop cheong and lop yuk for about 2 minutes in some oil with 1/4 tsp white pepper. Add the sautéed savoury stuff to the shredded radish and continue to cook until the radish is soft, but not soggy. The total radish-cooking time is about 15-20 minutes.

brown tablet sugar sauté
finished dough

Take the pot off the heat. Add the rice flour, stirring constantly. The stirring is absolutely crucial, otherwise you won’t get the right consistency. You need to do this part quickly, still ensuring that the dough is well-mixed. Here is a video taken during the mixing process, viewable to anyone who is a flickr friend of 54Leacock (you will be asked to sign in to your flickr account to view it).

Spoon dough into an oiled cake tin roughly 3 inches high and 9.5 inches in diameter. (This is a somewhat unusual size that used to be sold in Asian markets. If you can’t find one, just use a regular 9-inch diameter tin.) Smooth the top. Steam for 1:45h at quite a vigorous boil. Once cooked, remove the tin from the steamer. While the cake is still hot, lay some sprigs of coriander on the surface and sprinkle with the sautéed shallots and toasted sesame seeds. Allow the cake to cool, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 12-24 hours. Run a knife around the edge of the tin, slide the entire radish cake out.

To eat: Cut 1-cm slices of the radish cake and brown for a few minutes on each side in a frying pan. Serve immediately.

To store: Wrap in plastic wrap and store in the fridge for up to 4-5 days, or in the freezer for several months.

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