One of my favorite dim sum dishes, I usually only make Turnip Cake at home during Lunar New Year. The process is simple, but there are a few steps to take before you get those crispy umami slices. As with most foods for the new year, most of it is prepared in advance an simply sliced up and then pan-fried to be enjoyed during the celebrations.
Traditionally, this dish is made with daikon*, a large elongated radish, but this week in my Local Roots CSA share, I received some beautiful white turnips and thought it would be great to try in this dish as it is called a "Turnip" Cake after all! (Apparently the name is a misnomer, as it was uncommon to find a white radish outside of Asia, and was named Turnip Cake for lack of a better translation, and the name just stuck.) Anyhow, it was perfect, and I preferred using the turnips because they have a lower water content than daikon.
1 lb (450g) Gilfeather heirloom turnips (white)
1 tsp sugar
3 Tbsp oil, divided
3 Tbsp spring garlic or ramps, finely chopped
1/4 lb (125g) shiitake or King oyster mushrooms, diced
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 cup (150g) rice flour
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp white pepper
1 cup (240 ml) room temperature water
Coarsely grate the turnips and toss with sugar.
Heat a frying pan up with one tablespoon of oil. Saute the radishes and sugar for 5 minutes until softened. Transfer to a plate to cool. Add a little more oil and saute the green garlic and mushrooms for 5 minutes. Season with the smoked paprika and soy sauce. Add this to the turnips and let cool slightly.
Measure out the rice flour, cornstarch, salt and white pepper into a bowl. Pour in the water and stir to combine into a smooth thick batter. Mix in the cooled vegetables to the batter.
Oil two 6" x 6" or 9" x 5" loaf pan / baking dish or heatproof bowl and pour in the batter, smoothing out a flat surface. (I used two small dishes because I don't own a wok/pot and lid that would fit a regular-sized loaf pan.)
Place a steamer basket into a large pot filled with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil and put the turnip loaf in. Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and steam on medium-high heat for 20 minutes.
Let cool for an hour before either storing the loaf and pan in the refrigerator, or turn the loaf out and cut into 3/4" slices. Heat your pan up again with another tablespoon of oil and pan-fry both sides until golden brown and crispy. Serve with fresh chives sprouts and radish slices and a hoisin dipping sauce.
* Daikon holds more water, so if using this root veg, squeeze out the liquid after pan-frying and use this excess liquid as part of the water to make the batter or else the batter will be too watery.