Ever since I started experimenting with different foods in an attempt at food rotation, I’ve been thinking of cooking this dish. It’s made from Chinese white radish, also known as daikon (and most confusingly, can be called ‘carrot’ when translated into English, as I’ve noted here).
What held me up was trying to think of substitutes for the usual preserved meats and dried products that usually go into this dish: laap cheong Chinese sausages, laap yok waxed pork, dried shrimps, dried mushrooms. Without the seasoning of oyster sauce, soya sauce and sugar, and no flavourful ingredients I wasn’t sure how this dish would work at all.
In the end I just went ahead and made it absolutely plain and believe it or not, it was absolutely delicious! There are no fillings in this lor bak gou at all, and no seasoning apart from a tiny pinch of salt, but the familiar taste is unmistakably that of lor bak gou ☺.
Everything is in the additional toppings which can be adjusted to suit individual taste, so those family members who want to load up on laap cheong and bottled chilli sauce can do so as well, leaving the rest of us to enjoy this in a more simple fashion.
The toppings shown in the photo are chopped spring onion, homemade fried shallots, sesame seed furikake and sesame oil — my favourite way to garnish this basic lor bak gou.
This dish is suitable for bento, and the toppings can be packed into dedicated bento condiments containers, or even just wrapped up in folded aluminium foil. Personally, I prefer to eat lor bak gou warm and I didn’t try it in any bento this time round.
When I compared different recipes, the interesting thing was that they all used a different combination of flours in very different quantities. For example, for approx. 600g of radish:
a) 450g rice flour + 50g tapioca flour
b) 1400g rice flour + 80g tapioca flour
c) 450g rice flour + 1.5 Tbs corn flour + 1.5 Tbs wheat starch
d) 280g rice flour + 40g cornflour
e) 200g rice flour + 40g wheat starch
f) 150g rice flour
[To find out more about these types of flours, have a look at my info page on flours for Chinese & Japanese snacks.]
I decided to go with the quantities in what appears to be the most reliable of my cookbooks, Dim Sum by Chan Chen Hei, a renown chef who’s worked at top restaurants and hotels in Hong Kong and Singapore. The method was adapted from combining instructions in various cookbooks.
500g-600g white radish
200g rice flour
40g wheat starch
1 litre water
salt to taste
1) Peel and shred the radish (using a ceramic peeler and ceramic julienne slicer, if you have them ^_^). You can also chop the radish into strips, it’s said that these larger chunks give a better texture to the final dish.
2) Mix the flours with just enough water to form a smooth, liquid paste.
3) Pour the remaining water into a pot, put in the radish, season with salt to taste, bring to the boil and cook until it has turned transparent and soft.
4) Reduce the heat to low or turn off the heat completely and stir in the flour mixture. Combine thoroughly until thick and sticky.
5) Grease a container to hold the radish batter for steaming. If you wish, you can line the container with cling film to make it easier to remove the cooked radish cake intact. You can use any dish suitable for steaming, or even a disposable aluminium cake tin (cling film not needed, because you can transport, store and serve the radish cake in it, no need to remove the cooked product from the container) . In my experience, try to avoid anything that’s too thick and heavy or which does not conduct heat well.
6) Pour in radish mixture and smoothen the top. Preheat the steamer and steam on high heat for at least 30 minutes. It could take as long as 1hr, depending in the quantity and shape of the radish cake. Test the middle with skewer or chopstick; if it doesn’t stick, the dish is done.
There will be a watery liquid on the surface. Just leave it as it will be absorbed as the radish cake cools and prevents the surface from becoming dried out and cracked.
7) As the cake cools, it will firm up. You can then slice, garnish and serve.
Optionally, you can pan fry the slices until brown and fragrant, then garnish and serve.
Personally, I think this tastes best when hot. I kept it in the fridge and heated it up before eating. However, I found that it did not microwave very well. The outer edges would be hot and the centre still hard and cold, so I ended up having to reheat by steaming. Which isn’t really a bad thing since we should try to avoid the additional EMF exposure from microwaves — not to mention the questionable effect eating microwaved food (read more here and here), if we weren’t already so addicted to their convenience.
We have an electric stove at home, and it’s slower to heat up and cool down than a gas stove. My personal method to speed up the steaming/boiling is as follows:
1) Boil sufficient water for steaming in the kettle.
2) Whilst the kettle is boiling, heat up the pot on the stove by putting just enough water to cover the base.
3) When kettle has boiled, pour contents into the pot, which should be at boiling point by now.
4) Invest in good quality pots as the heat conduction is noticeably superior and the contents will boil faster.
16/4/08 Update: Just found this video of a cooking show demonstrating how to make traditional Hong Kong-style steamed radish cake, which is characterised by Chinese sausages (in Taiwanese dialect with Chinese subtitles).
13/6/08 Update: see also my steamed Chinese yam cake.