Chinese New Year is quickly approaching so I thought I’d share a traditional family Chinese New Year recipe, Turnip cakes. Remy, my family housekeeper slash helper back in Hong Kong, taught me this recipe the last time I was back home for Christmas holidays. This was definitely one of my more interesting undertakings. I’ve mentioned before the difficulty of cooking with Chinese families and their lack of use of kitchen appliances definitely exasperates the process especially because a lot of traditional Chinese dishes are time consuming. I’m telling you right now that if you use a food processor and a piece of cheese cloth to help you out it’ll cut the prep time in about half…which saves you time and pain. What do I mean by “pain”? I mean actual physical pain. Yes, pain. You’re probably thinking hand cramps from manually shredding these turnips. No, I mean a burning sensation in my hands. The best part is Remy simply shrugs when I tell her that my hands are BURNING and says “it’ll be better tomorrow”. TOMORROW? I was hoping maybe in like 5 minutes? I don’t know what it is about turnip juice but let me tell you it causes a burning sensation. So what would make your life easier? Gloves and a cheese clothe. Obviously not things that can be found in a Chinese kitchen. So bare hands it is. Now I know it sounds like I’m trying to discourage you from trying this recipe but that is definitely not the case. The result of these turnip cakes was absolutely amazing. You can order turnip cakes at Dim Sum. They are cut into perfect rectangles and lightly fried on each side. You’ll notice that mine are not perfectly cut and the reason for that is because they aren’t suppose to be. The ones you order in the restaurant are made with a lot more flour than turnip because it cost less to make AND it holds it shape better. The real stuff isn’t supposed to be cut into perfectly straight rectangles. So I highly recommend trying this if you’ve never made them before but I’m cautiously warning you and advising you to use a cheese clothe, a food processor and a pair of gloves. BUT if you don’t, I’ll tell you now that it did not take a whole day for the burning sensation to go away, more like half an hour.
Prep time: 45 minutes | Cook time: 1 hour
Makes two large 9-inch turnip cakes
5 large Asian Turnips (aka Daikon)
1 large piece of Chinese dried pork belly
2 Chinese sausages
1 handful of dried shrimps soaked in hot water
15 pieces of large dried scallops, soaked in hot water and shredded
500 grams of rice flour
5 tbsp of salt
1 piece of rock sugar
1 tbsp of chicken powder *optional
1 piece of ginger
Shred turnips either by hand or using a food processor. Wring out all excess water with cheese clothe into a separate bowl. Take the excess water and boil with a large piece of rock sugar and 3 tbsp of salt.
Once the water is boiling, set aside a quarter of the shrimps and scallops and add the rest to the pot along with the shredded turnips (I know this is rather disappointing that after much effort of getting the water out you’re not putting it back in). Season with another 2 tbsp of salt and chicken powder.
Dice Chinese sausage and dried pork belly. Lightly stir-fry in a small frying pan along with a slice of ginger and the remaining shrimps and scallops. Set aside half the mixture. Mix in the remaining half into the turnip mixture. Let turnip mixture cool for at least an hour uncovered before mixing in the rice flour. Mix in rice flour slowly and evenly and divide into two 9-inch tins that are at least 3 to 4 inches deep. Sprinkle the top with the stir fried mixture.
In a pot large enough to fit the 9-inch tin boil 1 ½ inch of water and steam the tins separately for an hour each. You can serve this dish three ways. The first way is to cut out a small cube and serve immediately as a steamed dish. The second way is to let the turnip cake sit overnight and cut them into whatever size square you prefer and lightly pan-fry them for about 3 to 5 minutes on each side or until golden brown. You can also pan fry them with an egg by scrambling an egg and dipping the turnip squares before frying. Can you serve with hot sauce, hoisin sauce, soy sauce or eat them plain!
Chinese sausage and dried pork belly diced into pieces
Stir fried Chinese sausage, dried pork belly, shrimps, shredded scallops and ginger
Sprinkle top with stir fried mixture