Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Chinese New Year Turnip Cake | 賀年臘味蘿蔔糕

Select heavy radishes with lustrous skin & fresh leaves
Just under two weeks till Lunar New Year, people all over Hong Kong are scurrying to stock up on gifts and spring cleaning in anticipation of the Year of the Goat. That time of the year has come once again, when folks labor in the kitchen preparing homemade festive cakes and puddings with recipes passed down for generations.

Aside from the sweet and sticky glutinous rice pudding, there's the savory turnip cake (蘿蔔糕, aka. radish cake), a standard, year-round dim sum offering that becomes indispensable during New Year celebrations. Made from shredded Chinese white radish, the turnip cake is typically served steamed or pan fried, its texture soft and moist inside, its flavor mildly peppery, rounded off by the savory-pungent pitch of dried delicacies like shrimps, conpoy, mushrooms, and Chinese sausage.

Dried shrimp, conpoy, and mushroom
For years I have eavesdropped on just how labor-intensive it is to make the turnip cake, from grating radishes to chopping the dried ingredients, resulting in a full day of work, a sweaty forehead and sore forearms to boot. At long last I have put these presuppositions to test, enlisting the help of my dear friend Felix who is a turnip cake veteran, and in one short Sunday afternoon my first ever turnip cake made its debut at my Penthouse Kitchen. Awesome results, awesome fun, minus the sweaty forehead and bulging biceps.

Make it or buy it, there's just no denying that fresh, homemade, preservative-free turnip cakes are worth every effort. Adjust the dried ingredients to your liking. Add lap yuk (臘肉) - Chinese preserved pork - for an extra dimension of taste; load up on white pepper like my grandmother did; or leave out any of the dried seafood and meats as you like for a vegan version. Give homemade turnip cake a shot and this might just become your annual Lunar New Year tradition!

You'll appreciate every effort put on making this authentic Cantonese specialty
To prepare...
2 Chinese radishes, about 1.2 kg
6 dried scallops (conpoy)
A handful of dried shrimps
6 Chinese dried mushrooms
2 Chinese sausages
2 cups rice flour (粘米粉)
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 cup chicken stock (or soaking liquid*)

Dash of Shaoxing rice wine
1 + 1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper

1. Soak conpoy, dried shrimp, and mushrooms in water for several hours up to overnight. *Drain and reserve soaking liquid. Dice and set aside. Steam Chinese sausages for 5 minutes. Steaming will soften and remove excess fat from sausages, making them easier to chop. Dice and set aside.

2. Peel and cut each radish in half on the bias for easier grating. Coarsely grate radish, reserving any liquids released from the radishes. Set aside.

3. In a large, ungreased skillet, stir-fry Chinese sausages on medium high heat until fat is rendered. Add rice wine and 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, then tip in mushrooms, conpoy, and dried shrimp and stir-fry until fragrant. Set aside.

4. In a large pot or wok, cook grated radish with its liquids and remaining 1 teaspoon sugar, covered and until tender, about 15 minutes. Radish shall release more juices in the process; should radish appear somewhat dry, stir in small quantities of reserved soaking liquid. Turn heat off.

5. In a large mixing bowl, combine rice flour and cornstarch. Add chicken stock or reserved soaking liquid (about 1 1/2 cup) and stir until dissolved. Season with salt and white pepper. The batter should be a bit runny.

6. Add sausage mixture to the radish. Pour in batter and stir the mixture well while the radish is still hot until incorporated. The batter should begin to grow dense with the heat.

7. Pour mixture into greased cake moulds, glassware, or disposable aluminium pans and steam for 30-40 minutes. Once done, let turnip cake cool and chill overnight to further firm up. To serve, cut 1/2 inch slices and pan-fry on both sides till golden. Serve with 余均益 chili sauce, Sriracha, or your favorite hot sauce. Enjoy and share the fruit of your labor, and may the Year of the Goat bring prosperity, happiness, and health!

白蘿蔔  1.2 公斤
瑤柱  6 粒
蝦米  55 克
冬菇  6 隻
臘腸  2 條
粘米粉  300 克
鷹粟粉  75 克
無鹽雞湯  350 毫升(或用浸冬菇瑤柱水*)

紹興酒  少量
砂糖  1+1/2 茶匙
  1 茶匙
白胡椒粉  1/2 茶匙

1. 瑤柱、蝦米、冬菇浸軟切粒(*可以保留浸過的水代替雞湯)。
2. 臘腸隔水蒸 5 分鐘,切粒待用。
3. 蘿蔔去皮,刨粗絲,並保留過程中滲出的蘿蔔水。
4. 用平底鍋以中火爆香臘腸,灑下紹興酒及半茶匙糖,再加入冬菇、瑤柱、蝦米繼續爆透,直至聞到香味,盛起備用。
5. 大鍋加入蘿蔔絲和蘿蔔水及 1 茶匙糖,加蓋小火煮 15 分鐘至蘿蔔絲軟身。
6. 期間用大碗混合粘米粉和鷹粟粉,加入雞湯或浸冬菇瑤柱水以及鹽和白胡椒粉並拌勻。
7. 蘿蔔絲煮好後離火,加入已炒好的配料,隨即加入粉漿並搞拌成為半生熟粉漿。
8. 把粉漿倒入已抹油的糕盤內,用大火隔水蒸 30-40 分鐘。用筷子插進蘿蔔糕中央,如筷子沒粉漿黏住,表示已熟透。冷卻後放進雪櫃過夜有助蘿蔔糕凝固。
9. 蘿蔔糕切件煎香兩面,蘸點余均益或是拉差辣椒醬份外美味!  

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