Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Loh Baahk Gou (Turnip Cake)

Turnip Cake (Loh Baahk Gou)

Loh Baahk Gou, or Turnip cake, is a classic of Dim Sum and will be found in virtually every Dim Sum restaurant in the world.  (I usually translate names into pinyin, now the standard form of Romanization.  However, Dim Sum is so well known by its southern Chinese nomenclature, deriving from the Cantonese dialect, that I use the Yale system when translating Dim Sum recipes and notes).   Perhaps the greatest attraction of this dish, as with many Chinese offerings, is texture.  When steamed properly, and lightly fried, Loh Baahk Gou is slightly crisp on the surface, while moist and meltingly tender within, punctuated by small morsels of savory sausage, bacon, dried shrimp and mushroom.  The main ingredient, actually Chinese white radish, is nearly identical to Japanese Daikon, the latter being a perfectly usable substitute in the US.  Loh Baahk Gou cannot be frozen, but it will keep in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic wrap, for a week.
Note: the rice flour/liquid slurry will seem too thin to solidify the cake, and you may fear that it will “separate” while it sits in the steamer.  However, the weight of the non-liquid ingredients displace the slurry perfectly, and the cake will be surprisingly homogenous and firm in the end.

1+ oz (35g) (Lop Yok) Chinese Bacon
1 +oz (35g) Lop Cheong Chinese Sausage (about 1 link)
2 med Shitake dried mushrooms
6 g dried shrimp
2 small green onions, chopped roughly, include greens.
1 lbs (450g) Daikon (after peeled and topped)
1-2 tsp Shaoshing wine or dry sherry
3 level tsp sugar
1 cup (130 g)  Thai rice flour
1 level tsp salt
1/2 quart (16 oz) water
White pepper
Peanut oil

Submerge mushroom in one cup hot water and soak 30 min. to an hour. Add 1 cup boiling water to dried shrimp, soak 30 min. to an hour.
Cut bacon into 1 or 2 or pcs and place in a small heatproof bowl.  Steam in steamer for 20 minutes, until bacon softens. 10 minutes into the steaming of the bacon, put sausage in bowl and steam on another rack for ten minutes. Reserve any juices which collect in the bottom of the bowl.  When cool enough to handle,  trim the rind, if any (the tough outer layer), off the bacon and dice 1/8” to 3/16th” and dice the sausage in the same way.
Drain shrimp, reserving liquid, and chop 1/4” minus.  Squeeze water from mushrooms, reserving liquid, cut away stems and dice, 1/4”.   The combined soaking liquids from the shrimp and mushroom should be at least 1 cup.
Shred the daikon radish and place in a 3 qt sauce pan.  Compact the vegetable gently, add 1/2 quart cold water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes until very tender.   In the meantime, heat a wok to med-high, add 1 or 2 tablespoons peanut oil, and stir fry sausage and bacon for 2 or 3 minutes just until meat browns slightly.  Be careful not to brown this very much—the sausage and bacon will become tough.  Add mushrooms, shrimp and scallions, and stir-fry another 2 or 3 minutes; toss in wine, sugar, a dash of ground white pepper and reserved bacon juices.  Toss to combine and set aside.
While reserving the liquid, drain the shredded radish and combine it in a large bowl with the meat and scallion mixture—including residual oils—and the salt.  Into a mixing bowl, measure the rice flour; pour in the 1/2 cup combined shrimp and mushroom water, then 1-1/4 cup hot turnip water, and combine with whisk until smooth.  Add this slurry to the turnip mixture and combine thoroughly.  It will be something like a rice pudding in texture.
Pour mixture into a well-greased (or parchment lined) small loaf pan appx. 8X4X2-1/4” deep, and place in steamer without touching sides or lid of steamer.  (A Chinese cook will often use a covered wok as a steamer, since it is large, in conjunction with a wire rack which supports the pan above the water.)  Gently pat the mixture down to consolidate and distribute slurry.  Steam 45 minutes until firm.  Remove and allow to cool for an hour, then refrigerate for 2 or 3 more hours.
When ready to serve, run a butter knife or spatula along sides of pan; turn over on plate or cutting board; cover for a couple of minutes with a hot towel, then rap the loaf pan to release the cake.  With a sharp knife, cut 1/2 inch pieces crosswise, like bread; cut each of these in half,  to create servings of approx 2-1/2 x 3” and a half inch thick.  Fry the pieces in a flat pan with peanut oil til golden brown and warmed through.   Serve with soy dipping or oyster sauce.

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