It’s almost Chinese New Year and during the 2-week break that most Chinese students and workers get in China, they will enjoy a plethora of foods all signaling good fortune.

Turnip cakes are one of these foods. For many people, this is the pan-fried treat you’ll see at dim sum. Traditionally, it is made with Chinese Lap Cheong sausages and dried shrimp, but I’ve substituted savory carrots and textured vegetable protein, among a bunch of other fillings to this recipe.

This “cake” is essentially bits of vegetables and filling mixed into a batter of rice flour and water, so the texture will not be like cake in the western sense. Many recipes will actually pre-cook the rice batter before steaming the entire cake, but I actually find you get a softer product if you don’t pre-cook the batter.

In terms of how fine you want to shred your daikon radish, it’s really up to you. Some people love bigger chunks of radish in their cake, so you may not even need to shred. I will say that if you make the shreds too fine, the radishes sort of mix into the rice flour and can make the cake taste too chunky, rather than have tender pockets of the rice batter and chunks of steamed radish throughout.

Vegan Chinese Dim Sum Turnip Cakes

(Makes 8-10 servings)

Daikon Filling:

  • 1/2 pound daikon radish, cut into shreds
  • 2 cups liquid, reserved radish liquid + water
  • 1 tablespoon+ 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon vegan chicken powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper

Batter:

  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 2/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1 1/4 cups water

Vegetable Filling:

  • 1-2 carrots, finely dice
  • 1/3 cup dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated and finely diced
  • 1 1/2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 4-5 stalks scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar

For Textured Vegetable Protein:

  • 3 tablespoons textured vegetable protein (TVP)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • vegetable oil for frying

Serve With:

  • hoisin sauce
  • cilantro (garnish)

Directions

  1. Shred the daikon radish and put onto a strainer with a bowl under to catch the liquid. Using hands, squeeze out the additional liquid. Leave in strainer for 10 minutes to continue draining.
  2. Meanwhile, in a pan over medium heat, fry the carrots and shallots with 2-3 tablespoons of vegetable oil until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Add in the white parts of the scallions, soy sauce and sugar. Cook for an additional 2 minutes until mixture is dry.
  3. In a separate pan, toast up TVP with 2-3 tablespoons of oil with salt and garlic powder. Add this to the vegetable mixture. Set aside.
  4. In another pot, bring daikon shreds, reserved liquid, sugar, salt, vegan chicken powder and white pepper to a boil. Cook until daikon radishes are soft, between 2-6 minutes depending on size of shreds. Set aside and cool.
  5. In a bowl, mix together the rice flour, cornstarch and water until batter is smooth.
  6. Combine the rice flour batter with the radish and vegetable filling. Pour into a greased 8-inch round with parchment. Cover pan with aluminum foil.
  7. Steam on medium to medium high heat for about 1 hour. To test for doneness, stick a toothpick into the cake and if the bits that are sticking to the toothpick is translucent, it is ready.
  8. Cut into 3/4-inch thick slices. Pan fry on both sides for 2-3 minutes until a golden brown crust forms. Serve with hoisin sauce and garnish with cilantro.