Monday, February 21, 2011

Homemade Turnip Cake

I had originally published these pics a few days back in my Chinese New Year post but this dish was such a huge part of Chinese New Year (it was the first time I had ever tried my mom's homemade turnip cake--because when she was experimenting with the recipe, I was away at college) that I felt it deserved to stand on its own.

Homemade turnip cake. Man, is this a labor intensive dish!

Not only did my mom have to shave 10 pounds of turnip but also cut each individual ingredient (Chinese sausage, Chinese bacon, reconstituted shitake mushroom, dried shrimp, dried scallop) to a fine dice and then sautee them individually in a dry pan to draw out all the moisture...I have a new found respect for people who make this the right way!

The thing with turnip cake is that Chinese turnips are only in season around Chinese New Year--that's when they're sweet and pack a lot of turnip flavor.

Normally, I'm not a fan of turnip cake. The ones they serve at dim sum are almost always, if not always, all dough and very little turnip (not to mention that they skimp on the other ingredients too!)

My mom made three pans and boy did they disappear fast (they're really good pan fried)! Two weeks later, she taught Matt and I how make the recipe--I thought the first batch was better, but with a little practice and time I'm sure I can conquer it.

This is my grandmother's recipe:

1lb rice flour (jeem mai fun)
10 lbs turnip shredded (either with a box grater or by hand, try to avoid using a food processor)
2 Tbs dried shrimp, soaked in water (if you buy the smallest varietal you won't have to dice them)
4-5 dried large scallops, steamed, shreadded
1/4 cup finely diced shitake mushrooms, stems trimmed, reconstituted in water
4 Chinese sausages finely diced
3-4 Tbs Chinese bacon finely diced (trim of some of the fat if necessary)
2 Tbs oyster sauce, or to taste
sea salt, white pepper, toasted white sesame, and chopped scallions to taste

Soak the mushrooms and the dried shrimp for at least 3 hours to reconstitute them. Reserve the water from both.
Finely dice the mushrooms, Chinese sausage, and Chinese bacon.
Fill a pot with water and place the steaming rack inside. To a shallow dish add about 3 Tbs water and place the dried scallops in the dish and let steam until they become tender. After steaming, shred the scallops by hand and reserve the water.
Wash and peel all 10 lbs of turnip and then grate with a box grater or by hand (you can do half and half)
In a dry pan toast the dry shrimp until slightly golden brown and very dry. And remove from pan. Repeat this step with the mushroom as well.
Render out the fat of the Chinese sausage. Remove from pan and pat dry with a paper towel. Repeat this step with the Chinese bacon as well.
In a dry pan, cook shredded turnip until translucent, continuously and carefully turning them every so often. Remove as much water as you can. Add salt and white pepper to taste.
Add oyster sauce and mix evenly.
Add in mushrooms, dried shrimp, Chinese sausage, Chinese bacon, and dried scallops.
Mix well.
With a sifter, slowly sift in the rice flour while still stirring, adding only a little bit of flour each time.
Add the reserved dried scallop water if it looks too dry, it should be the consistency of somewhere between a dumpling dough and pancake batter--not too wet, but not too dry.
Continue mixing until all the flour has been added.
Pour mixture into round cake pans and steam for about 45mins each. If you have a large steamer, you can steam them all at once for 45 mins.
Remove and let cool.
Top with toasted sesame and chopped scallions.

Next Day:
You can either steam them to reheat, or cut them into little cakes and pan fry them with a little oil until they're crisp and golden brown on all sides. I like to cut them a little thinner so that I get more crust.

This is A LOT of work, so enlist help if you can!

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