Sunday, January 29, 2012

Turnip Pudding - lòh-baahk-gôu 蘿蔔糕

Among the many traditional foods Cantonese people enjoy during the Lunar New Year festivities the turnip pudding lòh-baahk-gôu 蘿蔔 is the most popular.
Other favourites are: water chestnut cake máh-tàih-gôu. 馬蹄糕, the taro cake, 芋頭糕, wuh-táu-gôu and the new year cake níhn-gôu 年糕 (the red-colour gôu!).

Turnip cake, either steamed (served in a glass bowl) or sliced and pan-fried (the most common type) can be found all year round at restaurants serving dim-sum.  
Everyone agrees that the ratio of the pudding’s 2 main ingredients (rice flour and turnip) must be 1 to 7. Each person I asked (who had previously made it) confirmed it. When I bought turnip (a 3-catty turnip!) the lady vendor also validated it: “1 catty of rice flour / 7 catties of turnip!”
This is also the amount prescribed in Noel’s recipe. Do you remember Noel who gave me the delicious mini moon cake recipe last September?

The difficulty in succeeding in making turnip pudding is to get the right consistency. The pudding texture should neither be doughy nor stodgy. It is now trendy to cut the turnip into julienne - whole or part of it - instead of grating it. I like to find bits of turnip mixed into the smooth texture so I opted to julienne the whole turnip for my homemade cake.

Other ingredients that can be included in the pudding are: diced preserved pork belly and dried Chinese mushrooms. Toppings vary: some are garnished with chopped spring onion or Chinese celery, or have toasted white sesame seeds sprinkled on it or even bits of fried bacon.
I found that most of the commercial puddings are saltier (might be due to the addition of chicken powder) and tend to be firmer than homemade ones.

Here is Noel’s Turnip Pudding recipe (quantity divided by 4) with 2 changes : 1) I added ginger juice to give an extra flavour, and 2) I did not grate the turnip but sliced it into strips (so I needed to add water to cook it).

Turnip Pudding

Preparation: 40min (it takes time to cut the turnip into julienne!)
Cooking time: about 30min.
Steaming time: 1 -1.2 hour

You will need for 1 pudding:   
Round tin (glass or metal) of 20-21cm Ø

  • 150gr rice flour – sifted - {I bought the “3 elephants” brand 三象牌 – a pack of 600g cost HK$8}
  • 1tsp potato starch + 1tps corn starch
  • 1.8 catty white radish (shredded; not too thin)
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 2-3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 mini rock candy (2-3gr)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground white pepper
  • 1 tbsp ginger juice
  • 4 dried scallops {also called conpoy} (washed, soaked in warm water for 15min and steamed for another 15min or until soft)
  • 30gr small dried shrimps. Rinsed and soaked in warm water until very soft
  • 2 preserved Chinese sausages rinsed in boiling water and diced.

  1. In a large bowl mix flour with potato starch & corn starch.
  2. Heat oil in wok and add shallot in. Stir fry for a few seconds - to flavour the oil -and remove.
  3. Stir-fry shrimps and sausages on medium heat. Put aside.
  4. Reheat wok, add oil (if needed) and stir-fry turnip for 10min.
  5. Add about 500ml water, bring to a boil, put the lid on, and simmer until soft. (if you grate the turnip you will get more juice and therefore might not need to add water)
  6. Add sausages and shrimps in.
  7. Add rock sugar (previously dissolved in hot water), white pepper, salt and ginger juice.  
  8. Turn off the heat and transfer turnip mixture in bowl containing flour & the 2 kinds of starch. Mix thoroughly.
  9. Oil the round tin and transfer the above mixture into it.
  10. Steam for 1 hour over high heat.
  11. Peel the steamed dried scallops into threads and sprinkle on top of pudding. Cook for another 10min.
  12. Turn off heat and remove tin from steamer.
  13. Let it cool down. Cover and refrigerate. 
    Turnip cut into thick strips

    Separating conpoy into flakes

    Stir-frying preserved Chinese sausages and dried shrimps

    Stir-frying turnip strips

    Mixing turnip with sausages and shrimps

    Tranferring mixture (flour + turnip) into round tin

    Pudding ready to be steamed

Slice turnip pudding and pan-fry slices in batches in a skillet over high heat for 3-4 minutes or until slightly golden.
Alternatively you can reheat the pudding in the oven. Put the slices on a baking tray lined with wax paper and cook for about 4min on each side or until golden brown.  Turnip pudding is slightly sweet and goes well dipped in chilli sauce. Some people prefer to dip it in hoisin sauce. 

Dried scallops (conpoy) spread on top of pudding

Slices ready to be toasted

I use my mini toaster oven: it heats up faster and it’s healthier (than pan-fried)

Oven-toasted turnip pudding slices


  1. Wow, this *is* interesting. So basically kind of seafood cake, almost like a crab cake? I don't have most of these ingredients but I'm definitely book marking this for a future use when the mood strikes. Love it! -azita

    1. thanks Azita for reading.
      when does your new year fall this year? is it always 21/03? i am sure you also have lots of delicious dishes to prepare to celebrate. are you going (or are they already) on Figs&Quince (love this name!)?