This recipe is unlike most radish(or turnip) cake recipes out there. It brings everything back to the basics, all you need is long grain rice, radishes, carrots(for color), salt and white pepper for seasoning. The flavor of the rice and the radish really shines through, it is fragrant, sweet and soft. Serve it fried, stir-fried or in soup!
Radish cake is something my grandma would make every Chinese new year, since “Radish” in Taiwanese sounds similar to good luck, and “cake” sounds the same as “high”, so lots of lots of luck in the following year! (Radish: 菜頭Cai4tou2, Luck: 彩頭, cai3tou2; Cake: 糕, gao1; High: 高, gao1)
If you’ve been to a dim sum restaurant, radish cake is most likely on the menu, it’s a classic. The difference between their radish cake and this recipe is the extra “seasoning” they added to the cake- shallots, dried shrimp, sausage, ham and mushroom. Those are good too, but when I was a kid I always wondered why those were called radish cakes since I was never able to taste(or find) the radish. Then my mom introduced me to the plain and simple radish cake, I fell in love. It is simple with nothing fancy but the flavor is so strong! Unlike most other places where they grind their radish because it is easier, we shred ours because we’ve already omitted all the extra toppings to the cake, the radish becomes the main support of this delicious cake.
Since I found some GORGEOUS daikon radish at the Rochester Downtown Farmers Market, I was so excited I had to make radish cake. I was seriously impressed by the quality of the radish the farmers here produced. Heavy, sweet and delicate, none of those really coarse fiber that will ruin the texture of the cake. Look for a radish that is heavy and not veiny, with smooth skin, that’s a good radish for your cake.
Radish cake is made with rice instead of flour. Taiwan grows a lot of rice, the Hakkas are the kings and queens of rice products. All kinds of delicious rice cakes from sweet to salty from breakfast to dessert, they’ve got it all. They have a whole system on how to make the tastiest rice anything. There are many kinds of rice in Taiwan and people typically use “ZaiLai Rice”(在來米,zai4lai2mi3) to make radish cake. It is a type of long grain rice that is similar to the famous Jasmine rice, but with a different fragrant than Jasmine.
Making radish cake from scratch- with raw rice- has almost become a lost art now that “rice flour” is so easily accessible… My mom uses rice flour to make her radish cake, but when I went to the supermarket looking for the rice flour, I couldn’t tell which kind I’m supposed to use since “ZaiLai Rice Flour” is not an option and I wasn’t sure if I could substitute it with any kind of rice flour since there are so many different kind of rice and the labels were so generic. (Imagine buying a block of cheese with the label only saying “Cheese”) I love making food from scratch anyway, start from the very basics, so I bought a bag of “Long grain rice“(another very generic name… but at least I know what it looks like), and decided to make my own radish cake!
The rice definitely did not disappoint, the finished product is much softer than the ones made with rice flour and I love the aroma of freshly steamed rice, try it and you’ll never want to buy rice flour again.
You can dip the radish cake in soy sauce, vegetarian oystersauce, or add pureed garlic to make a garlic soy sauce(my favorite), homemade chili garlic paste, chili bean paste are also popular choices. We often ate radish cake for breakfast when we were in Taiwan, shops will fry it in a bit of oil until golden, add an egg to it and it’s a tasty and nutritious breakfast or afternoon snack! Definitely a Taiwanese favorite.
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- 3-1/2 C Long Grain Rice Soak with 7C water over night or at least 4 hours
- 3-1/2 lb Radish Remove skin and shred to skinny strips
- 1 Small Carrot
- 2 TBsp Oil
- 2 tsp Salt
- 1 tsp Ground White Pepper
- Soak 3-1/2C Long Grain Rice in water over night or for at least 4 hours. The longer you soak it the softer it will become and easier it will be to blend
- Remove the skin from the radishes and the carrot then shred or finely chop (if you don't have a shredder like me) to roughly 2" (5cm) in length
- In a large pot, heat up 2TBsp Oil, then add the shredded carrot and radish, 2t Salt and 1t Ground pepper
- Cook on medium heat, and stir often. Until the radish is soft and transparent
- While the radish is cooking, prepare your rice mixture.
- Drain the rice that's been soaking over night, as much as possible as too much water will influence the texture of the cake
- Add 1C water and the drained rice to a blender and blend till it is super fine. If there's not enough liquid to blend easily, add the liquid radishes released from the pot to the blender.
- Once the rice mixture is made, turn the radish cooking heat to low and add the rice mixture
- Stir immediately, and keep stirring, scraping from the bottom to prevent it from burning
- Cook till the mixture is hard to stir, and super thick then turn the heat off. This is to make sure that the mixture is thick and even so the thick part and the water doesn't separate during the steaming process
- Grease 2 loaf pans or any container you choose to use and add the half-cooked mixture to the pans
- Get your steamer ready, make sure the water is boiling, and there's steam coming out of your steamer before adding the pans
- Steam for 30 mins to 1 hour, poke a chopstick into the center and comes out without white uncooked paste
- Remove from the steamer, brush a thin layer of oil on top to prevent drying and let cool before removing from the pan
- Serve immediately with garlic soy sauce or fry it!
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