My mother died when I was 22.
Not an auspicious start to a post, is it. But I promise not to be depressing. I’m just back to the fallible parent theme.
My mother was a wonderful cook, and a much better baker than I’ll ever be. But there are standard family dishes that I make much better than she did.
She’ll never know of course, so no sheepish “sorry, Mom, your Shepherd’s Pie is dry.”
Now my mother-in-law, this is something different. She’s very much alive, and teaching me how to cook Chinese. Last fall she came over and showed me how to make Luo Bok Gao (turnip cakes– you may have had these if you’ve had dim sum). She brought three different kinds of rice flour (on this week’s theme) and we used daikons from the local grocery, but it just didn’t taste right, and they were very gluey.
Then, last year, I found seeds from Kitazawa seed company, which specializes in Asian vegetables, for actual luo bok, called Korean Turnip on the label. These are, essentially, 2 pound radishes, with a consistency somewhere between radish and turnip. So I pulled my mother-in-law’s recipe, and a recipe pulled off the internet, and landed somewhere in between.
Result? Restaurant quality luo bok gao, way better than mom’s
Homemade Luo Bok Gao
2 ½ lbs (1 lb) Chinese turnip
1 ½ cup (¾ c) gluten-free rice flour
3 Tsp (1 ¼) corn starch
2 tsp (¾ tsp) salt
2 tsp (¾ tsp) sugar
½ tsp (¼ tsp) white pepper
1 ½ (1) Chinese sausage, chopped to small pieces and fried (if you don’t have this sweet, dense sausage available, a cheap, mild salami is a good substitute– the fattier the better)
2 (1) small dried shitake mushroom, soaked in water for 1 hour, then cut off stem and diced
1 (1) green onion sliced
¼ cup (¼ cump) shrimp, diced
1 ½ cup (¾ cup) water (approx.)
1. Peel and grate the turnips into a pot; add a small amount of water. Bring it to a boil and cook on medium heat for 15 minutes, add more water if needed.
2. Grate the mixture with an immersible blender and then add the Chinese sausage, green onion, shitake mushroom, shrimp, and carrot into the pot.
3. Add salt, sugar, pepper, turn to low heat, and continue to stir.
4. Gradually add the rice flour to the mixture. Do not add it all at once.
5. Add some water and the corn starch, continue to stir. Mixture should not be runny or solid. Add the meat and vegetables.
6. Grease a non stick cake pan (about 8 inches) or casserole dish, pour mixture into pan to a one-knuckle depth, and steam for 40 minutes. To steam: use a large steamer or a wok, add water to the bottom and support the pan with a small rack. After 40 minutes, insert a toothpick in the centre, if it comes out clean, the Turnip Cake is ready.
7. Let cool. To serve, slice and pan fry until golden brown. An 8″ cake yields about 9 small slices. Serve with any traditional sauce.
This recipe makes two 8″ cakes.