steamed radish cake

Homemade Steamed Radish Cake / Lo Bak Gou (updated)

Steamed Radish Cake/Kueh (Lo Bak Gou)
As summer hits Queensland it’s radish season and that time of year perfect for making my own made steamed radish cake / Lo Bak Gou from scratch. Here’s the catch. It’s hard to describe this dish to many of my Aussie Anglo-Saxon friends who can’t understand for the life of them, how on earth ‘carrot cake’ could also mean the same thing as some steamed cake from Asia. For this reason I’d decided my last post on this radish cake recipe deserved an update for 2016 and further clarification on the mysteries of ‘carrot cake’.

You see, the name Carrot Cake tends to cause a myriad of confused ideas amongst non-Singaporeans when the name is used ‘as is’ in Singapore. To every Singaporean, there could be up to as many as three (or four actually if you pan-fry the steamed carrot cake) kinds of ‘carrot cake’ in the world. They are each deserving of their fame and also terrific in their own individual way. To better understand the different kinds of carrot cake species (haha), I thought I might introduce the simple process of elimination.

OK so here goes– let’s first omit the western recipe of ‘carrot cake’. In this post, by ‘steamed radish cake’ or ‘Steamed Carrot Cake’ as it can be loosely translated, I’m referring to the kind of carrot cake that has nothing to do with the cafe-style, sweet and nutty spiced cake dessert (baked from a batter made from the grated flesh of orange carrots covered in cream cheese frosting–as pictured here) which I love by the way and have featured on this site titled Carrot Cake Recipe.

carrot cake homemade
my homemade ‘no nut no sultana’ carrot cake

This particular steamed radish cake or steamed carrot cake, also known in yum cha restaurants as ‘Lo Bak Gou'(in Cantonese dialect) is actually made from a favourite Japanese culinary ingredient–grated white daikon radish. The confusion of the word ‘carrot’ probably stems from ‘daikon’ also being called ‘white carrot’ in Mandarin. Steamed white radish or steamed daikon makes a delicious steamed cake or ‘kueh’ (as we call it in Singapore/Malaysia) with a savoury taste rather than sweet. 

steamed radish cake
steamed radish cake you can make with this easy recipe

This brings me to the next version if you aren’t already confused. A simple twist on its texture brings this kueh to a whole new level: simply by pan-frying after steaming. You can order this pan-fried version of the same radish cake at yum cha restaurants as apparently it has its origins from the Hong Kong yum cha places. There are also yam versions of the same thing.

This Recipe Makes A Base for Making ‘Chai Tow Kueh’ – Fried Carrot Cake

The final (and my favourite) carrot cake is the fried version of the above steamed kueh or steamed radish kueh, diced into cubes and stir-fried with preserved turnips, kecap manis and eggs.

carrot cake
Cai Tow Kueh/Fried Carrot Cake – my homemade fried carrot cake using steamed radish cake as base

At Singapore hawker stalls, you’d be looking for hawkers sizzling up hot fiery woks of ‘Chai Tow Kueh’. The signboards will simply read ‘Carrot Cake’ or ‘Fried Carrot Cake’. I know. It might make an English granny’s heart stop at first sight. Fried ‘carrot cake’ would be awful even with the best English Breakfast tea, I’d imagine.

But ‘Chai Tow Kueh’, Singapore’s version of Fried Carrot Cake, is divine if you haven’t already tried it. Even Singapore’s first ever Olympic gold medallist Joseph Schooling was known to have missed this hawker delight most when he was away at the Rio Olympics.

In Singapore, you can get either the ‘black’ (sauce) or ‘white’ version (sans black sauce) but yes, to add to the confusion, they both share the same name. For the locals there, it’s just the most delectable (surprise) breakfast ever.

white and black carrot cake
white and black carrot cake
(pic credit: Wikipedia)
carrot cake stall
A ‘carrot cake’ hawker stall in Singapore
(pic credit:1blogspot)

Here’s a link to my other ‘fried carrot cake’ recipe.

Meanwhile, we’ll still have to get through making this basic steamed ‘carrot cake’ before it can be turned into the fried version. It’s quite a bit of arm work with the stirring but well worth trying when you have the time and enough love to attempt! If I could do it, you can too.

grated daikon radish and carrot
grated daikon radish and carrot
tapioca and rice flours
tapioca and rice flours
for radish cake

Ingredients (flour mixture):
450g rice flour
50g tapioca flour
800 ml warm water (for mixing in with flours)
200 ml warm water in a separate jug (for adding to wok during cooking)

Ingredients (stir-fry):
250g daikon radish (or 1 large radish or 2-3 medium ones)
50g dried shrimps (soaked in hot water till soft)
a few shitake mushrooms; dried or fresh
*chinese sausage (chopped finely) or 150g minced chicken or pork
100g shallots

*optional – this can be vegetarian if you leave out the meat

2 T vegetable or peanut oil
1 T sesame oil
1 T soy sauce
1 T oyster sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper

Garnish or to serve with:
1 small bunch of coriander leaves, diced
1 large red chilli, diced

1. Pour the 2 kinds of flours into a deep bowl.  Add the 800ml water gradually into a ‘well’ or ‘hole’ made by your fingers in the middle of the flour mixture, mix the batter well using a wooden spoon till no lumps are visible.

2. Heat up a wok with the sesame and vegetable/peanut oil.

3. Stir-fry some shallots till browned and fragrant, add the dried shrimps ( and diced chinese sausage or meat if adding these) and fry for about 2-3 minutes. Add the radish and the seasoning sauces.

4. Pour the flour batter gradually and mix well, stirring until the mixture starts thickening and gets slightly dry and cakey but not completely dry. It should be sticky like a dough. You’ll want to add more water to the batter to ensure you get a caked up thick and rather firm paste.

5. Transfer the thickened mixture into a steaming tray. Lay across a piece of baking paper and then compact it with the back of a metal spoon and weigh it down with a heavy dish so that you have a thick ‘cake’-like texture that’s compacted. Steam on high for half an hour or till done (firm to the touch). Let cool and slice wit oiled knife.

6. (CRUCIAL TIP): Pan fry in shallow oil and brown all sides before serving! It tastes so much better! Add the chillies, coriander and spring onions as garnish.

7. You can also cut the radish cake into cubes for Fried Carrot Cake.

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