Turnip Cake at the New Town Bakery and Restaurant in Vancouver
The English name ‘Turnip Cake’ is actually something of a misnomer for this dish as it is actually made with the giant Daikon Radish. It is a standard item on the menus of Dim Sum Restaurants. Although it doesn’t tend to get ordered as frequently as the always popular Har Gow, or other perennial favorites. The version at the New Town Bakery and Restaurant in Vancouver wasn’t the best I have had, but it was better than many served at other locations.
In Chinese characters, this dish is usually rendered as 蘿蔔糕 (or 萝卜糕 in simplified form). The characters are pronounced ‘Luóbo gāo’ in Mandarin, but, in Dim Sum restaurants, one is more likely to hear the Cantonese pronunciation, which is usually written as ‘Lo Bok Gau’, ‘Lo Bak Go’ or some other spelling variant.
The cake, or ‘Gau’ is made by steaming a mixture of grated Daikon (the Lo Bok), water, and rice flour. It can be made plain, but usually includes a combination of chopped ingredients like dried shrimp, Chinese Black Mushroom, Chinese Sausage, and Ham. It can be served freshly steamed, in very soft slices, and it can also be pan-fried after slicing to brown and crisp the outer surfaces.
At the New Town Bakery and Restaurant, their cake contained the usual dried shrimp, mushroom and sausage, and may also have had some sausage in the mix as well. It was pan-fried, which I must prefer to just plain steamed, and all in all the flavor was very nice. Sometimes the Daikon can have a rather stale, sulfurous taste, but this had obviously been freshly prepared and had a nice, mild radish bite to it. It wasn’t all that pretty, I didn’t think, and didn’t have the usual attractive flacks of color from the additional ingredients scattered through it, but the pleasing flavor made up for that.
My only real issue with the dish was that it had obviously been pan-fried not long after steaming. I prefer it when the dish has been chilled and allowed to firm up for a while before being sliced and fried. Here, the enter still had the rather stodgy softness of the cake when it is steamed only, and I am not especially fond of the texture. It didn’t ruin the dish for me, but it did stop me from giving it higher praise.