One of my favorite items at Cantonese dim sum is the turnip cake. The cake itself has a lot of daikon, which is known here in the US as the Japanese turnip. In Chinese it is called Luo-Bo (蘿蔔). It is a very versatile vegetable. It can be eaten raw, pickled, stewed, steamed, and put into soups. Normally raw radishes have a pungent taste when raw, but turns into a mellow sweetness when cooked. I think daikons have been bred to rid of its pungent taste. It is crunchy and refreshing when it is served as thin strands of accompaniment to pieces of sashimi. But I think its character is best presented when it is cooked. (for example in Japanese oden and stews) Here, the cake is made with cooked daikon, its juice, and regular rice flour (not glutinous rice flour). The Taiwanese version adds mainly fried shallots, while the Cantonese version adds pieces of Chinese bacon. My dad makes a healthy vegetarian version with dried shiitake mushrooms and homemade dried and salted daikon. I like the bacon flavor and the shallot flavor so I added both. I also cut the daikon into large matchsticks because I think it actually reminds the eater "oh, I am eating daikons!" In fact, I cut 3/4 of the daikon into matchsticks, and I grated the rest of the daikon to have the best of both worlds. I didn't have any Chinese bacon so I just use some leftover ham instead. This is quite easy to make and cheap as well.
Luo-Bo Gao 蘿蔔糕 (Turnip Cake, or Daikon Cake)
1 or 2 large daikon (1-1.2 kg total, or 2.2-2.6 lb total)
1 cup water
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp white pepper
3 Tbsp oil
0.3 lb or 5 oz of ham diced
3 Tbsp fried shallots
4 cup water
300 g or 2/3 lb of rice flour (水磨粘米粉)
10 Tbsp corn starch
1. Peel the daikon. Chop about 3/4 of them into thick matchsticks (~2-3" long and 1/4" thick). Use the largest cheese grater and grate the rest into thin strips
2. Heat on medium-high flame in a very large non-stick wok the oil. Add the daikon, salt, and pepper. Stir fry for a while until the daikon releases its juice and is now simmering in the pan. Add the 1 cup of water and bring back to a boil. Cover, turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, mix the rice flour and corn starch in a large bowl. Add the 4 cups of water and mix well until no lumps remain. Mix in the ham and fried shallots. Set aside.
4. Oil an 9-inch spring form cake pan. Cut out a piece of parchment paper to cover the bottom of the pan.
5. At the end of 10-minute simmering, stir the rice flour mixture well and pour into the wok. Stirring and scraping constantly, continue to mix the content in the wok. Mix until the mixture is thickened and is now a gooey mess. Dump everything into the prepared cake pan.
6. Steam in a steamer on medium flame until done (about 40 minutes). Test with a chopstick in the center -- it should come out clean.
7. Let the cake cool completely before de-molding. Cut into thick slices and fry on both sides until crispy. Serve immediately.