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Chinese Turnip Cake Recipe

by Jeanette on October 10, 2012 · 23 Comments
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Pan fried Chinese Turnip Cake with Oyster Sauce

Pan fried Chinese Turnip Cake with Oyster Sauce

Today, I’m sharinga Chinese Turnip Cake recipe for this week’s Food Network Fall Fest event where Turnips are being featured. Each week through the fall season, a group of talented bloggers will be featuring a recipe using fresh fall produce that’s in season.

I love dim sum, the bite-size delicacies that are carted around at Chinese restaurants in Chinatown on the weekend. Unfortunately, since I live in the suburbs of Connecticut, finding restaurants that serves dim sum nearby are few and far between. Making dim sum is very labor intensive and would be a monumental effort to recreate at home – imagine how long it must take to wrap all the dumplings and other little bites.

When I get a craving for dim sum, it’s easy to get a quick fix by buying dumplings from our local Asian market. However, some dim sum are not easy to find, such as Chinese Turnip Cake. I remember my mom and grandmother making Chinese Turnip Cake, and it is still one of my favorites. It’s been years since I made this dim sum, but I had a craving for some the other day and took a trip to a large Asian market looking for Chinese white turnips, which is the turnip that is called for in many recipes for Chinese Turnip Cake. I picked up two round turnips that were called Chinese turnips, but when I got home and googled pictures of Chinese white turnip, I saw something completely different – all the pictures looked like Daikon radish. I was so confused.

I decided to call my aunt, Florence Lin, who authored five comprehensive Chinese cookbooks (Julia Child even attended her cooking classes) and has a recipe for Chinese Turnip Cake or Lo Bo Kao in her Chinese Regional Cookbook.  As she described the Chinese turnip, I realized I had picked up the wrong kind of turnip. The turnips should be long, not round. In fact, it appears that Chinese turnips are really Daikon radishes, not turnips. Oh well, I decided to try making Chinese Turnip Cake with these round turnips anyway just to see how it would turn out.

Using the food processor, I finely shredded the turnips and cooked them for a while until they were soft. Cooking them mellowed out some of their sharp flavor. Instead of using Chinese sausage as my aunt’s recipe calls for, I added more shitake mushrooms for a meaty texture and flavor. Dried shrimp is another traditional ingredient that adds some texture and brininess to these cakes. The binder in this recipe is finely ground rice flour, so these turnip cakes are gluten-free. To mold the turnip cakes, the batter is poured into loaf pans and steamed. I used two mini-loaf pans for this recipe.

Chinese Turnip Cake In Pan
Chinese Turnip Cake tastes best when pan fried, so I refrigerated the steamed turnip cakes overnight and pan fried them the next day.
Sliced Chinese Turnip Cake
I served these Chinese Turnip Cakes (albeit using regular turnips, not Daikon radish) to my husband the other night as a late night snack with some oyster sauce – he loved them and couldn’t believe I made them. I served the rest to my kids the other night and they also enjoyed them. Next time, I’ll try making these with Daikon radish to see the difference. Although a bit time consuming, these turnip cakes satisfied my craving for dim sum and I learned something new.

Be sure to check out the following recipes from all my friends participating in this week’s Fall Fest!

Jeanette’s Healthy Living: Chinese Turnip Cake
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Mashed Turnips With Caramelized Onions and Balsamic
Cooking With Elise: Balsamic Roasted Turnips and Thyme
Virtually Homemade: Roasted Vegetable Soup With Chimichurri
Feed Me Phoebe: Turnip Hash With Basil Vinaigrette
Thursday Night Dinner: Honey Glazed Roasted Root Vegetables
Made By Michelle: Roasted Turnips and Carrots
HGTV Gardens: Garden-to-Table: Turnips
FN Dish: Fall Into Turnips

5 from 1 reviews
Chinese Turnip Cake Recipe
Prep time
Cook time
This recipe is usually made with a long Chinese turnip or Daikon radish, which are milder in flavor and are less dense than regular turnips. These turnip cakes were delicious nonetheless. Oyster sauce and chili sauce are the perfect accompaniment.
Serves: 4-6
  • 2 medium turnips, trimmed and peeled (about 1 pound)
  • ¼ cup dried shrimp
  • 4 dried shitake mushrooms
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1½ teaspoons gluten-free soy sauce
  • 1 cup finely ground rice flour
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • oyster sauce, for serving
  • chili sauce, for serving
  1. Soak dried shrimp and shitake mushrooms in hot water for one hour, using a wet paper towel to keep mushrooms submersed in water.
  2. Finely shred turnips in a food processor using a hand grater. Place in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cook until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain turnips, reserving 1 cup of cooking liquid. Return cooked turnips to pot.
  3. Finely chop rehydrated shrimp and mushrooms. Add to turnips and cook for another 5 minutes. Cool.
  4. Add reserved cup of cooking liquid, pepper, olive oil, soy sauce and rice flour to turnips and mix until well blended. Pour into two mini loaf pans. Steam for one hour. Cool at room temperature and refrigerate overnight.
  5. When ready to serve, remove turnip cake from pan and slice into ½" pieces. Heat oil in a skillet. Place turnip cake slices in pan and fry on each side until golden brown. Serve with oyster sauce and chili sauce.
Adapted from Florence Lin's Chinese Regional Cookbook.
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  1. My sister and I gather over dim sum annually in Montreal… there is an outstanding dim sum restaurant in China Town there that we can’t resist and it’s become quite an event. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite as intriguing as your turnip bread on the table though…what a wonderful recipe Jeanette! I am forwarding it to my sister ;-).

  2. Jeanette, your posts always make me smile! Our family loves dim sum and have never had this before. Thanks so much for sharing! We can’t wait to make this! Loved hearing about your mother and grandmother and aunt! xo

  3. jeanette,
    i love dim sum but have never attempted making them myself. these sound delicious and “doable”. thank you for sharing the recipe.

  4. I’ve yet to make dim sum from scratch! I know the Asian supermarkets in NY/NJ sell prepackaged turnip and taro cakes. They come in a block and you just have to slice them and pan fry them. I haven’t noticed whether or not Utah sells them though.. Now I crave turnip cakes!

  5. LOVE lo bo gao! It reminds me of my childhood. Thanks for the recipe!! And how neat that your aunt is a famous cookbook writer! Culinary talent must run in your family!

  6. I love the turnip cakes I get at dim sum — it’s great to have a recipe now. I had no idea your aunt is a cookbook writer!

  7. Thanks for your comments everyone! I love dim sum and these are one of my favorites. I just got some turnips in my CSA Box this week so I’ll be making another batch of these turnip cakes soon.

  8. We LOVE radish cakes at our house. My father-in-law makes amazing ones (with daikon) and makes them with our kids, which is neat,

    They have been in China for the last 2 weeks and since they will be gone another 2 weeks, I think I will whip-up a batch to surprise my family.

    great post!

  9. We LOVE radish cakes at our house. My father-in-law makes amazing ones (with daikon) and makes them with our kids, which is neat.

    They have been in China for the last 2 weeks and since they will be gone another 2 weeks, I think I will whip-up a batch to surprise my family.

    great post!

  10. I have never had turnip cake before even though I love dim sum and have been at least a few dozen times. I don’t know how I would have missed this! Though time consuming, like you say, this sounds like something really fun to try. Where I live now we have no dim sum, so this sounds like something worth trying to get a little fix.

  11. I’d just like to mention that while you state the daikon cakes are gluten-free, one of the ingredients in your recipe is soy sauce. One of the first ingredients in soy sauce is wheat.

    • Thanks Dave – you can buy gluten-free soy sauce at Whole Foods and in certain Asian markets. San-J, Kikkoman, and Wan Ja Shan now all carry gluten-free soy sauce.

  12. This recipe is great! My kids love it and say it’s just like the ones we get at our favorite dim sum place! We give this recipe two thumbs up!

    • Hi An-Marie – thanks so much for your feedback. So glad you tried it and your kids loved it. It is based on my aunt’s recipe and she is a great cook.

  13. How do you steam the turnip cakes in the loaf pans? Thank you for sharing the recipe!

    • Rose – I used mini loaf pans. My setup is a Chinese steamer which has a pan on the bottom to hold the water and another pan that sits on top of this with holes for the steam to come through. You could also do this in a large pot with a rack that elevates the pans above the water.

  14. Thanks for this recipe! Sorry if this is a dumb questions, but I’ve never made this before, and I didn’t see it in the recipe above, but when are you supposed to add the pepper, 1T of olive oil, and soy sauce? (I assume the 2t of olive oil are for frying) Thanks!

  15. Did you end up trying the recipe with the daikon to compare? I’m wondering whether to try to find daikon, or use the hakurei turnips I have on hand.

    • Christy – this turnip cake is traditionally made with Daikon radish, so I think it should work fine. That’s how the original recipe was written.

  16. Hi.. I just tried it last night but the batter did not form after steaming it for sn hour :(

    • Jeanette Jeanette says:

      So sorry to hear that the batter didn’t form – there might be a few reasons for that – did you drain the turnips after they were cooked? It might also be the rice flour – I used the kind you find at the Asian grocery store. Another possibility is that there wasn’t enough turnip used.


  1. […] Fried Turnip Cake: Daikon radish, tapioca flour base, fried onions, scallions, served with fig oyster dipping sauce. Turnip cake is a misnomer, since Daikon radish is what is used for their milder flavor, rather than turnips (though people occasionally sub in turnips). Rice flour provides the starch base typically, but I wanted to use starchy ingredients I had at home. These included tapioca starch and wheat flour. So I boiled the grated daikon (1 medium sized) in water, drained all but 1 cup of the liquid , then added chopped rehydrated dried porcini mushrooms (subbed in for shitakes) and salted shrimp paste (subbed in for rehydrated dried shrimp), then added tapioca starch (2/3c) and 1/3 cup wheat flour (since the tapioca by itself would make the texture too gummy), soy sauce to taste, pepper, olive or sesame oil. This is emptied into a loaf pan and steamed for an hour, then cooled first at room temp and then overnight in a fridge. This can then be sliced in 1/2” pieces and pan fried. I wanted to contrast the fatty fishy flavor of these guys with something sweet and tangy, so I mixed oyster sauce and a fig chutney I had on hand to make this wonderful fig oyster sauce combo for dipping. The original recipe I adapted from is: Fried Chinese Turnip Cake. […]

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