Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Homemade Radish Cake (Lor Pak Kou)


This morning, I spied some gorgeous radishes at the market. They were a pristine hue of white, unblemished and they calling out my name. I grabbed three at a go, knowing exactly what I wanted to make.

I have been eating Radish Cake ever since I was a little girl. My very first taste of this popular hawker dish came from a corner stall at the now defunct Siglap market (where Siglap Centre now stands). I think longtime easterners in Singapore will know what I am talking about :) The makeshift stall was situated at the entrance of the market. An old lady would be sitting in a corner, using a piece of thread to slice the huge slabs of radish cake into bite-sized pieces. The younger one would do the frying in a colossal skillet. In the those days, you could BYO - eggs, squids, shrimps - and the hawker would add them into your order, free-of-charge. Ah, nostalgia! Can you guess my age now? ;P

Today, Radish Cake is reserved as the occasional treat for me because it is calorie-laden and artery-clogging. And since the days of my incredible metabolism are over, I had better watch what I eat ;P

A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips!

However, I don't restrict my kids whenever they want their fix. And boy, do they love their Radish Cake! I used to buy the "Chai Tow Kway" version from the market hawker until I learnt to make this from Aunty Elizabeth. Hers is the "Lor Pak Kou" radish cake, commonly found in dim sum restaurants. In her recipe, you add scant quantities of dried cuttlefish and minced pork. If you omit them, you'll get plain radish cake which you can use to fry the "Chai Tow Kway" style. My kids seem to prefer the "Lor Pak Kou" version, although I still like "Chai Tow Kway", being the Teochew girl that I am ;) 

Homemade Radish Cake (Lor Pak Kou)
- 2 large radishes (or 3 small ones), grated coarsely
- 1 cube chicken stock, dissolved in 1 cup water*
- Some garlic, minced
- 100g minced pork
- 2 tbsp dried cuttlefish, cut into tiny crumbs (see photos)
- 200g rice flour (you can use more flour if you want more 'bite', but I like my Radish Cake tender and moist)
- Salt and pepper to taste (use at your own discretion)
* If you are not comfortable using reconstituted chicken stock, you can use liquid chicken stock instead - like Swanson's or Heinz - but take note that different brands vary in saltiness. So, adjust your salt/pepper seasoning accordingly.

(Left) Dried cuttlefish strips from the market   
(Right) Cut into very fine pieces

1. Dissolve 1 cube chicken stock (Maggi or Knorr's) in 1 cup water by boiling in a saucepan. Once the cube has completely dissolved, turn off the fire and leave to cool.

2. Put the grated radishes in a large pot and cook over a very, very low flame for about 15 mins. The radishes will sweat and leave their juices at the bottom of the pot, sometimes in copious amounts. Don't throw it away. Save it in a small bowl. When the radishes are cooked, leave them to cool. After cooling, press them through a sieve to extract whatever liquid content is left. Again, don't discard the juices.

3. In a skillet, add some oil and fry the cuttlefish till totally crisp and browned. Make sure your flame is small, otherwise it will burn quickly. Note: if you don't fry till it is crisp and browned, your Radish Cake will stink of cuttlefish! As such, I like to cut the dried cuttlefish till very, very fine. This ensures that they cook quickly and thoroughly. 

4. When the cuttlefish is nicely crisp, add in the garlic. Fry briefly and then add the mince pork. Mix well. Use your spatula to break up the minced pork as finely as you can. You don't want meat balls in your Radish Cake! 

5. In a big bowl, mix the cooled chicken stock with the rice flour. Make sure it is completely cool, else it will congeal.

6. Add in the cuttlefish/minced pork mix.

7. Add in the cooled radishes.

8. Mix everything till well-combined. If you find that it is too dry, add some of the radish water that you have saved prior. The final mixture should look like coleslaw.

9. Pour the mixture into a round cake tin (I usually use my 6-inch tin). Place in a wok or steamer on medium heat for 1 hour. The bottom of the cake tin should not be touching the bubbling water below.

After mixing in the stock, rice flour, radishes and minced pork/cuttlefish. Texture should resemble a coleslaw.

Recap in photos:
(A) Shredded radishes, minced pork, minced garlic
(B) Fried cuttlefish with minced pork
(C) Combine chicken stock with rice flour, then add everything in and mix well
(D) Pour into a 6-inch cake tin, flatten the top nicely, place in steamer for 60mins  

10. Take the steamed Radish Cake out and cool. I usually keep it in the fridge for a few hours so that it really sets and keeps its shape. It can be eaten as is, but many people prefer it panfried. Cut the Radish Cake into rectangular slabs. Lightly panfry till nicely browned. I usually fry a wee bit longer because my kids like their edges a little crusty ;)

Cooled for a few hours after steaming

Tadah!

22 comments:

  1. I would love some of that addictive yummilicious radish cake like, right NOW!

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  2. Unfortunately the kids devoured everything up in 2 days!

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  3. Hi,

    When you mentioned that we can add more flour for bite, how much more can we add?
    Would you be able to show me a picture of the rice flour that you have? I can't seem to find any on fairprice online :)

    Swee Cheng

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  4. Hi Swee Cheng

    Perhaps another 10g to 15g more rice flour? Not too much, cos it will become too 'hard', like those sold outside. The whole idea of making your own is so that you can make it tender (by upping the ration of radish against flour). I use the Erawan brand of rice flour, tho any brand will do. Fairprice has a few brands, but you can also get from wet markets/provision shops. I can't find a photo of the rice flour, only the logo: http://www.erawan.thailand.com/index.htm

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  5. Hi,

    Thanks for your reply...

    I can't wait and went to search for the rice flour at Fairprice yesterday night and manage to get it.. keke

    Swee Cheng

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  6. This looks so delicious and is such an interesting dish. And thanks so much for explaining the difference between sweet rice flour and plain rice flour, I almost made the mistake of buying sweet rice flour last week!

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  7. They look so good and easy to make! I always get them when I go eat Dim Sum - love them even more w/ hoisin sauce!

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  8. Hi Michelle! I do hope you will try this :)

    Anon: Oh yeah, this is a dim sum must have!

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  9. hihi, can i substitute the cuttlefish with pork floss? do u think it will turn out okie? i'm in a dilemma :(

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  10. Hi Angel, I don't think so, though I have never tried. It'll probably get too soggy, I think.

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  11. hi! i'm surprise u left a msg in my blog! woohoo~, lol! seems lk i met my idol, haha! okok, maybe i'll just stick with chinese sausage or dried cuttlefish. anyway your lime meltaways is in progress, hope i'll succeed! =)

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  12. It is like fate that I stumbled into this recipe of yours. I was just telling my mother how I missed my auntie's radish cake, but she passed before I had the chance to get her recipe. We tried a couple of months ago and it really tasted blah!

    I will definitely try yours this weekend!

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  13. didnt know we were once staying in the same neighbourhood. :-) Nice recipe, will try out for the good memory at siglap market.

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  14. I'm new to the kitchen.. But I tried ur muah chee recipe, superb! When u say cook the radish, u mean steam it? Or fried it? Do I need to add water?
    Joanna

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  15. Anon: "Put the grated radishes in a large pot and cook over a very, very low flame for about 15 mins." Just the radish in a pot. That's it.

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  16. Hi! Love your blog, your food pictures are yummy!

    So, about how much radish by weight would you guess at? According to my Japanese daughter in law, American radishes are HUGE! I had this in Japan and loved it, so excited to try making this at home.

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  17. The Chai Tow Kway from old Siglap Mkt is now at Blk 58 Bedok South Mkt.

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    1. Haha, yes! I knew about that, but so nice of you to inform me. :) Thanks!

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  18. Is there a weight for the radishes? They vary so much. Thanks!

    Lu

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    1. Hi Lu, please refer to this post: http://rasamalaysia.com/fried-radish-cake-recipe/

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  19. Hi,

    Stumbled onto your site while searching for a fried ikan bilis recipe but ended up trying this one instead.

    I followed the recipe but it came out pretty hard instead of the almost gooey soft texture I was hoping for. Any idea what i might've done wrong?

    Thanks...I'll be visiting often.

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    1. Hi! Oh dear, I don't think you did anything wrong. The radish cake is not exactly the gooey type ... it's not supposed to be hard either - more like firm - but if you want it more gooey, perhaps you could try adding less flour the next time ... or more water ... it should soften the texture. HTH!

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