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