Scott Suchman for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post
This daikon cake is traditionally referred to as a turnip cake in Chinese and Taiwanese homes, on restaurant menus and in cookbooks. It is eaten during the new year because the Taiwanese word for “turnip” 菜頭 (chai tow) sounds much like the word for good luck 彩頭 (chai tow), says food blogger and cookbook author Irvin Lin.
In Taiwan, Lunar New Year is called 農曆新年 (nong li xin nian) and is celebrated for two weeks, ending with the Lantern Festival. These little crisped cakes are a popular dim sum treat, often pan-fried to order at the table. The dim sum version is commonly made in the Cantonese-style with Chinese sausage, whereas the Taiwanese version that Lin grew up eating used dried shrimp, shiitake mushrooms and sauteed shallots for a savory, umami-packed cake.
Though not complicated, the dish requires time to let the dried shrimp and shiitakes rehydrate, as well as time for the steamed cake to cool and chill, so consider making it a day in advance, refrigerating overnight, then frying right before serving.
Find more Lunar New Year recipes here: 5 Asian cooks share dishes from their celebrations.
Active time: 45 mins; Total time: 2 hours, plus at least 4 hours of refrigerating time
Make Ahead: The rice cake must be steamed and refrigerated for at least 4 hours in advance of frying and serving. It can be wrapped in plastic or transferred to an airtight container, and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Sliced, uncooked cakes can be frozen. Place them in an airtight container, with parchment or wax paper between the layers, and freeze for up to 1 month. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight before pan-frying and serving.
Storage Notes: Refrigerate leftover pan-fried cakes for up to 2 days. Reheat in a skillet with a bit of oil.
Where to Buy: Dried shrimp and dried shiitakes can be found at Asian markets or online; daikon radish can be found at well-stocked supermarkets or Asian markets. Rice flour (not glutinous), such as the Erawan brand, can be found at Asian markets or online. It’s best not to use stone-ground flour for this recipe.
When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.
Tested size: 5-6 servings
Place the shiitakes and the shrimp in separate heatproof bowls. Pour enough boiling water into each bowl to submerge its contents. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, lift the mushrooms out of the water: If the shiitakes aren’t completely hydrated, return to the water and check in 10 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms to a cutting board, cut off the stems and discard. Chop the caps into 1/4-inch pieces. Once the shrimp has rehydrated, drain and coarsely chop them.
In a large pot over high heat, combine the daikon with 1/2 cup of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently to ensure the radish on the bottom of the pot doesn’t burn, until most of the moisture has evaporated, 15 to 20 minutes. A little moisture at the bottom is okay. Remove from the heat.
In a large, clean skillet or saute pan over medium-high heat, combine 2 tablespoons of oil, the mushrooms, shrimp, shallots and the white and light green parts of the scallion. Cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant and shallots are softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to the pot with the cooked radish.
In a medium bowl and using a silicone spatula, mix together the rice flour and cornstarch with the remaining 1 cup of water, stirring until a thick, smooth slurry forms. Scrape the liquid into the pot with the radish and the mushroom-shrimp mixture, and season with salt and pepper.
Stir the ingredients together until thoroughly combined, and return the pot to medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the ingredients form a solid mass that will become increasingly harder to stir, scraping the sides and bottom of the pot as you go, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Line a 9- or 10-inch bamboo steamer basket with 2 to 3 layers of cheesecloth (if you don’t have a bamboo steamer, see NOTE). Scrape and spoon the paste into the lined steamer, pressing down with a silicone spatula to smooth the top into an even layer.
Place a wok or skillet, with a diameter wide enough to accommodate your steamer, over medium-high heat, fill with just enough water to reach the bottom rim of the steamer, and bring to a very gentle simmer, decreasing the heat as needed.
Place the steamer basket in the wok or skillet, cover with a lid and steam over simmering water until a chopstick or skewer inserted in the middle of the daikon cake comes out mostly clean, 45 minutes to 1 hour – a wider steamer will yield a thinner cake, which will steam faster.
Check the wok or skillet every 15 minutes to ensure there’s enough water for steaming, and replenish and adjust the heat as necessary.
After the cake has been steamed, set the covered steamer basket aside on a plate and let cool completely. Then, refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 3 days.
When ready to fry, remove the cake from the bamboo steamer and peel off the cheesecloth. Slice the cake into 10 to 12 pieces about 1/2-inch thick. Some pieces may have rounded edges.
In a small skillet over medium heat, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil until shimmering. Fry the pieces until golden brown on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes per side, adding more oil to the skillet as necessary. Transfer to a serving platter, sprinkle with the reserved scallion greens and/or cilantro leaves and serve hot, with a sauce made from a mixture of soy sauce, sesame oil, and/or chili sauce or sriracha on the side.
NOTE: You can also put the cake batter in a greased loaf pan and steam the loaf pan on a wire rack set inside a wok or skillet. Steaming a thicker cake will take longer, so add 10 minutes or so to the steam time and check with a chopstick or skewer for doneness.
From food blogger and cookbook author Irvin Lin.
Tested by Kara Elder.
Email questions to the Food Section.
Email questions to the Food Section at food@washpost.com.
SuperFan Badge
SuperFan badge holders consistently post smart, timely comments about Washington area sports and teams.
More about badges | Request a badge
Culture Connoisseur Badge
Culture Connoisseurs consistently offer thought-provoking, timely comments on the arts, lifestyle and entertainment.
More about badges | Request a badge
Fact Checker Badge
Fact Checkers contribute questions, information and facts to The Fact Checker.
More about badges | Request a badge
Washingtologist Badge
Washingtologists consistently post thought-provoking, timely comments on events, communities, and trends in the Washington area.
More about badges | Request a badge
Post Writer Badge
This commenter is a Washington Post editor, reporter or producer.
Post Forum Badge
Post Forum members consistently offer thought-provoking, timely comments on politics, national and international affairs.
More about badges | Request a badge
Weather Watcher Badge
Weather Watchers consistently offer thought-provoking, timely comments on climates and forecasts.
More about badges | Request a badge
World Watcher Badge
World Watchers consistently offer thought-provoking, timely comments on international affairs.
More about badges | Request a badge
Post Contributor Badge
This commenter is a Washington Post contributor. Post contributors aren’t staff, but may write articles or columns. In some cases, contributors are sources or experts quoted in a story.
More about badges | Request a badge
Post Recommended
Washington Post reporters or editors recommend this comment or reader post.
You must be logged in to report a comment.
You must be logged in to recommend a comment.
Comments our editors find particularly useful or relevant are displayed in Top Comments, as are comments by users with these badges: . Replies to those posts appear here, as well as posts by staff writers.
All comments are posted in the All Comments tab.
To pause and restart automatic updates, click “Live” or “Paused”. If paused, you’ll be notified of the number of additional comments that have come in.
Calories per serving (2 cakes) based on 6: 270
% Daily Values*
Total Fat: 8g 12%
Saturated Fat: 1g 5%
Cholesterol: 30mg 10%
Sodium: 590mg 25%
Total Carbohydrates: 44g 15%
Dietary Fiber: 5g 20%
Sugar: 6g
Protein: 8g
*Percent Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Total Fat: Less than 65g
Saturated Fat: Less than 20g
Cholesterol: Less than 300mg
Sodium: Less than 2,400mg
Total Carbohydrates: 300g
Dietary Fiber: 25g


Shop Sephari