There was a period in time where I’d wake up every Saturday morning craving yum cha. Spinach dumplings, pork dumplings, beef rice noodles, pork buns, taro puffs, radish cakes, mango pancakes, that thing with the tofu skin wrapped around it.. you name it. Lucky for me Mr Girl Meets Sugar and I share pretty similar tastes in food so it was never a hard task to convince him to trek it down with me to the closest yum cha restaurant where we’d stuff ourselves silly with dim sum.
The annoying thing about yum cha is you have to go in with a big group to really enjoy the variety of dishes on offer. Each dish usually has 3-4 servings so it makes it impossible for people who want to dine on their lonesome to have the same enjoyable experience. Do people even go to yum cha alone? It occurred to me that there could come a day where I’d be in the mood to go on a dumpling rampage but not be able to get my fix because there’d be no one to go with.. so why not just make these dishes myself?
While researching I stumbled across a dumpling recipe goldmine, that is Andrea Nguyen’s asiandumplingtips.com. My first tried and tested recipe of her’s was for Chinese White Radish Cake and it did not disappoint. The outside of the dumpling is seared to a crisp which contrasts amazingly with the smooth and fluffy textured innards. Slap on some hot chilli sauce and you’re winning. I was so impressed with the end result that I went out and bought her book “Asian Dumplings“. The best thing about this recipe is that it makes a batch big enough to have leftovers ready to be fried off at a later date. These can be stored in the fridge for about a week, or frozen for a couple of months. Sometimes I’m lazy and don’t even bother frying; I just defrost and heat them up and they taste just as good.
Chinese White Radish Cake
2 cups white rice flour, preferably from China or Thailand
1/4 cup wheat starch
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
10 to 12 small or medium dried shrimp, soaked in hot water to cover for 30 minutes (I replaced this with a handful of shitake mushrooms soaked for an hour – I’m not the biggest fan of shrimp)
1/2 kilo daikon radish
2/3 cup Chinese pork sausage (lup cheong), chopped very finely
3 shallots, chopped finely
Cooking and Serving
Neutral oil to coat the cake pans and the skillet
Oyster sauce or hot sauce
2-inch-high steamer rack
Two 9-inch round cake pans
Pot large enough to hold both the rack and the cake pan when covered
Make the Batter: Combine the rice flour, wheat starch, salt, and pepper in a large bowl and set aside. Drain and finely chop the shrimp.
Peel the daikon and grate it through the small holes of your grater onto a kitchen towel. Bring together the ends of the cloth and twist to squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can into the bowl. Measure out the collected juices and add enough water to the juice to make 3½ cups.
Pour the daikon liquid into a medium pot. Add the grated daikon and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 5 minutes. Mix in the sausage, scallions, and chopped shrimp, cover, and cook for 5 minutes longer. Remove from the heat. Slowly add the rice flour mixture and whisk continuously until free of most large lumps. The batter will be thick and sticky and a little lumpy.
Steam the Dumplings: Place the steamer rack in the pot, add 1½ inches of water to the pot, and bring to a boil over high heat.
Brush both cake pans with a little oil and divide the batter between the 2 pans. Dip a spoon into cool water and use the back of the spoon to smooth out the surface of the batter.
Carefully place one of the filled pans on the steamer rack, cover, and steam for 40 minutes. The other filled pan should be covered and left sitting at room temperature while the first one cooks, or it can be cooked simultaneously in another pot.
Remove the pot from the heat. Carefully lift the pan out of the pot, place it on a folded kitchen towel, and allow the radish cake to cool to room temperature. Cook the other filled cake pan.
Unmold the radish cake and gently turn it onto a cutting board. Cut each dumpling into 8 equal slices.
When ready to serve, coat a large skillet with oil and heat over medium heat. Carefully place the slices of radish cake in the pan and cook until their bottoms are crispy and golden brown, about 4 minutes. Turn them over to brown the other sides. Serve with a side of oyster sauce or hot sauce.