DIM SUM MONTH CONTINUES…
WHAT: A very logical and long-overdue twist on the classic and quintessential dim sum – turnip/radish cake, in bite-size fritter form.
WHY: For far too long have we allowed ourselves to be complacent with “tradition”, in this particular case, boring and bland squares of steamed rice cakes barely containing any turnips that draw all of its flavors and appeals from the XO sauce that is piled on top. I mean think about it. Without the XO sauce, who the fuck is turnip cake? Even the slight attraction from its crispy pan-fried edges is more often missing than not. But turnip cake deserves more than XO sauce, if we just take a moment to let the star – turnips! – shine through.
HOW: An almost 50:50 ratio of finely diced Chinese turnips (or called daikon in Japanese) to batter, yields a supple and succulent texture in these little babies, almost juicy if you will. Yes, juicy, which is not a word you hear often when it comes to turnip cakes, but it should. Each tiny dices of blanched turnips burst out in natural sweetness within every bite, in perfect juxtaposition to the stickier batter that holds them all together and the incredibly crispy jacket that it wears. Yes, crispiness, which brings us to my next point. For all sakes, I don’t understand the way this dish was traditionally done, which was steamed into a big rectangular block, cut into slices, then pan-fried for that half-assed, pathetic excuse of a “crust” that doesn’t exist. All along, it should’ve been in fritter-form! 360 degrees of heat and awesomeness that transforms that batter into blistered and satisfying crunch. With turnip cake this good, we don’t need other distractions but a subtle ribbon of prosciutto on top.
*Yellow mixing bowl from Dishes Only.
- 2/3 cup (100 grams) white rice flour
- 1/3 cup (43 grams) sticky rice flour
- 2 dried shitake mushrooms
- 1/4 cup hot water
- 1 1/2 tbsp dried shrimps
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 cups (255 grams) Chinese turnip/daikon, or other types of turnip/radish available (see note)
- 1 cup water
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp fish sauce
- 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
- Enough canola oil to fry
- Like all fried foods, this is one of those things that should be served right after it's made. But you can certainly prepare the batter a couple hours ahead of time.
- In a large bowl, mix together white rice flour and sticky rice flour, set aside. Soak dried mushrooms in 1/4 cup boiling water until softened, about 5 min. Remove from the water (reserve the water), then minced together with dried shrimps until they resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the minced mixture into a small pan along with 2 tbsp of the soaking water and 1 tbsp vegetable oil, and cook over medium-high heat (stirring frequently) until all the water has evaporated and the mixture is slightly browned. Transfer the mixture into the flour-mixture, set aside.
- Peel the turnip/daikon, then cut into 3/8" (0.5 cm) dices. Place in a pot with 1 cup water and 3/4 tsp salt, then bring to a boil, and cook for 6~7 min until soft. If you're frying right after mixing the batter: With a slotted spoon, transfer the diced turnip into the flour-mixture, along with 1/2 cup of the hot cooking water (has to be hot so it partially cooks the batter). Add fish sauce and ground white pepper, then stir everything together into a thick batter. If you're preparing the batter ahead of time: With a slotted spoon, remove the diced turnips into a bowl and set aside. Add 1/2 cup of the hot cooking water into the flour-mixture. Add fish sauce and ground white pepper, then stir everything together into a thick batter. Right before frying, stir in the cooked turnips.
- Add enough canola oil into your frying pot so it reaches 2" (5 cm) deep, then bring to 280~300 F/140~148 C. Turn the heat down to medium-low, then start dropping dollops of the batter into the oil, about 2 tsp each. DO NOT move them around right after you drop them. The fritters are very sticky before their crusts are formed, and will stick together if you let them touch. You need about 1 1/2" (4 cm) space between each fritter when you place them in the oil. But don't worry, if they do touch and stick, simply separate the with forks. Fry them until golden browned, about 5 min. Remember, the fritters will need 5 min to cook through, so if yours are browning too quickly, lower the heat.
- Drain them over paper-towels, then secure a ribbon of prosciutto on top with toothpicks. Add cilantro or other herbs if preferred. Serve immediately.
If you cannot find Chinese turnip/daikon, you can also use other juicy types of radishes like American/European turnip, watermelon radish, or even beetroot (the color will be considerably darker of course).