Chef May Chow’s Insights on Turnip and Taro Cake
For Chinese New Year, turnip cake, taro cakes and sweet puddings are some of the must eats in Chinese culture. Dating back to 3000 years ago, these food items signified a good harvest and an auspicious meaning for a great year ahead. The most popular style of turnip cake originated from southern China and are showcased in Cantonese cooking. The modern version includes ingredients like dried seafood, dried meats, turnip, dried shiitake, rice flour and starch.
Depending on the chef, flour and starch varies from using corn starch, potato starch to chestnut starch. The best golden ratio would be 6 parts turnip: 2 parts water and 1 part flour and starch. This ensures the maximum amount of ingredients to the least amount of flour. Of course, texture comes down to personal preference and what someone grew up with plays a factor. Some like it denser and more rustic while others prefer a softer cake.
As I began studying and developing turnip and taro cakes, it reminded me a lot of French terrines. If you cut through the cross section you should be able to see the textures and components of each item that goes into a turnip cake.
Start by thinking about the size of each cake slice, and if you would like to taste each dried seafood independently or have the flavours combined. We developed specific times to soak each dried ingredient and the amount of water to soak it in as I wanted distinct flavours of dried shiitake, dried shrimp, dried scallop to shine through.
See also: Chinese New Year 2022: Hong Kong Chefs Share Their Turnip Cake Tips and Tricks