A family friend’s grandmother, whom I call “Ah-paw” (Cantonese for ‘grandma’), made daikon cake for my family, for Chinese New Year. My parents pan fried some of the daikon cake for dinner last night!

You can find daikon cake in several dim sum restaurants; they’re usually under a different name, turnip cake, but it’s essentially the same thing. Contrary to the name ‘turnip cake’, daikon is actually used, not turnip. I think it was named ‘turnip cake’ here because not many Westerners know what daikon is.

A similar Cantonese dish is taro cake, where taro is used instead of daikon. Whichever ingredient is used, the taro or daikon in the cake can be in chunky pieces, thin pieces, and/or in a paste with the rice flour. However, daikon cake is more elaborate to make than taro cake if Chinese sausage, dried mushroom, and dried shrimp are added. Taro and daikon cakes are also popular to make and eat during Chinese New Year.

daikon cake

The daikon cake I had consisted of Chinese sausage, dried shrimp, parsley, peanuts, and dried mushroom. I usually make my own sauce to go with the daikon cake, with Ajinimoto gyoza dipping sauce, sesame oil, and Sriracha or garlic chili sauce.

Daikon, mooli, or white radish (Raphanus sativus var. longipinnatus, also known by other names) is a mild-flavoured, very large, white East Asian radish with a wide variety of culinary uses. Despite often being associated with Japan, it was originally cultivated in continental Asia. White radishes are known by several names in English, most commonly daikon. Other names include mooli, Oriental radish, Japanese radish, Chinese radish, Korean radish, and lo bok. In many cases, several terms will coexist in the same locale, referring to different white radish varieties. The English name “daikon” derives from the Japanese daikon (大根), literally “large root” (usually rendered in Katakana as ダイコン) and is the most common name for the vegetable in North America. However, the greener, rounder Korean varieties are rarely called daikon and are instead usually referred to as “Korean radish”. Likewise, Chinese varieties are sometimes called “lo-bok” or “lo-bak” derived from the Cantonese lòhbaahk (蘿蔔). In the United Kingdom with its stronger South Asian influence, the name “mooli”, from Hindi mūlī (मूली), is used in addition to daikon. The name “chai tow” or “chai tau”, from Hokkien chhài-thâu (菜頭), is sometimes used in Singaporean and Malaysian English for the vegetable. Sometimes the Hokkien-derived term is back-translated as “carrot” because the word chai tow can also refer to a carrot (POJ: âng-chhài-thâu; literally “red radish”). This misnomer gave the title to a popular guidebook on Singapore’s street food, There’s No Carrot in Carrot Cake, which refers to chai tow kway, a savoury cake made of white radish. (Wikipedia)

Turnip cake (simplified Chinese: 萝卜糕; traditional Chinese: 蘿蔔糕; Jyutping: lo4 baak6 gou1) is a Chinese dim sum dish made of shredded radish (typically Chinese radish or daikon) and plain rice flour. The less commonly used daikon cake is a more accurate name, in that Western-style turnips are not used in the dish; it is sometimes also referred to as radish cake, and is traditionally called carrot cake in Singapore. It is commonly served in Cantonese yum cha and is usually cut into square-shaped slices and sometimes pan-fried before serving. Each pan-fried cake has a thin crunchy layer on the outside from frying, and soft on the inside. The non-fried version is soft overall. It is one of the standard dishes found in the dim sum cuisine of Hong Kong, China, and overseas Chinatown restaurants. It is also commonly eaten during Chinese New Year, since radish (菜頭, chhài-thâu) is a homophone for “good fortune” (好彩頭, hó-chhái-thâu) in Hokkien. In Taiwan, turnip cake is also commonly eaten as part of a breakfast. (Wikipedia)