What is Turnip Cake?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 07 October 2019
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Turnip cake or law bock gow is a Cantonese dish which is traditionally served at Chinese New Year and in dim sum parlors. Like many Cantonese foods, law bock gow is popular in many regions of China, and it is readily available outside of China as well, with most dim sum restaurants offering turnip cakes on their menus. This food can also be found frozen in Asian markets for home preparation, or it can be made from scratch at home, using ingredients which are readily available in Asian markets and large grocery stores.

Despite the name, a turnip cake does not actually include turnips. The core ingredients of this dish are shredded daikon radish, sometimes known as “Chinese turnip,” and rice flour. The radish and rice flour are mixed with water to make a thick batter which is poured into a mold and steamed. After steaming, the turnip cake can be cut into pieces and eaten as-is, or it can be cooked again, most classically in a frying pan, and served.


A fried turnip cake has crunchy, slightly sweet outer layers and a soft, almost gummy interior. Turnip cakes can be eaten plain, or served with fermented black bean sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, chilies, and a variety of other ingredients. This dish is very dense, and intensely flavorful. Some cooks prefer to re-steam their turnip cakes for a lighter dish, although without frying, the texture of turnip cakes may be less interesting. Like many other dim sum items, turnip cakes are very self-contained, making them easy to pack for lunch or snacks.

In addition to daikon, a turnip cake can also include things like shredded green onions, mushrooms, Chinese sausages, water chestnuts, shrimp, and so forth. These inclusions tend to be more common in more expensive versions of law bock gow, with some cooks sprinkling them on top rather than mixing them into the batter. Many cooks develop their own preferred version of turnip cakes.

To make turnip cakes at home, peel and grate a daikon radish and simmer it in just enough water to cover it until the grated pieces soften. Allow the radish and water to cool, and add rice flour to the mixture until it reaches the consistency of thick oatmeal, adding salt and pepper to taste along with a hint of sugar. If you want to add inclusions, chop or shred them very finely, stir fry them, and then add them to the turnip cake mixture. Pour the mixture into an oiled pan, and then set the pan in a steamer and steam for one hour. After steaming, the turnip cakes can be cooled, cut up, and stored for later use or eaten immediately.


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Post 2

I turnip cake at a Cantonese restaurant in New York, and they were wonderful. I tried to make them at home, and I didn't have much luck. I decided to stick to eating this special dish only when it is prepared by experts.

Post 1

Another great tasting sauce for turnip cakes is ginger sauce. It brings out the flavor in this unique dish and adds tangy sweetness to it.

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