How to Make Hakka Lo Pek Pan (Hakka Radish Cake)

I sometimes feel sorry for those not born into the culture trying to learn all the nuances of Chinese food. It’s hard enough trying to wrap your head around the topic, let alone recognise all the different iterations of specific dishes by different Chinese dialect groups.

Radish cake is one such example; the Cantonese version found at yum cha here is often incorrectly translated on the menu as turnip cake (lo bak go), which doesn’t help. The Cantonese-Yum Cha version is a pale white colour and contains bits of Chinese sausage; it’s served cut into slices and lightly pan-fried, and the flavour is overall pretty subtle.

Then there’s the radish cake called Char Kway Kak in Penang, and Chai Tow Kway in other parts of Malaysia, or Carrot Cake in Singapore (another misnomer brought about, I suspect, by the direct translation into English of “white carrot” which is what radish is called in Chinese) – cubed steamed radish cake that’s fried up with a soy-based sauce along with egg, garlic, chives and beansprouts (it was one of my signature dishes back in the day, and Malaysians still ask for it at my infrequent market events).

Growing up as a Hakka, I’m familiar with a Hakka version which, like the Cantonese radish cake, is served cut into slices and pan-fried. That’s where the similarities stop, because a lot more go into Hakka radish cake – fatty pork that’s cooked until it falls apart (since yours truly doesn’t eat pork, I’m using chicken in this recipe), lots of onion and garlic, and five spice powder. 

The end result is a dark-coloured, aromatic and delicious snack that my parents used to toil for hours to make once in a blue moon. We used to eat it with homemade garlic chilli sauce, the recipe for which you can find here >> How to Make Garlic Chilli Sauce

This here is my hack of my parents’ Hakka Radish Cake – I tried calling my stepmom for the recipe right before I went On Air in my Live Asian Kitchen, but she didn’t pick up, so I kind of made it up based on my memory of the dish, and I think it turned out pretty good. (Caveat – I’m writing this down several weeks after my attempt at this dish, so allow for plenty of agak-agak ie. guesstimating in your quantities esp with regards to seasoning.)

Free Cooking Lessons at www.JackieM.Live

Lo Pek Pan | Hakka Radish Cake

INGREDIENTS:

200g shredded radish

2 brown onions

8 cloves garlic

800g chicken, skin off, deboned

200g rice flour

1 ½ Tbsps tapioca flour

1 Tbsp chicken powder (or 2 tsps salt)

1 Tbsp sugar

1 tsp white pepper

1 tsp five spice powder

1000ml water

METHOD:

  1. Mince garlic and onion, combine with shredded radish, chicken and 800ml water. Simmer on low heat until chicken falls apart. Remove chicken and allow to cool.
  2. Shred chicken and return to saucepan.
  3. Combine rice flour, tapioca flour and remaining water and mix to a smooth paste. Add to saucepan.
  4. Add seasoning, bring to a simmer and cook until mixture is thickened to a porridgy consistency.
  5. Transfer into a grease tray. Line steamer lid with a towel to prevent condensation dripping back into the tray.
  6. Steam on medium heat for 30 minutes or until done.
  7. Allow to cool, then cut into slices about 1 cm thick; pan-fry with a bit of oil and serve hot with garlic chilli sauce.


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