This crisp fried dim sum is easy to miss in Hong Kong nowadays.

Perhaps, it is to blame the diminishing use of moving carts in restaurants, where dim sum ladies pan-fry foods, like pan-fried stuff tofu and this taro cake, in front of her guests (now you tick the dim sum sheets and waiters will bring you the foods directly from their kitchens).

Its popularity however grows during the Chinese New Year since it is also considered an auspicious food, symbolizing achieving higher in the coming year. Because the pronunciation of “cake (gao)” is the same as “high” in Cantonese.

Like another popular Chinese New Year snack, turnip or radish cake (Law Bak Gou 蘿蔔糕), this is made the similar way with rice flour, Chinese sausage, dried mushrooms, dried shrimps.

Yet because taro is far more starchy than turnip, the wheat starch added in this recipe would make the cake turn out somewhat elastic, balancing the floury texture of taro and rice flour.

Whether or not you will be celebrating the Lunar New Year (on coming Thursday, Feb 19), it is good to make taro cake within these few weeks, when it is still in season before the weather gets warmer.

Taro always comes in a large size, but no worries, there are plenty ways to cook with it, say, with rice, with braised meat or even as a dessert or finger food.

Steamed Chinese Taro or Yam Cake (Wu Tao Gao  芋頭糕)

Preparing dried ingredients and batter
Dried mushrooms: soak in about a cup of tap water for at least an hour, or until softened. It may take hours to soft them if they are very thick. Drain and squeeze dry, reserving the soaking liquid (see tips below).

Dried shrimps: soak in about half cup of tap water until softened. Drain and discard water

Chinese sausage: scale it with hot water, making it easier for cutting.

Coarsely chop dried mushrooms, dried shrimps and Chinese sausage. Set aside.

Mix well the flours with chicken stock and seasonings to form a runny batter.

Frying ingredients
Heat wok with cooking oil over medium heat, sauté chopped shallots. Add in chopped sausage, shrimps and mushroom, stir-frying until lightly browned.

Toss in taro cubes and sprinkle five spice powder, stirring to distribute evenly. Add 1/2 cup of the liquid from soaking mushrooms in 3 to 4 times. stirring each time to avoid sticking to the bottom and adjusting heat to bring to a gentle simmer. Also cover lid after each stir, and uncover every minute for adding liquid. After simmered for 4 to 5 minutes, the taro shall smell fragrant (if it is good) with a hint of the five spice flavor.

Turn heat to the lowest, mix well batter and add into the taro; keep stirring fast at the same time. As the batter starts to thickened, off heat.

Grease the pan for steaming, and turn the batter into the pan. Spread and level down the batter. Sprinkle roasted sesame seeds on top.

Put the pan with batter in a steamer with a tightly-fitted lid and with enough water underneath; steam over high heat for 50 minutes. Check doness by inserting a skewer into the cake, the cake is cooked if it comes out without stickiness.

Steamed: Add chopped green onion, if using, while the cake is still hot, cut out a desired size and serve warm.

Pan-fried: Let cool the cake, then cut into about 1 cm thick slices, pan-fry until both side turn golden (here is a reference). I like serving the pan-fried version with some chili sauce and often with some tea.


And Happy Chinese New Year Everyone!

* When peeling taro, do wear rubber gloves, otherwise you may feel itchy after touching it.

* For added flavor (which is what most Chinese will do), I’d suggesting soaking 2 to 3 pcs dried scallops with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water until softened. Then, tear them into strips, and sauté them with sausage, reserving the liquid for mixing with flours (same way as preparing radish cake).

* If you need to replenish water to the steamer midway, add boiling water.

* The cake can be stored in fridge for up to a week. That is why we Chinese like to make this (usually double the ingredients to make more servings) in advance during Chinese New Year.

* If not using wheat starch, you may simply replace it with same amount of rice flour too.

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This content was originally published here.