Chinese Turnip Cake


chinese turnip cake

With Chinese New Year around the corner (on 28 January this year), I’m already thinking ahead to our lunch menu. Last year, we celebrated the event with some good friends at home, and my mum would have been proud of the spread which I created. The menu included spring rolls (which Americans call “egg rolls”), fried rice, Chinese tea eggs, as well as these Chinese Turnip Cakes, or Daikon Radish Cake. The latter is a dish you might be familiar with if you are a fan of Dim Sum.

chinese turnip cake

spring rolls

As a child, I recall many Sunday mornings eating Dim Sum with my mum in Sydney’s Cabramatta. We would always order far too many dishes for just the two of us; I loved the pork and shrimp dumplings (Siu Mai) as well as the BBQ pork steamed buns, and my mother always, always ordered a serve of braised chicken feet for herself. I never understood her love for that dish (I still don’t!), but I know that it was a dish which took her to her happy place. And because we would have always eaten too much but would be still greedy for dessert, we often left with a serve of Chinese egg custard tarts to enjoy at home later.

chinese turnip cake

One dish which we would order from time to time were Chinese Turnip Cakes. To be honest, I wasn’t the biggest fan of these Chinese Turnip Cakes as a child; I was always more interested in the many dumplings on offer. But strange things happen when you grow older and move to a country where good Chinese food, let alone Dim Sum, is hard to come by. Suddenly, all of the foods of your childhood, even the ones you didn’t eat very often or like very much, bring back nostalgic memories which create within you the urgent desire to taste them once again.

daikon radishes

{Daikon Radishes}

spring onions scallions

{Spring Onions (Scallions)}

So one day, after spotting some beautiful-looking daikon radishes at the farmers’ market and wondering what I could do with them, other than adding them to my son’s favourite chicken noodle soup or to our regular Vietnamese Beef & Carrot Stew, I decided to give these Chinese Turnip Cakes a try. And since then, I have been addicted.

Most recipes I have tried include dried shrimps in the cake but, as I am not a fan of the pungency of dried shrimps, I choose to omit them from my recipe. I also like add lots of chopped spring onions (scallions) and coriander (cilantro) to make the cakes fresher tasting. And whilst a lot of people are happy to eat these cakes just freshly steamed, I prefer to go one step further and to pan-fry them until they have a crispy coating which contrasts beautifully with the soft, creamy interior. A dipping sauce made of soy sauce mixed with Sriracha is obligatory.

chinese turnip cake

Chinese Turnip Cake

chinese turnip cake

5 from 1 reviews

  • Author:
  • Prep Time: 30 mins
  • Cook Time: 60 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4 as part of a shared meal


  • 6-8 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 kg (2 lb) daikon radishes
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 Chinese sausages, finely diced
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 180 g (1 2/3 cups) rice flour
  • 3 tablespoons cornflour
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons spring onions (scallions), finely sliced
  • sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • coriander (cilantro), finely chopped


  1. Soak the dried shittake mushrooms in hot water for 30 minutes until they have softened. Drain the mushrooms and gently squeeze out any excess water. Finely dice the mushrooms and set aside.
  2. Peel the daikon radishes and coarsely grate them. I do this using a food processor with the grater attachment.
  3. Place the grated daikon radishes into a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring the pot to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook the radishes for about 45 minutes until they are very tender.
  4. Whilst the radishes are cooking, heat the vegetable oil in a saucepan. Cook the Chinese sausages for about 5 minutes until they have softened and have released some of their fat. Add the chopped shallots and cook until the shallots have softened. Take the pan off the heat and allow to cool.
  5. Drain the radishes but do not squeeze out any liquid. Return the cooked radishes to the pot.
  6. Add the rice flour, cornflour, and sesame oil to the radishes. Mix well with a wooden spoon.
  7. Add the shallots and Chinese sausage mixture to the radishes, together with the spring onions. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. Mix until everything is well combined.
  9. To steam the cake, you can either use a 21 x 11 cm (8 x 4 inch) loaf pan or 20 cm (8 inch) round cake tin. Line the tin of your choice with some baking paper. Pour the mixture into the cake tin.
  10. Steam the cake for 45 mins to 1 hour, until the cakes are set and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. You can steam the cake in a Chinese-style metal steamer, in a steam oven (if you are lucky enough to have one), or in a large roasting pan. In the latter case, place the cake tin in a large roasting pan, and pour enough boiling water into the pan until it comes halfway up the sides of the cake tin. Make sure the cake tin you are using is watertight (i.e. do not use a springform tin), otherwise, water may get into the cake tin. Cover the roasting pan tightly with some foil, and place in the oven at 150°C (300°F).
  11. Once cooked, leave the turnip cake to cool completely, and then refrigerate for at least a few hours to set.
  12. To serve, heat some vegetable oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Unmould the turnip cake and cut into thick slices. Fry the slices in batches until they are lightly golden on each side. I like to cook them until they have a nice, golden and crispy crust, but some people prefer to keep the cake soft in texture.
  13. Sprinkle the turnip cake with freshly chopped coriander (cilantro), and serve with soy sauce and Sriracha sauce.

Kitchen Notes

Chinese Turnip Cakes are traditionally made in loaf tins, but I find it easier to make them in round cake tins, mostly because I don’t have a Chinese-style steamer but use a Moroccan-inspired couscousier for steaming; it’s a bit smaller than most Chinese-style steamers and fits a round cake tin comfortably. So depending on what shape or size tin you are using, you may have to adjust the steaming time accordingly.

I always double the above recipe as the steamed cake keeps well for a few days in the fridge.


  • Serving Size: 4
  • Calories: 373
  • Sugar: 0.9g
  • Sodium: 109.7mg
  • Fat: 11.9g
  • Carbohydrates: 58.3g
  • Fiber: 3.1g
  • Protein: 8g
  • Cholesterol: 8.1mg

Share your photos!

If you have tried this recipe, I would love to hear how it turned out! Please leave a comment below and share your photos on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter using #eatlittlebird




  1. Alex 17 January 2017

    Beautiful! This is one of my favorite items to order in dim sum restaurants. I love the chewy texture 🙂

    • Eat, Little Bird 18 January 2017

      Me too! I’m so glad you also love this dish. I can’t wait to make it again for our Chinese New Year feast next week 🙂

  2. Kylee from Kylee Cooks 19 January 2017

    Wow, I haven’t heard of this dish – but it looks really good! I love to learn about new cuisine, and your pictures are drool-worthy!

    • Eat, Little Bird 19 January 2017

      Thanks, Kylee! I think most people would only be familiar with this dish if they eat dim sum at Chinese restaurants, and probably with a Chinese friend! I’m always surprised when my western friends enjoy this dish as I think it is typically quite Chinese. But the texture and taste is interesting 🙂

  3. swathi 19 January 2017

    These are better than any Chinese takeout, I love homemade food always, this one sounds delicious.

    • Eat, Little Bird 19 January 2017

      It’s one of my favourite Chinese dishes! Now that I have made it several times, it doesn’t seem so complicated. Just takes a few steps, plus I can make a few batches to keep in the fridge for a quick dinner during the week 🙂

  4. Matt @ Plating Pixels 19 January 2017

    I’m curious to try a savory vegetable cake, especially with all those ingredients!

    • Eat, Little Bird 19 January 2017

      I suppose it’s an interesting way to cook daikon radishes, but the children love it, which is a winner 🙂

  5. Stephanie@ApplesforCJ 19 January 2017

    These sound really good and I’ve been looking for ways to use daikon radishes!

    • Eat, Little Bird 19 January 2017

      I used to only use daikon radishes in Asian soups and stews, but this cake is definitely a different way of using them!

  6. Amanda Mason 19 January 2017

    OMG I love Dim Sum! Anyway – your turnip cake just sounds so amazing…and authentic! I want to venture out and try this one! Your pictures look so appetizing! I’ll have to try this one!!

    • Eat, Little Bird 19 January 2017

      Thanks, Amanda! My version doesn’t contain dried shrimps, so it is not as pungent the ones you may have tried in Chinese restaurants. But it’s still delicious 🙂

  7. Sabine 21 January 2017

    I´m a huge fan of savory cakes and tarts, and this one sounds just wonderful. I´ve never tried! Could you please tell me what Chinese sausages are – depending on seasoning and meat type, I´d probably have to replace them for another variety I can find here. Merci et bon weekend!!

    • Eat, Little Bird 22 January 2017

      Chinese sausages are dried raw sausages, most commonly made with pork meat. I think it’s quite similar in taste and texture to French saucisson sec, especially the mini saucisson sec. My (French) husband disagrees, but I think he’s biased 😉 Chinese sausages are commonly available at most Chinese/Vietnamese grocery stores (such as in the 13th arrondissement in Paris), and you should find them in the refrigerated section. Although they are dried, they are raw, so you will need to cook them before eating. You can simply fry them in some oil like normal sausages until they have browned, or a healther way is to steam them. Hope this helps!

  8. Dani | salt sugar and i 23 January 2017

    Yum! These sound delicious! I always see these radish’s in the shops and never know what to do with them. Will have to source some Chinese sausages from the asian grocers next time I’m there.

    I also agree with you about shrimp paste… its a stinky ingredient and I can never seem to wrap it in enough layers of clingfilm and containers to contain it 🙂

    • Eat, Little Bird 23 January 2017

      Ha ha! I wrap the shrimp paste in clingfilm and then put it into a ziplock bag, but I swear I can still smell it every time I open the fridge 😉

  9. Angela 27 January 2017

    This looks like something I would love Thanh. I think I’m going to have to to try it, would it work with turnips if I can’t get daikon?

    • Eat, Little Bird 27 January 2017

      I’m not entirely sure as I have never tried this recipe with turnips. I’m tempted to say it would work because I often use turnips and daikon interchangeably when making soups and stews. But as this is a “Chinese” turnip cake, I try to use daikon to make it as authentic as possible. My guess is, if daikon is readily available in Switzerland, you should definitely be able to find it near you! 😉

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