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Vegetarian Chinese Turnip Cake Recipe

If you're a vegetarian seeking a tasty and wholesome Chinese meal, consider trying your hand at making Chinese turnip cake. This savory cake is crafted from shredded daikon radish, rice flour, and an array of other ingredients. A beloved dish in China, it's frequently enjoyed as part of dim sum offerings.

Grate turnips, mix with flour and seasoning. Steam in a pan, then cool and slice. Serve with soy sauce

Chinese turnip cake is also known as lo bak go in Cantonese, and it is a popular dish in Hong Kong and other parts of southern China. It is typically made with Chinese sausage and dried shrimp, but you can easily make a vegetarian version by omitting these ingredients or substituting them with other vegetarian-friendly options. With a bit of creativity, you can make a delicious and healthy Chinese turnip cake that is perfect for any occasion.

Key Takeaways

  • Chinese turnip cake is a savoury cake made with shredded daikon radish, rice flour, and a variety of other ingredients.
  • You can easily make a vegetarian version of this dish by omitting Chinese sausage and dried shrimp or substituting them with other vegetarian-friendly options.
  • Seafood can be added to the recipe as a suggestion, such as using diced prawns or scallops.

Understanding Chinese Turnip Cake

A steaming wok filled with sizzling chunks of Chinese turnip cake, surrounded by scattered green onions and chili flakes

If you're a fan of dim sum, you've probably tasted Chinese Turnip Cake, also known as Lo Bak Go or Radish Cake. This savoury dish is made from grated turnips, rice flour, and various seasonings, and is typically served steamed or pan-fried.

Chinese Turnip Cake is a traditional dish that is often served during Chinese New Year celebrations. It is believed to bring good fortune and is a symbol of prosperity. The dish is also popular in Hong Kong and other parts of China, where it is enjoyed as a snack or meal.

The key ingredient in Chinese Turnip Cake is turnip, which is a root vegetable that is low in calories and high in nutrients. Turnips are a good source of vitamin C, fibre, and potassium, and are known for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

To make Chinese Turnip Cake, you'll need to grate the turnips and mix them with rice flour, water, and various seasonings. The mixture is then steamed or pan-fried until it is golden brown and crispy on the outside, and soft and tender on the inside.

If you're a vegetarian, you can easily make a vegetarian version of Chinese Turnip Cake by omitting the meat and seafood. Instead, you can add vegetables like mushrooms, carrots, and scallions to give the dish more flavour and texture. However, if you're not a vegetarian, you can add seafood like dried shrimp or scallops to the dish to give it a more savoury taste.

Overall, Chinese Turnip Cake is a delicious and nutritious dish that is enjoyed by many people around the world. Whether you're celebrating Chinese New Year or simply looking for a new dim sum dish to try, Chinese Turnip Cake is definitely worth a try.

Key Ingredients

A table with ingredients: chinese turnip, flour, mushrooms, and seasoning

Chinese turnip cake, also known as Lo Bak Go, is a savoury dish that is typically made with daikon radish, mushrooms, and Chinese sausage. However, if you're looking for a vegetarian or vegan option, there are several key ingredients that you can use to create a delicious and flavourful dish.

The Role of Daikon Radish

Daikon radish is the star ingredient of Chinese turnip cake, and it's what gives the dish its signature texture and flavour. When grated, daikon radish releases a lot of liquid, which helps to bind the other ingredients together and create a soft, moist cake.

Selecting the Right Mushrooms

Mushrooms are another important ingredient in Chinese turnip cake, as they add a rich, savoury flavour to the dish. Shiitake mushrooms are a popular choice, as they are widely available and have a meaty texture. However, you can also experiment with other types of mushrooms, such as oyster mushrooms or portobello mushrooms, to add different flavours and textures to the dish.

Flavour Enhancers and Seasonings

To give your turnip cake a delicious, umami flavour, you'll need to use some flavour enhancers and seasonings. Soy sauce, salt, and white pepper are all essential ingredients that will help to bring out the flavours of the other ingredients. You can also add garlic, green onion, and shallots for extra depth of flavour, and sesame oil for a nutty aroma.

If you're looking to add some protein to your turnip cake, you can also consider adding some seafood to the mix. Dried scallops or shrimp are a popular choice, as they add a salty, savoury flavour to the dish. However, if you're looking for a vegetarian option, you can skip the seafood and add some extra mushrooms or tofu instead.

Preparation Techniques

Grating turnip, mixing with flour and seasoning, steaming in a pan

Grating and Preparing Radish

To prepare the radish for the turnip cake, you will need to grate it finely. You can use a food processor or a hand grater to do so. Make sure to squeeze out any excess water from the grated radish to avoid a soggy texture in the final product.

Creating the Perfect Batter

The batter for the turnip cake consists of rice flour, cornstarch, and liquid. You can use water or a combination of water and mushroom soaking liquid for added flavor. The batter should be smooth and free of lumps. Add salt, sugar, and garlic powder to taste.

If you want to add seafood to the recipe, you can use dried shrimp or scallops. Soak them in water for 30 minutes before using, and then chop them finely and add them to the batter.

Steaming Process Explained

To steam the turnip cake, you will need a steamer basket or a steamer. Grease the steamer basket with oil to prevent sticking. Pour the batter into the basket and smooth out the surface. Steam the turnip cake for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Make sure to check the water level in the steamer periodically to prevent it from running dry. The total time for preparing the turnip cake is around 2 hours, including prep and cook time.

In summary, the key to making a delicious vegetarian Chinese turnip cake is to grate the radish finely, create a smooth batter, and steam the cake until it's fully cooked. You can add seafood to the recipe for added flavor, but it's not necessary.

Cooking and Serving

Chinese turnip cake being stir-fried in a wok, then served on a plate with a side of soy sauce and garnished with fresh green onions

Pan-Frying for a Crispy Finish

Once your turnip cake is cooked, it's time to give it a crispy finish by pan-frying it. Heat up a non-stick pan with some oil for frying. Cut the turnip cake into bite-sized pieces and pan-fry them until they are golden brown on both sides. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan, as this will make it difficult to get a crispy finish.

Serving Suggestions and Dipping Sauces

Turnip cake is traditionally served as a dim sum dish, but it can also be enjoyed as a snack or a side dish. Here are some suggestions for serving and dipping sauces:

  • Serve the turnip cake hot with toothpicks for easy eating.
  • Drizzle some chilli oil or hoisin sauce on top for added flavour.
  • Serve with a variety of dipping sauces such as soy sauce, sweet chilli sauce, or plum sauce.

To make your turnip cake even more delicious, you can add seafood to the recipe. Shrimp, scallops, and crab meat are all great options to consider. Simply chop them up into small pieces and mix them in with the other ingredients before steaming. This will add a delicious seafood flavour to your turnip cake and make it even more satisfying.

One recipe typically yields around 10-12 pieces of turnip cake, depending on the size of your dish. Enjoy your vegetarian Chinese turnip cake as a tasty snack or a side dish, and impress your friends and family with your culinary skills.

Nutritional Information and Dietary Considerations

A table displays nutritional info for vegetarian Chinese turnip cake. Ingredients include turnip, flour, and seasoning. Text indicates dietary considerations

If you're looking for a vegetarian and gluten-free recipe that is also low in cholesterol, vegan Chinese turnip cake is a great option. Here's a breakdown of the nutritional information and dietary considerations you should be aware of:

Calories and Fat

One serving of vegan Chinese turnip cake (100g) contains approximately 150-200 calories, depending on the recipe and serving size. It's a relatively low-calorie dish, making it a great option for those who are watching their weight.

In terms of fat content, turnip cake is generally low in saturated fat and contains no trans fats. However, it may contain some unsaturated fats from the oil used for frying.


One potential concern with turnip cake is its sodium content. Soy sauce, which is often used in turnip cake recipes, is high in sodium. However, you can reduce the sodium content by using low-sodium soy sauce or by making your own sauce with lower sodium ingredients.

Carbohydrates and Fiber

Turnip cake is a relatively high-carbohydrate dish, with most recipes containing around 20-30g of carbs per serving. However, it's also a good source of fiber, with most recipes containing around 2-3g of fiber per serving.


One of the benefits of vegan Chinese turnip cake is that it's completely cholesterol-free. This makes it a great option for those who are looking to reduce their cholesterol intake.


While turnip cake is traditionally made with Chinese sausage and dried shrimp, you can easily make a vegetarian version by omitting these ingredients. However, if you're not strictly vegetarian, you can also add seafood to your turnip cake recipe. Some good options include fresh or canned crab meat, prawns, or scallops. Just be sure to cook the seafood thoroughly before adding it to the turnip cake mixture.

Frequently Asked Questions

A kitchen counter with ingredients and utensils for making vegetarian Chinese turnip cake

What's the best way to make a vegetarian turnip cake without rice flour?

Rice flour is a key ingredient in traditional turnip cake recipes, but if you're looking to avoid it, you can try using potato starch or cornstarch instead. These starches will help bind the ingredients together and give the cake a similar texture to rice flour. You can also experiment with other gluten-free flours like chickpea flour or almond flour.

How can I ensure my vegetarian turnip cake doesn't turn out mushy?

One of the most common mistakes when making turnip cake is adding too much water to the batter. This can result in a mushy texture. To avoid this, make sure you squeeze out as much liquid as possible from the grated turnip before adding it to the batter. You can also try reducing the amount of water in the recipe or adding more starch to help bind the ingredients together.

Could you suggest a simple vegetarian turnip cake recipe?

Sure, here's a simple recipe that you can try:


  • 500g grated turnip
  • 100g shiitake mushrooms, diced
  • 50g dried shrimp (optional)
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce (substitute with vegetarian oyster sauce or mushroom sauce if desired)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup cornstarch


  1. In a large bowl, mix together the grated turnip, shiitake mushrooms, dried shrimp (if using), vegetable oil, soy sauce, oyster sauce, salt, and white pepper.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix together the water and cornstarch until well combined.
  3. Add the cornstarch mixture to the turnip mixture and stir until everything is well combined.
  4. Pour the mixture into a greased 8-inch cake pan and steam for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  5. Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

What are the main ingredients in a vegetarian Chinese turnip cake?

The main ingredients in a vegetarian Chinese turnip cake are grated turnip, mushrooms, and starch (usually rice flour, but other starches like potato starch or cornstarch can be used as well). Other common ingredients include dried shrimp, Chinese sausage, and scallions. However, in a vegetarian version, these ingredients are usually omitted or substituted with vegetarian alternatives.

Are there any health benefits to eating vegetarian turnip cake?

Turnips are a great source of fibre, vitamin C, and potassium, making them a healthy addition to any diet. However, turnip cakes are often fried or pan-fried, which can add extra calories and fat. To make a healthier version, you can try steaming the turnip cake instead of frying it.

Can you make a vegetarian turnip cake that's low in carbs?

Yes, you can make a low-carb version of turnip cake by using almond flour or coconut flour instead of rice flour. These flours are low in carbs and high in healthy fats, making them a great option for those following a low-carb or keto diet. You can also omit the dried shrimp and Chinese sausage to further reduce the carb count. If you want to add some protein, you can try adding tofu or seafood like shrimp or scallops.