Home Cooking: The Woks of Life’s Lo Bak Go

Growing up in Vancouver, Canada, it was always a treat to go for dim sum. One of the first restaurants we went to was presided over by a family friend, Uncle Harvey (all family friends were Aunties and Uncles), who was a yo-yo champion. We’d arrive in a large, dark, open restaurant with the food carts rattling around and staff calling out the names of their wares and Uncle Harvey would show us a yo-yo trick. It was all sorts of magical.

When we travelled, anywhere that would have it, we would go to dim sum, and it was interesting to see how different the dishes were in Hawaii or in Taiwan. It had always been explained to me how time-consuming and difficult it was to make the dishes, and I could certainly never imagine making the beautiful, complicated dumplings, with their many folds and particular combinations of fillings.

And yet years later, now living in Sydney, Australia, where they call dim sum ‘yum cha’, I gave it a go to make ‘lo mai gai’, sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves. I successfully managed to make ‘ma tai siu’, mom’s recipe for a flaky turnip pastry. I discovered that it was not nearly as difficult to make dumplings as I imagined, and while still buying the wrappers, rather than making them myself, I’ve lately made them regularly.

Still: I was so surprised when I saw that Jackie, of Does my bomb look big in this? post a photo of making Chinese turnip cake, lo bak go, as I’d never thought of making it myself, or imagined even possible, as while it tasted of turnip, I couldn’t figure out how it was made.

It’s a dish from yum cha which I’d always loved but didn’t always order, since I found my non-Chinese friends could be hit or miss whether they liked it not: the texture of the cake, grated turnip with rice flour, steamed for about three quarters of an hour, and eventually fried, is decidedly non-Asian, and Jackie said maybe it’s about the funky flavour, which is also unusual.

I was so inspired to make it, I made it a few days after seeing the post. I already had all the ingredients, except for the daikon. I had some leftover lop cheong (Chinese sausage) from the Lo Mai Gai I’ve taken to making regularly (sticky rice, without being wrapped in lotus leaves, as I find this a fussy extra step!). And I’d just stocked up on dried shiitake mushrooms and dried shrimp.

The recipe is from the Woks of Life, and can be found here, and their Instagram page is here. They seem like a lovely, fun family that eat well, and I’m grateful for their recipe (and will check out more!).

It actually was not so difficult at all, but required a lot of waiting. I forgot to soak my mushrooms in advance. The steaming takes 45 minutes. You need to wait at least 30 minutes after steaming for the cake to be ready for frying (I fried some up the next day for breakfast). But I grated the daikon in a food processor, and chopped all else that needed to be chopped in a handheld food processor. Easy and quick.

And oh my god, it is delicious! And it tastes JUST LIKE what you get at yum cha. Maybe even better! Hurrah, hurrah, HURRAH.

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