Lo Bak Gou (萝卜糕, Luó Bo Gāo) or daikon cake or turnip cake is a must-have dish for some families (like mine) during Lunar New Year. In this festive celebration, different families have their own auspicious dish based on where they are from.
My mom is Cantonese so lo bak gou is a dish we often eat for celebrations. This is because the word cake, 糕 in Chinese character sounds like 高 (Gāo) which means high, rise, or up. Normally, we like to wish someone 步步高升 (Bou Bou Gou Sing in Cantonese) or Bù bù gāo shēng (in Mandarin) when celebrating with this dish.
It is wishing the family and friends ‘may you rise a step higher’. That can be in a higher grade in school (for those in school), better work opportunities (for those who are at work), and an increase in profits for the business (for entrepreneurs).
I love lo bak gou because of the daikon. It’s naturally sweet and once combined with the rice flour, this gluten-free dish is fragrant and super delicious! While the traditional lo bak gou contains seafood, this version is made from mushrooms, daikon, and carrot. You can sure taste all the goodness in every bite.
So, in this Lunar New Year, I would like to wish you all the happiness, and may your dreams come true with this dish!
How to make Vegan Lo Bak Gou
This recipe is similar to my Daikon Radish cake (the stir-fried styled) with minimal adjustment. Instead of stir-frying, I pan-fried this, just like the traditional way.
Step 1: Mix the batter and prepare the vegetables
The batter is a simple mix of rice flour and water. Then, I seasoned with salt, pepper, and mushrooms seasoning. You can prepare the batter ahead of time but be sure to stir it well before adding to the cooked vegetables later.
For the vegetables, I’m using rehydrated Shiitake mushrooms that you’ll chop into tiny bits. Similarly, I chopped 1/2 of a small carrot into bits as well. I love the daikon texture, so I shredded it with a grater (largest hole because I like the texture). You may chop them as well.
Step 2: Cook and Steam
Heat a large non-stick pan with a tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Sauté mushrooms until golden brown (lower the heat if it’s too high). Then, stir-fry carrot for another few seconds.
Add the daikon and continue to stir-fry until daikon is fully cooked through. Season with salt, sugar, and pepper (if using). My daikon did not release much moisture so I didn’t adjust my batter. If yours do, you may need to cook it down further or use less water in the batter.
Turn heat to medium or low, and add the batter (be sure to stir it well) to the mixture. Quickly stir to combine. The batter will start to cook rather fast, so it’s imperative to stir the mixture over the heat you are comfortable with. Once the mixture has fully incorporated, turn off the heat.
Transfer to a lightly greased steamer safe pan (I used a 9 x 5 inches bread loaf pan which fits perfectly in my steamer). The height of the pan determines how long you need to steam the cake.
Steam over high heat for 30-40 minutes. I also wrapped the lid with a cloth to prevent water condensation from falling back into the cake. Once cooled, cover the pan with a wrap and refrigerate until hardened.
Step 3: Pan-Fry and Serve the vegan lo bak gou
Remove the cake from the fridge and cut it into pieces.
Heat a large non-stick pan with oil and pan-fry both sides until golden brown. You may fry or air-fry the pieces as preferred. Serve immediately with a side of chili oil and hoisin sauce.
Vegan Lo Bak Gou Cooking Tips
- Fully cooked through the daikon before adding the batter – The daikon will turn from white to translucent. I cooked mine until slightly golden to remove all the moisture.
- Stir the batter before pouring into a pan as some flour may set at the bottom of the bowl
- Cook the mixture until it thickens with no liquid residue (check video) before transfering to the loaf pan.
- Add the batter in batches into the loaf pan and gently press to minimize the air pockets. This way, your cake will be dense and pretty when done.
- Cover the loaf pan (with batter) or wrap the steamer lid with cloth when steam
- How long do I need to steam it for? Because I filled up in bread loaf pan, it took me 35 minutes to steam the cake. If you are using a shorter height pan, you may reduce the steaming time.
This Lo Bak Gou is
- Easily customizable – try switching daikon with rutabaga or pumpkin (you may need to adjust the water content accordingly)
- Perfect make-ahead dish
If you try this recipe, I would love to hear your feedback and see your beautiful re-creation. Leave me a comment, rate it, and tag @woon.heng and #woonheng to your photos on Instagram or Facebook. Happy cooking, friends!
Vegan Lo Bak Gou (Daikon/Turnip Cake)
- 1 lb Daikon Chinese or Japanese
- 10 dried mushrooms (Shiitake or Chinese) rehydrated
- 1 small carrot finely chopped (about ¼ cup)
- ½ teaspoon salt or to taste
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- a few shakes of white pepper optional
- oil for cooking
- 1⅓ cup rice flour used Thai rice flour (Please see notes)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon mushroom seasoning
- a few shakes of pepper
- 2 cups room temperature water
- To make the batter, whisk together flour, salt, mushrooms seasoning, pepper with water in a bowl until all incorporated.
- Chop the mushrooms and carrots into tiny bits, separately.
- Peel off the daikon's skin and shred using a box grater (used the large hole).
- Heat a large non-stick pan with a tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Sauté mushrooms until they turn slightly golden and aromatic, about 2-3 minutes. Then, add the carrot and cook for another 45 seconds or so.
- Add the daikon and continue to cook until it turns translucent and all water has evaporated (See Notes). Season with salt, sugar, and pepper (if using).
- Turn heat to low, give the batter a good stir and add to the daikon mixture.
- Then continue to cook while stirring constantly until the mixture thickens. The mixture should look like a thick paste.
- Transfer the mixture into a lightly greased 9X5 non-stick loaf pan pressing gently into the pan with the back of the spatula to remove as many air bubbles as possible. Then, cover it with foil, if needed, or cover the steamer's lid with a towel (see video).
- Steam the cake over high heat for about 30-40 minutes (make sure you have enough water in the steamer). It's normal to have a thin layer of water on the top when you uncover the lid.
- Let the cake cool down completely/refrigerate overnight. (Note: This savory cake can be served right after steaming – the texture will be soft.)
Pan-fry the cake
- To make the pan-fry version, run a knife on the cake's edges to loosen it.
- Slice the cake into your desired thickness. I cut mine into 1.5cm, so I had about 10-11 pieces.
- Heat a large non-stick pan with enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan.
- Carefully lower the cake pieces into the hot oil. Pan-fry until golden brown before flipping. Repeat until you get the crispiness that you like. You may also air-fry these.
- Serve immediately with a side of chili oil and hoisin sauce.
- The daikon should be moist but not too wet after you cook with the mushrooms and carrot. If your daikon has lots of water content, reduce the water needed in the batter.
- Once it’s steamed, the top of the cake may have a thin layer of liquid at the top. Let it cool completely before slicing.
- The link for Thai rice flour is for 2 bags (that’s the best price I could find) and I always recommend that you get them at the store for a better price if you have one near you.
- I find that a thick plastic or silicone knife works the best to loosen the cake