Flaky Turnip Cakes

Luobosi Bing

Preparation info

    Appears in

    Mrs. Chiang’s Szechwan Cookbook

    By Ellen Schrecker

    Published 1976

    • About

    A visit to downtown Taipei was never complete without a fried turnip cake, bought from a sidewalk vendor who cooked his wares in the open on a charcoal brazier. The filling was steaming and juicy and the flaky crust was coated with sesame seeds, some of which always stuck to my chin. The mess was part of the pleasure; these little pastries are the Chinese street food, bought on the run to eat as you go about your errands.

    Mrs. Chiang’s turnip cakes are even better than those we remember from Taiwan. They are crisper on the outside and less greasy. They aren’t hard to make, and can be served as a snack or as the final course in a more elaborate meal, especially since they can be prepared in advance and reheated in the oven. Make a lot; they’re irresistible.

    Method

    Preparation

    1 small or ½ large turnip

    ¾ teaspoon salt

    Peel the turnip and cut it into very thin slices, then cut it again into shreds, about 1 inch long and ⅛ inch wide, the width of a wooden matchstick; you should get about 1-½ cups turnip shreds. Put the shredded turnip in a bowl and sprinkle the salt over it. Mix well and set aside for 15 minutes.

    2 cups (all-purpose) flour

    1 teaspoon salt

    cup boiling water

    cup peanut oil

    Mix the flour and the salt together, then add the boiling water and peanut oil. As soon as you have blended the liquids into the flour, put the dough on a large, flat surface and knead it with your hands for 2 minutes, then set it aside to sit for a few minutes. (There is so much oil in this dough that you won’t need to flour the surface you are working it on. It is a very short dough, one that closely resembles that used for pie crust.)
    3 scallions Clean the scallions, then chop them, both white part and green, into tiny pieces, about the size of a match head.

    (turnips)

    2 teaspoons soy sauce

    2 teaspoons sesame oil

    Drain the turnips and squeeze out as much excess moisture as you can with your hands. Add the chopped scallions to the turnips, along with the soy sauce and sesame oil, and mix well.
    Salt, if necessary Taste the turnip mixture for salt, adding more if necessary.
    (dough) Now, back to the dough. Knead it again for another 2 minutes. Then, using your hands, roll it out into a long snake, about 16 inches in length. Divide the roll into 10 pieces, each about the size of a golf ball. Flatten each ball of dough slightly with the palm of your hand, then roll it out with a rolling pin into a rough circle, about 4 inches in diameter.
    (turnips)

    Place 1 heaping tablespoonful of the turnip mixture in the center of the circle of dough. Bring up all sides of the dough and pinch them together on top to make a little pouch. Then flatten the round turnip cake slightly with the palm of your hand.

    Next, take a rolling pin and roll out the filled turnip cake into a circle about 3 inches in diameter. Do this very gently, taking special pains to keep the skin from breaking and the filling from bursting out. Repeat the steps above with the remaining circles of dough.

    ½ cup sesame seeds

    1 egg

    Put the sesame seeds on a small flat plate. Beat the egg. Take up one of the turnip cakes and dip it first into the beaten egg and then into the sesame seeds. (This procedure always reminds me of breading a veal cutlet!) Press the sesame seeds into the turnip cake with the palm of your hand so they don’t fall off when you fry it.

    Cooking

    3 tablespoons peanut oil, approximately

    Preheat the oven to 400°.

    Fill a regular flat frying pan with ¼ inch of oil and heat it over a medium flame.

    Put the turnip cakes in the hot oil and fry them for 4 minutes on one side, or until they turn a light gold. Then turn them over and fry them for about 3 minutes more, until the second side is golden.

    Place the fried turnip cakes on a cookie sheet and put it in the preheated oven. After the turnip cakes have baked for 10 minutes, reduce the heat to 250°. Bake the turnip cakes for another 15 minutes, then serve.