No-Steam Cantonese Radish Cakes With XO Sauce

December  1, 2022
3 Ratings
Photo by MJ Kroeger
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 2 hours
  • makes 6 cakes
Author Notes

Whenever a recipe calls for "steam on high heat for one hour", I balk. Steaming is probably my least favorite cooking method in the kitchen. It jacks up the humidity in my apartment, often requires vessels with specific dimensions, and perhaps worst of all, it demands energy, a lot and a lot of energy. I mean let's face it, keeping your stove burning on high heat for one hour? Nowadays that'll require selling your first-born. That is why this winter, it's time for us to rethink one of the most beloved Cantonese dishes, radish cake.

You don't need any steaming to make radish cake. In fact, it's completely mind-boggling why it was done that way to begin with (steamed for a long time in a mold, chilled, sliced, and then browned). Like, literally, no reason at all. We can actually just create a simple batter, a batter that, in my preference, purely celebrates the sweetness of Chinese radish without trying to make it taste like anything else. Then we pan-fry it like a patty which will give us crispy edges and gooey juicy center while saving us time and a big gas-bill.

But of course, the most exciting thing about a radish cake is the sauce that goes with it. I separate the ingredients that used to go inside the radish cake itself, and use them to create a stand-alone topping that is a party of bold textures and flavors. Caramelized cantonese sausages and mushrooms and dried shrimps with all their bites and kicks, create a contrast against the sweet tender radish cake, giving this traditional dish a new perspective and sharpens its message. Last but not least, an onsen egg wraps and brings everything home. Adaptations to this recipe are not only possible, but full of potential. To make onsen egg, submerge eggs in 158°F/70°C water for 20 minutes then cool in cold water for 5 minutes. You can do this with a sous-vide machine, or over the stove in a pot with a thermometer. —Mandy @ Lady and pups

Test Kitchen Notes

* You can certainly substitute other vegetables with daikon and the rice cake will just taste like whatever vegetables you're using. For example, zucchini or turnips.

** You can also adapt the mushroom XO sauce into something else. For example, using Spanish chorizo instead of Cantonese sauce, diced fresh shrimps or anchovies instead of dried shrimp etc. Obviously the flavor profile will be completely different but you'll still get something delicious.

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
No-Steam Cantonese Radish Cakes With XO Sauce
  • Radish Cake
  • 1 pound (450g) peeled daikon/Chinese white radish, see note*
  • 2 cups (480g) neutral tasting stock such as store-bought pork stock or chicken stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (195g) white rice flour (not glutinous/sweet rice)
  • cornstarch, for dusting
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Mushroom XO Sauce **
  • 1/2 pound (225g) fresh shitake mushroom, or other varieties but try not to use button mushrooms
  • 8 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup (25g) dried shrimp
  • 1 tablespoon shaoxing wine, cognac, or sherry
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 small shallots, peeled
  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 2 links of cantonese sausages, diced
  • 1 small handful of dried red chili flakes
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 6 onsen eggs, to serve (see above note)
  1. Make the radish cakes. Cut the peeled daikon into large chunks and pulse in a food processor until they are cut into uneven sizes with the largest pieces at about ½ inch wide. Transfer into a pot along with stock and salt, and bring to a simmer on high, then reduce to medium heat and cook with the lid on for about 10 minutes, until the daikon is soft.
  2. Turn off heat and add all but 2 tablespoons of the white rice flour. Stir with a wooden spoon until a thick batter forms (little lumps here and there are fine). You want to be able to hold a scoop full of batter on an inverted wooden spoon. If the batter is too loose, mix in the rest of the flour.
  3. If you don't care about the final radish cake being a perfect square, you can simply chill the batter in the fridge overnight (or spread it on a baking sheet and flash-freeze for 1 to 2 hours if you're in a hurry to serve). If you want that classical radish cake look, then lay 3 large pieces of plastic wrap on the table. Transfer the batter to the center, bring the wrap over, and shape the batter into a flat square that's about 1 inch thick and 18 inches long. Leave chilled in the fridge, then 2 to 3 hours before, using flash-freeze if possible until it's hardened but still possible to cut through. Or you can freeze it completely, then let it thaw to the point that it is possible to cut through before using. You can also prepare the radish cake batter the day ahead or at least 3 hours before using.
  4. Make the XO sauce. Cut the tip of the stem off from the shitake mushrooms then cut into thin slices. Set aside. In a food-processor, add 6 tablespoons of vegetable oil, dried shrimp, shaoxing, garlic, shallots, sugar, and white pepper. Run the processor on high until you have a coarse purée. Add the diced Cantonese sausages, and pulse several times until the largest piece of the sausage is at about ¼ inch wide. Add the dried chili whole and set aside. In a large flat skillet, heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil on high heat. When the oil is almost smoking, add the sliced mushrooms and give it a little stir. Then leave them undisturbed and cook for 1 to 2 minutes or so until the first side is browned. Turn them over and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes until browned on all sides. Add the oyster sauce and cook for another minute. Remove the mushrooms from the skillet and add the dried shrimp mixture. Turn the heat down to medium and cook until the oil has separated and the bits are starting to turn darker in color, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms back in and continue to cook until all the bits and pieces are slightly caramelized, about another minute. Set aside until needed.
  5. Cook the radish cake. Take the hardened square batter out of the freezer and cut into 4 equal squares. Trim the edges so it's perfectly straight, then coat it thinly with cornstarch on all sides. Or if you're cooking it as a patty, divide the chilled batter into 4 equal portions and dust the exterior with cornstarch, then gently pat it down into 1-inch-thick patties. Coat the entire surface of a large non-stick skillet with vegetable oil and preheat on medium-high heat. Add the radish cakes, put the lid on, and turn the heat down to medium to medium-low. Keep the lid on and cook for about 8 to 10 minutes until the first side is golden browned. Turn them over, then put the lid back on and cook for another 8 to 10 minutes until the second side is browned as well. This slow browning process also allows the center of the radish cake to steam to doneness. Then last but not least, turn the radish cakes on the side and brown the side edges as well on medium-high heat. Transfer to a serving dish and dust with freshly ground black pepper.
  6. Serve the radish cake with a generous pile of the mushroom XO sauce and an onsen or soft-boiled egg on top.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Hollis Ramsey
    Hollis Ramsey
  • T Dinh
    T Dinh
  • Timmyeatsworld

3 Reviews

Hollis R. July 5, 2023
1/ Where are the notes?
2/ The video recipe is somewhat different from the written recipe. You use fresh shiitakes AND fresh porcini in the video, and give timing instructions if using zucchini or turnip instead of the daikon.
3/ I love savory dishes like this. It is one of my favorite of your recipes.
4/ As a lover of white pepper, Mandy Lee is my White Pepper Hero!
T D. December 18, 2022
I just made this recipe (from start to finish as written with no modifications) and OMGoodness this is so delicious! My radish cake was so soft and creamy, but the star of the show is this amazingly complex and delicious mushroom XO sauce. It is so so so wonderful and easy to make that I made another batch of it to keep in the fridge just to have to put over rice, noodles, etc. Thank you, Mandy! You're a genius.
Timmyeatsworld December 12, 2022
This recipe was fabulous! Mandy Lee does such a nice job creating delicious, complex, and easy-to-follow recipes that are a win every time you make them and this is no exception. The XO sauce was particularly delicious!