Would You Like Some Pie?

Go, Go, Lor Bak Go! (Turnip cake)

Lor Bak Go, translated as turnip cake, is a traditional Chinese savory food that can be eaten at any time of the day. Lor bak go reminds me of my grandmother. She would make them from scratch, wrap it up, and my sister and I would take a 9-inch cake tin-sized loaf home and demolish it within a week, having it for 2 meals every day. My grandmother made many foods from scratch, and I always believed whatever she made were monumental tasks requiring decades of experience.

A few months ago during my school strike, I began searching for a lor bak go recipe to tackle. I was a bit stuck on the specific type of flour to use, but lo and behold - trusty T&T had it in stock for less than $2CAD each bag! I didn't even need 1/4 of each. The other ingredients I needed were a giant white turnip, preserved Chinese sausages, shitake mushrooms, and optional dried scallops, sesame, spring onion, and seasoning.

The turnip needed to be shredded - it was through these little tasks that I found cooking therapeutic. And of course, it was a fun group activity though it got a bit messy in the tiny kitchen.

We needed 3lbs of shredded turnip - but we didn't have a scale nor did we have the slightest idea of weight, so we guesstimated and diced ingredients to half the portion of the recipe. We made one batch vegetarian (shitake mushrooms only) and steamed it first. We had to keep refilling the pan with water because the water kept drying up. And every time we refilled it, it took time for it to get steaming even though we used hot water. The supposedly 30 min process took much longer.

So, the first batch of vegetarian lor bak go was completed. We gave it a taste... it was too bland and watery, even though we let it cool down and set for 10 minutes. I realized I forgot to season it.

So for the batch with preserved sausages and dried scallops, we added more rice flour and corn starch, and seasoned it much more. My friend had to leave so I let it continue and steam. Again, the steaming process took much longer - I think this batch took 90 minutes! It was a long wait but it was definitely worth it! This batch tasted much better, as we assumed, because the preserved sausages would release its savory grease as it was steamed.

I cut a portion and saved it for my friend. My sister - who was supposed to be on a health diet - and I devoured the rest within days. We either microwaved it to achieve the freshly steamed effect or fried slices on both sides until they were golden. If only I had the sweet sauce and sesame sauce like they do at dim sum restaurants! It would be perfect.

I can't wait to go back to Hong Kong and make my grandmother proud!

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