Happy year of the snake, my friends! This past Sunday was the first day of the year in the Chinese calendar, and Chinese folks all over the world celebrated in a way that is not so different from North American Christmas celebrations. Traditions will vary from region to region, but the main ingredients are family time, food, and red envelopes. The thing that I most look forward to every year, is Lo Bak Go, a fried patty made of mashed daikon radish.
Unless you have tasted daikon radish before, it is a difficult taste to describe. In raw and plain steamed form, I would say it is similar to the taste of our red-skinned radishes but without the bitter twinge, and a little sweeter. In the form of Lo Bak Go, which is a steamed mass of daikon radish with a mix of shiitake mushrooms, and shrimp (or substitute), cut into tiles and pan fried, the texture is the closest to gnocchi.
Daikon radish is a white root vegetable that is shaped like a giant carrot, popular in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cuisine. The Japanese have capitalized on the ubiquitous nature of daikon radish in Asia by inventing a character, not unlike Hello Kitty, that is an anthropomorphic daikon radish with its own TV show and related products.
This angry character is sold in plush form – guess what I will have on my wish list this year?
Lucky for me, Lo Bak Go is available all year round and I don’t have to wait for New Year’s to enjoy this dish. In Canton style restaurants, especially places that offer dim sum, you will be sure to find it, sometimes labelled as “Turnip Cake” even though it doesn’t use turnip nor is a cake. You can also buy this from Chinese grocery stores too, look in the fridge sections. All you have to do is slice and fry them in a pan until golden!