Happy Chinese New Year! Did you know that this is the biggest holiday celebrate in Chinese culture? The holiday symbolizes new beginnings to usher in prosperity and good health but the most important part is for family reunion. Families are constantly scattered across cities, even countries, for work and other reasons but CNY is that one holiday to spend time together. It is kick started with a reunion dinner held on New Years Eve where everyone gorges themselves with as much food as possible.
Chinese are very superstitious and some classic CNY dishes are popular mainly for their name. In the Chinese language, there are many homonyms; meaning one word sounds like another but has a different meaning. For instance, the word “blessed” sounds like “fish.” Therefore, the reunion dinner must serve fish so that everyone is blessed. Chinese radish sounds like “fortune.” And let’s face it, Chinese people love money. When they greet each other during CNY, they say “gong hay fat choy” which means “I hope you get more wealth.” So clearly, we’re all going to eat some turnip cake to bring in some of that fortune. (TIRE SCREECH)
I know what you’re thinking, “Turnip cake? But, you just said it’s made from Chinese radish.” Technically, this dish should be called “radish cake” as it’s made with daikon. And daikon is really a Chinese radish – NOT TURNIP. Unlike American radishes, Chinese ones are not peppery but sweet and mild in taste. They taste more like an American turnip. Confusing? Yes. Tasty? Also, yes.
Turnip cake is made by steaming shredded Chinese radish and rice flour. Often times, you’ll find lots of umami packed flavors/add-ons in the turnip cake as well such as dried shrimp, dried mushrooms, Chinese sausage, and Chinese cured pork belly. The Chinese sausage is actually pretty easy to find these days; Costco sells them right next to the Spam now.
Often times, the turnip cake is cut into slices and pan fried before eating. It’s actually one of my favorite foods to eat for breakfast. They sell turnip cake in almost any dim sum deli and I just love it so much. I wanted to bring some honor to the turnip cake and redesign it. One thing I’ve been trying to do more of in my recipes is merge my Chinese heritage with my American upbringing. As an ABC (American Born Chinese), I’m often referred to as a banana – yellow on the outside, white on the inside. I always thought this was super funny because (1) I loathe bananas (can’t stand the taste, smell, texture – BLEGH) and (2) there’s no better way to describe me. So I find it a bit humorous to create recipes where food looks like one thing but either tastes or has a texture of something else.
The filling of the turnip-over is similar to the umami-packed flavors of a turnip cake. It even uses all of the same ingredients, minus the rice flour and steaming part. I put this filling into a puff pastry (I made mine from scratch following Claire Saffitz’s recipe from Bon Appetit #iwdfcftbatk but frozen from the store totally works for this) for that delicious flakey texture that I think pairs nicely with the soft, almost melt in your mouth, texture of the turnips. So eat these turnip-overs and go get some fortune!
- 1 lbs turnip or daikon, cut into matchsticks
- 1 Chinese sausage, diced into small cubes
- 2 oz Chinese cured pork belly, diced into small cubes
- 1/3 cup shiitake mushrooms, minced
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 egg + splash of water, beaten
- Black sesame for topping
- Rough puff pastry (homemade or store bought)
- Step 1 In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium low heat and add onions. Cook until translucent.
- Step 2 Add turnips and cook over for about 5 minutes to soften. Add Chinese sausage, Chinese cured pork belly, shiitake mushrooms, salt, and pepper and cook for another 10 minutes.
- Step 3 Add flour and stir. The filling should tighten up as the flour soaks up the moisture of the turnips,
- Step 4 Set aside and let cool. Once cooled, measure out 10 servings of 1.5 ounces of filling.
- Step 5 Line a half sheet with parchment paper.
- Step 6 Roll out puff pastry to about 1/8″ thick. Then using a 2.5″ circle cutter, cut 20 circles.
- Step 7 Place a ball of filling onto 10 of the circles. Wet the edge of these circles with the egg and water mixture and top with one of the other circles without filling.
- Step 8 Pinch the edges together. Crimp the edges with a fork.
- Step 9 Brush the egg mixture on top of the pastries, sprinkle sesame, and cut a slit in the middle of each one.
- Step 10 Arrange the pastries onto the half sheet and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- Step 11 Preheat oven to 350F.
- Step 12 Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely before eating.