"This was a dish born from a mistake. At our first pop-up, we had wanted to serve pan-fried turnip cake with a sunny-side-up egg. When we made a batch, we accidentally used plain (all-purpose) flour instead of rice flour. The latter gives the cake the solid, waxy consistency that is traditional, but this version came out softer with a looser structure that broke up when pan-frying.
How could we fix it? The answer was to deep-fry it. We don’t put any lap yuk (cured pork belly/side) in our daikon cake, which is also traditional, as we prefer to keep it vegetarian, but feel free to experiment by adding diced cured meats. What most people don’t know is that at BAO Soho we have three different versions of the Daikon BAO, even though on the menu we only list this original preparation. If a table orders a lot of Daikon BAOs, then we offer them the two other preparations: Green Monster and Golden Kimchi."
Recipe from BAO by Erchen Chang, Shing Tat Chung and Wai Ting Chung is published by Phaidon, £29.95 (Phaidon.com)
Daikon cake ingredients
- 275g daikon, peeled and coarsely grated
- 130g plain (all-purpose) flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 100g panko breadcrumbs vegetable oil, for deep-frying
Ingredients to serve
- 4 Gua BAOs
- 4 tablespoons coriander, finely chopped
- 2½ tablespoons Hot Sauce
- 4 slices Pickled Daikon
Daikon bao recipe method
- Prepare the daikon cake a day in advance. Put the grated daikon into a dry frying pan (skillet) and cook over a medium heat until most of the liquid has evaporated and you have a ratio of about 1:3 liquid to daikon. Transfer the daikon and liquid to a large bowl, then add 33 g of the flour and the salt and mix thoroughly.
- Prepare a steamer and line a 10 x 10 cm (4 × 4 inch) baking pan with cling film (plastic wrap). Press the daikon mixture into the pan, to a depth of about 1.5 cm (5/8 inch), then transfer to the prepared steamer, cover and steam over a medium heat for 30 minutes, making sure that the water does not boil dry. Leave to cool, then wrap the baking pan in cling film and freeze overnight.
- The next day, remove the daikon cake from the freezer and leave to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes (you want it to be partially defrosted before you cut it, but not fully defrosted or it will be too difficult to work with). Cut the daikon cake into quarters.
- Put the remaining flour, the eggs and the panko breadcrumbs into 3 separate shallow dishes and position them in front of you so you can move easily between them, from left to right. Toss one of the daikon cakes in the flour, then use your left hand to coat it in the egg mixture before placing it into the breadcrumbs (be careful that your left hand does not touch the panko itself). Using your right hand, coat the eggy daikon cake in the breadcrumbs. (This method allows you to work as efficiently as possible, and means the breadcrumbs won’t become clumpy.) Repeat with the remaining daikon cakes.
- Heat the oil in a deep, heavy-based saucepan to 160°C/325°F, or until a cube of ginger sizzles and browns in 20 seconds. Carefully place the daikon cakes in the hot oil and deep-fry for 2 minutes. Remove with the tongs or a slotted spoon, drain on paper towels and leave to cool completely. When cool, reheat the oil to 190°C/375°F and deep-fry again for 1 minute, then remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
To assemble the daikon bao
- While you coat and deep-fry the daikon cake portions, steam the gua BAOs following the directions on page 47. Open a BAO and place 1 tablespoon of the chopped coriander (cilantro) on the bottom, then top with a daikon cake. Drizzle or squeeze over 2 teaspoons of the hot sauce. Finish with a slice of pickled daikon, pushing it down a little at the back so that it sits perfectly on top. Repeat with the remaining BAOs and fillings