My Semi-Vegetarian Radish Cake….accomplishing one of my childhood favourite dream plates…AND a tragic ending…

Posted: March 16, 2012 in Food, Informative, Nostalgia, Vegetarian
Tags: , , , , ,

Whenever I am back in my hometown, Kuching , one of the first things I would rummage is the radish cake. The Kuchingites called this cake, char kueh, literally translated as fried cakes, which were actually steamed, before being pan-fried.  I just couldn’t get enough of this snack plate. Delish!

Our West Malaysian friends called this cake, Lo Bak Ko, as “lo bak” means radish and ko?  A coined word for Kueh = Cake?

Since I have not been home for quite a while now, I will not be able to vouch for the best char kueh stall in Kuching, however, during my last trip home; my sisters recommended a good plate of char kueh served at Kenyalang Park.  It was more than good. It was fragrant with the correct texture, crispness and colour, yet not burnt, which I liked a lot!

Commis Chef

Believe you me; the many years I was in Malaysia before moving to Europe, I never actually cooked, let alone, lifted the wok! The only contribution I made to the culinary world was taking care of the mise en place, which is a French culinary term for putting in place all the ingredients necessary for a dish, prepared and ready to combine up to the point of cooking, or in layman’s term, assisting in the preparation of meals by chopping vegetables – strictly prep work!  I was just a commis chef then 🙂

What a relief my Executive Chef was nothing like Gordon Ramsay. She’s the most loving and caring person because she’s my dearest mother, a simple housewife!  I regretted not having watched and learnt from her the many cooking skills and tricks she had (and still has) under her sleeves. I remembered when she tasted Tom yum kung for the very first time many, many moons ago; she made a xerox copy of the soup the next day.  It just hits the spot!

Of Craving and DIY

Fast forward to today.  We don’t live a few blocks away from mum.  We are thousands of kilometers away, for Pete’s sake!  I have my own family now.  The only way to survive if I’m craving for a childhood dish is simply, Do It Yourself (DIY)!!  😀

I am, undoubtedly, still learning the tricks of the trade. Some results paid off, while I do get nasty outcome every now and then.  My cooking styles are by trial and error, or simply, be bold enough to be a little bit different than the norm 😉

Here’s what I did recently to appease my growling tummy by making one of my childhood dream plates come true 😛

By the way, there are no exact measurements in this recipe. You can either go mad with what you have in your pantry, or remain conservative. Your call…


400g rice flour (Do NOT use glutinous rice flour. It’s not the same!)

1 medium-sized daikon (Japanese radish = white radish = lo bak = mooli)

2 medium-sized carrots (for the colour)

A palmful dried shrimps (soaked and reserved soaked water) – chopped

4-5 dried shiitake (soaked, but only retain the water from the second soaking) – chopped

2 shallots (chopped)

Plenty of fresh coriander (spring onions or chives are great, too) – roughly chopped

White pepper (to taste)

Vegetarian stock cubes (I did not use salt, so I used about 2 cubes)


Cooking oil


To proceed further –

Wash, peel and shred the daikon and carrots.

Chop the soaked dried shrimps and dried shiitake, and the shallots

Boil the shredded daikon and carrots with a small amount of water, just enough to cover the shreddings.

Sauté the chopped ingredients in a non-stick pan with one tablespoon of cooking oil until fragrant

Once the daikon and carrots are cooked, add the sautéed chopped ingredients, roughly chopped fresh coriander (or spring onions or chives), the soaked water from the dried shrimps and shiitake and finally the rice flour.  Crumble the stock cubes and sprinkle some white pepper (which I brought all the way from Sarawak !)

Combine the mixture.  If too thick, add a bit more water. The end result is a gooey consistency, not flowing or watery.  If you think you have reached that point, pour the mixture into a lightly greased dish.  I used the disposable aluminium foil dish.

Steam the cake over boiling water for about half an hour. You will know when the cake is cooked by inserting a toothpick, or a wooden skewer or even uncooked spaghetti stick into the centre of the cake.  If the skewer comes out clean, the cake is done.  When it comes out wet or gluey, the cake has not finished cooking. Leave it in the steamer for a few more minutes.  You can also tell the difference between cooked or uncooked radish cakes.  The cooked cake has a glossy finish.

Plating up

To plate up the char kueh, you need to wait until the cooked steamed cake is really cold.  Cut the cake in cubes of 2cm or thereabout, and start frying.  I shallow fried my cakes.  I like them with a bit of colour and quite crispy, with a beaten egg.


Bon appétit!

Eet smakelijk!

Jom makan!

Keman tuwa

Or better still, use the Kuching Hokkien way of expressing: “Lai chiak. Mai khek khi” (Come eat. Don’t be shy)

Sad endnote

Normally, I do not end my post with a sad tune, but the news that hit tiny Belgium became the news of the world of late.

Quote –

(CNN) — Twenty-two children and six adults died when a bus crashed into the wall of a tunnel in Switzerland. The bus was on its way back to Belgium after a ski trip when it slammed into the side of a highway tunnel in Sierre in the Swiss canton of Valais. It was carrying 52 people: two drivers, four other adults and 46 children, aged 11 and 12 years old.

Unquote –

Out of the 22 final year grade school children who lost their lives in the fatal coach crash on Tuesday evening, 15 were pupils of ‘t Stekske, in Lommel (a municipality located in the Belgian province of Limburg) while 7 were pupils of SintLambertusschool, in Heverlee (a part municipality of the city of Leuven ).  Heverlee is just 5km away from where we live!

When I first heard the news on the radio while driving to work on Wednesday morning, I shed a tear.  My younger son is about their age.  When I picked up my son that evening after school, I hugged him so tightly until he whispered, “Mama, I can’t breathe”.

Quote –

BBC News –

The country came to a standstill for a minute’s silence at 11:00 (10:00 GMT) and flags are being flown at half mast. After the minute’s silence, church bells rang out.

It has emerged that one of the victims was an 11-year-old British boy who had been a pupil at St Lambertus School in Heverlee.

A message of condolence from Pope Benedict XVI was read out at a service at St Joseph’s Catholic Church in Lommel on Thursday evening.

A Vatican statement said the Pope was praying for the bereaved families and expressed his deepest sympathy for the injured and the emergency workers. He had conferred a special apostolic blessing on all affected by the tragedy.

Unquote –

Today, Friday, March 16th 2012, was a day of national mourning in Belgium. At 11:00CET, I was in my office room, observing a minute of silence.  Wow!  What a significant difference from the hustle and bustle of the daily rush of paces on the corridors and the manic sound of the keyboards.

It’s Oh, so quiet.  Shh…!  I could hear a pin drop…

Gone, but not forgotten

I take this opportunity to convey my heartfelt sympathy to all the parents, relatives, grandparents, friends and colleagues on the unexpected loss of their beloved son, daughter, god-child, niece, nephew, father, uncle, teacher and friend at this most tragic time.

Farewell, Rest in Peace.

Here’s a song that came from a father who felt and still feels the same pain of losing his own son..

Take care!

  1. Chris says:

    Hi Nasifriet,

    Can you believe I hardly ate char kueh in Kuching? It was not until when I was working in S’pore that I started to eat a lot more of it. And no way, I just can’t believe that you never cooked back then. 😀 It’s true though that being so far away from home, we have to learn so many things ourselves…I think if I still live in Kuching, I probably would never have learned to make some of the dishes that I know how to make now…just order from the gazillion stalls there are in Kuching. 😀

    I did read about the accident the other day and am just saddened by it all. Can’t even begin to imagine how those families must feel. Our prayers to all of them.

  2. Nen Nen Cave says:

    Green Hill corner has great char kueh too.. The lady only sells night time.. She also has that pulut with either “hay bee” , tau sar or yam in the middle goreng-ed to perfection..

    Yes, tragedies are sad when the victims are children… May they rest in peace.. Amen!

  3. Nasifriet says:

    Besides the char kueh, I love the char kueh tiaw. Prefer the savoury versions.

    You know, Chris, that’s the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth… I never cooked an entire meal(s) before I moved to EU. Was too pampered by mum, who cooked all our meals. I never had to think or plan what’s for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The foods were always ready on the table when I came home from school and later from work. And you’re right, lunching and dining out was and is the norm. The food stalls are opened 24/7.

    Leaving mum and her delicious foods were the hardest, hence when I crave for sth I can’t get here in Belgium, it’s a BIG frustration. So gotta DIY, right. Guess that makes us pretty independent, huh? I love watching and getting ideas from all the kitchen reality soaps on the tube 🙂

    You’re a great cook yourself, Chris. Love the outcome of you avocado ice-cream. Mmmmmm…. have to get myself an ice cream maker soon…. 😀

    Thanks for your thoughts and prayers…

  4. Nasifriet says:

    Hi Nen Nen Cave

    Thanks for the update on another great place for me to “stampede” next time I’m back in KCH 🙂 Gotta make a list of that…

    You’re absolutely right. Tragedies involving children are hard-rending. Thanks for the prayer.

  5. rotinrice says:

    I do enjoy this radish cake but have never made it at home. Sometimes, we take these foods for granted until we leave “home” and can’t eat it anymore.

    What happened is really sad. So heart wrenching for the families.

  6. Nasifriet says:

    You’re absolutely right, Biren. I don’t go “home” very often, but it’s that urgent crave for something closed to what you’re familiar with, just kept beeping in my brain. The last time I made this was when my mother and younger sis came for a vist in 2010. And 2 yrs on… the “crave” came back 😀

    Yeah, it’s sad esp when the accident was so abrupt and chidren being the victim.

  7. Miss B says:

    Hi Nasifriet

    I love eating this chai tow kway, that’s how we call it in Singapore. But I have never been able to make it since I can’t find daikon in Belgium! Which supermart did u buy it from?

  8. Nasifriet says:

    Hi Miss B,

    Good to read you again! I bought my daikon at Delhaize. I’m sure you can also find this at the bigger Asian Stores. I see you’ve been away for a long while? Good to “see” you back again and busy baking. You’re so good at baking. I need to check back your recipe on ang ku kueh. I love these kueh. Only disadvantage is, I don’t have the mould.


  9. Miss B says:

    Oh, if you want the mould, you can buy it online from an online malaysian store called Baking Frenzy. I bought my ang ku kueh mould, peng kueh mould, curry puff mould and chiffon cake pan online from them. They were reasonably priced (in pounds though) and delivered quite fast too. What was most important, they labelled the package as a gift so that I wouldnt get taxed by the belgian customs! I once bought some books from amazon and was taxed 10 euro by the belgian customs 😦

  10. Miss B says:

    Like you, I also didn’t cook a single meal (except maggie mee) before I moved to Belgium, but now at least I can cook and bake decently too feed my family. I also had to move out of my comfort zone and sometimes the cravings for certain asian food or snacks is so great that I have no choice but to roll up my sleeves and make it myself. I guess girls growing up in Asia are pretty pampered by their mums. =)

  11. Nasifriet says:

    Cool! Thanks a ton, Miss B. Will check out the website, definitely! Yeah, I saw your peng kueh as well, they looked gorgeous. I need tips from you for making the dough for the bak pao. I bought the bak pao flour, but I’m not sure if its’the correct one. It’s a Double Rings Brand (1 kg). Not sure if the flour needs yeast. So you see, my baking knowledge is almost zero! 😦

    What flour would you use? Thanks for the tip.. 🙂

  12. Nasifriet says:

    You’re absolutely right. The new generation Asian girls are so pampered by their mums! LOL! Now that we’re so away from mum, and being mums ourselves, guess that’s the best way to go back to our roots and come up with something we’re so used to. But you’re so good with baking! It takes a lot of patience, which I lack, sometimes… 😦

  13. […] have never steamed sweet cakes before (Steamed savoury cakes, yes); hence, I was pressed with a challenge that kept my adrenaline […]

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