Taro cake or yam cake? Well, in this part of the world, it is called yam cake. Don't be deceived by the name. It is not a cake per se. This cake is savoury with lots of yam and other ingredients such as mushroom, dried shrimp and five-spice powder. I guess most of my Asian peers would have known that already. There is a slight difference between the Hong Kong version and our Southeast Asian version though. Ours is normally eaten steamed while the former is pan-fried after steaming. The Hong Kong version also have Chinese sausage and dried scallops added to the dish.
Like my mom says, making yam cake scrummy is very easy. Just be generous with the "liu" (ingredients) and oil. By ingredients, it would mean yam, mushroom and dried shrimp. These ingredients are essential to build up flavour and taste. Otherwise, you would most probably be merely eating flavoured batter. It is also what differentiates authentic homemade yam cake from street peddlers'. I don't blame the peddlars as yam is not a cheap ingredient anymore (selling at RM10 per kg to date). They have to be prudent in order to get a reasonable margin of profit. Making your own is still the most ideal way of getting that out of the world yam cake experience.
By just adding in a lot of yam is not enough. You must also complement it with that lip-smacking taste and mouth-watering aroma. Adequate oil is essential to fry the aromatics, shrimp and mushroom until fragrant. It also acts to smoothen the texture of the yam cake. When it comes to flavour, chicken stock would most certainly make a difference between a mediocre yam cake and a superb tasting yam cake. Coupled with a dash of five spiced powder, you would most certainly get perfection on your plate.
Yam Cake/Taro Cake 芋头糕
450 g rice flour
50 g wheat starch (tang min)
500 g yam, cut into 1 cm cubes
80 g dried shrimp, soaked briefly and keep water for stock
30 g mushroom, soaked (keep water for stock) and sliced thinly
1.1 liter chicken stock (including water from mushroom and dried shrimp)*(see note 1)
4 cloves garlic, chopped
4 shallots, chopped
1/4 cup cooking oil
3 tsp salt, or to taste
3 tsp sugar
1 tsp five spice powder
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp pepper
2 stalks spring onion, chopped
2 red chillies, sliced
2 tbsp fried shallots
1. Preparation. Slice pre-soaked mushroom, dice yam, chop garlic and shallots. Combine rice flour and wheat starch with the chicken stock.
2. Heat oil in wok. When oil is hot enough, saute shallot and garlic until fragrant. Add in dried shrimp and continue to fry until fragrant. Add in mushroom.
3. When mushroom is ready, add in yam and seasoning. Fry for one minute. Mix the batter well before pouring batter into wok. Continue to stir until the batter starts to thicken. When it turns to paste, switch off fire and transfer yam mixture to pan for steaming.
4. I used a loaf pan (I had a little extra that I put into two bowls) and steamed for 35 minutes in medium fire.
5. Remove from fire. Cover yam cake top with a piece of plastic and let it cool. Unmould the yam cake and sprinkle with garnishes. Serve with sambal chilli (chilli paste) or tauchu sweet sauce.
1. To make your own chicken stock, boil one chicken carcass with some water in slow fire for about 1/2 an hour. Mix soaking water and reduce stock to 1.1 litre. To save the trouble of making your own stock, you could also replace with 2 tsp of chicken powder and use 1.1 liter of water (including soaking water) as per recipe.
2. The yam cake texture would harden after cooling. It would be advisable to cut after cooling.
3. It is advisable for you to fry your own shallots as store bought shallots are less fragrant. Keep the oil from frying the shallots for sauteeing later.
Want another variety other than yam? Try the famous Radish cake or loh bak kou!