For a blissful two months in Clapton this spring, my neighbours the dumplings actually were Eat Hackney’s neighbours. Living across the road, Eat Hackney shopped at Palm 2, browsed for vinyl in Lion Records, and downed dumplings in this delightful wee place.
It’s the creation of Kris and Bec, who were joined a month after the restaurant opened its doors by baby Matilda. The place feels like family – the food is of the kind that Kris and Bec, who has a Hong Kong Chinese background, would cook up for a big dinner party. Plump dim sum dumplings are a signature dish, but the menu doesn’t stick rigidly to Chinese classics – the chefs went off piste to create popcorn chicken with lemongrass dip, chocolate dumplings and matcha-green-tea rice pudding.
The interior of the restaurant has a similarly eclectic, creative vibe, with gorgeously distressed gilded walls, colourful lanterns and an open kitchen where stacks of bamboo steamers add a hazy, steamy glow.
According to a movie I remember loving back in, er, 1985, dim sum means A Little Bit of Heart. Which seems apt for this warm-hearted neighbourhood endeavour. Gom bui (‘dry the cup’) Hackney! And thanks to the Dumplings for the tasty turnip cake recipe they’ve shared with us.
This traditional dim sum dish is called lo bak gou; lo bak is the Cantonese word for mooli, or daikon as it’s more commonly known in the UK, which is a radish that looks like an enormous white carrot. The cooking involves several processes and is something you need to set aside time for… But once made you can store it in the fridge for a week or so and dip into it whenever you fancy a snack.
Steamer – the easiest way to do this is to use a round bamboo steamer and set it on top of a wok. Then fill the wok with water but make sure the water sits below the bamboo steamer.
Cake tin – this will be used to steam the turnip cake so will need to fit inside the bamboo steamer.
- 1kg mooli
- 10g sugar
- 10g salt
- 300g water
- 90g Chinese sausage, diced
- 60g shiitake mushrooms (soaked)
- 15g dried shrimp
- 150g corn flour
- 75g rice flour
All ingredients can be found in any Chinese or East Asian supermarket.
If you have bought dried shiitake mushrooms they will need to be soaked in advance. If possible soak the night before using cold water. Or if necessary use boiling water and soak for at least 30 mins.
Grate the mooli and put into a pot. Add sugar, salt and water and bring to the boil, before turning down the heat to simmer for around 15 mins until all the mooli has softened. Drain the mooli but don’t throw away the cooking water (as it will be added again later), let the water cool.
Meanwhile dice the Chinese sausage, shiitake mushrooms and dried shrimp. Fry these together in a little oil until fragrant. Then set aside.
Add the corn flour and rice flour to the cooled cooking liquid and mix in well. Put the drained mooli back into the pot and pour in the liquid making sure to scrape all the flour back into the pot. Add the fried sausage/mushroom/shrimp mixture to the pot and put onto a low heat. Stir all the ingredients continuously in the pot until it becomes gloopy and all the liquid has disappeared. Then take off the heat.
Have the cake tin ready brushed with oil, then pour all the contents into the cake tin and smooth over so it is level. Try not to allow the mixture to sit in the hot pot for too long as it may dry out.
Then steam the ‘cake’ for around half an hour. To check it’s done, pierce it with a chopstick and when you slide it out there should be nothing stuck to the chopstick.
Cool the turnip cake before putting into the fridge. Don’t try to take it out of the tin until refrigerated as it will probably stick to the sides. Once refrigerated it can then be taken out and sliced. It can be eaten steamed or pan fried – we always go with fried and it goes really well with some chilli oil!
To fry it, simply heat some plain-flavoured oil (eg vegetable, sunflower, rapeseed or peanut oil) on a medium heat and fry the slices of turnip cake on both sides until golden. Ideally it should be crispy on the outside and soft and gooey on the inside!