Peranakan Vegan: Lo baak gou (savory daikon cake)

As most of you already know, the Hsu family is descended from a long line of ethnic Chinese who settled in Penang, Malaysia, many generations ago.  They are members of a community called the Peranakans, or the Straits Chinese.  My ancestors were probably wealthy merchants, or perhaps very fancy, regal people on the prowl for humid adventures on the Malay Peninsula.  In any case, we arrived some time in the past, and played a very integral role in the creation of a delicious regional food culture–Nyonya cuisine (nyonya means madame or auntie in Javanese, as most of you already knew).  From this delightful mélange of Chinese and Malay influences comes the first in a (hopefully) long line of veganized Nyonya dishes: lo baak gou, or savory daikon cake.

Many Nyonya dishes are quite meat-and-seafood heavy, so veganization will be a fun little challenge.  As a point of reference, I consulted my brain-bank (i.e., memory) for my grandmother’s recipe: shredded daikon, rice flour (regular and glutinous), dried shrimp (he bee), shiitake mushrooms (doong gu), and Chinese sausage (lap cheong).

So, I started with shredded daikon (around 4 cups) and rice flour (one cup regular and one cup glutinous).   A food processor would have been helpful for the shredding of the daikon, but since all I have is a crappy blender, I did this by hand–this was the opposite of fun, so I recommend that you use a food processor for this if you have one.  Squeeze the water our of the shredded daikon as much as possible, and reserve for later use.  I soaked some pre-sliced shiitakes in warm water, then diced them up and threw them into the mix.  I saved the mushroom water to add to the mix later on.

Now, the challenge was what to use instead of sausage and dried shrimp.  Normally, I am not the biggest fan of imitating the presence of meat, but for the sake of my memory of Grandma’s beloved lo baak gou, I figured I’d approximate as much as possible, at least this first time around.  I used TVP (ahh!), enhanced with kombu-infused soy sauce, five-spice powder, pepper, achiote molido (for color) and a touch of agave.  The result was a salty, briny flavor at least a little bit reminiscent of dried shrimp.  I guess.  I mixed all of these ingredients together in a bowl, adding the mushroom water and daikon water until the mixture was a thick paste, not too liquidy and not too firm.

I poured the mixture into an aluminum baking pan and steamed it for an hour, until a knife came out clean.  After letting it cool, I sliced of rectangular pieces and pan-fried them until crispy, then garnished with some Sriracha and chopped green onions.  Behold the result:

Hopefully, Grandma will be proud.  Alternatively, she may be thoroughly unimpressed and take it upon herself to veganize it the “right” way.  Through thick and thin, I can always count on my elders to tell me I’m doing something wrong and fix it for me.  Hurrah for old people!

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~ by algernon on July 6, 2010.

One Response to “Peranakan Vegan: Lo baak gou (savory daikon cake)”

  1. [...] made an extremely delightful-looking lunch, accompanied with a tiny roll of sushi filled with some lo baak gou for a little bit of a Peranakan [...]

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