As the actual Chinese New Year fell on a Tuesday, we first celebrated ahead of time: the Friday before. Too tired to cook, too tired to go to the restaurant (and there were probably no tables available anyway), we caved in and had food from Duck & Rice delivered home. Once a year!
But this week-end Devvers was possessed by the spirit of the New Year and spent most of the week-end cooking a turnip cake… amongst other things, but this is what took the longest.
The idea of turnip cake seems like an easy concept: just some vegetables, starch, flour, made into a paste and then fried… But it’s the details that reveal the true magnitude of the task. Peel the vegetables (carrot, turnip). Grate them. Fry things. Mix things together. Steam them! For two hours! And that’s even before you get to the frying part. Devvers’ friends were aghast: why didn’t you just buy it frozen from the shop?
That would have been too easy!
Devvers also concocted the China-Spain love-child: chorizo dumplings. Thanks to adding ginger, garlic and the appropriate Chinese spices, it did not taste like a chorizo inside a dumpling, but something that was very Spanish, but also very Chinese. So weird and yet it felt like it would be right in place in any of those fusion restaurants.
Something else that got given the proper spices was the kale I had steamed during the week. Add some garlic, etc, magic! It tastes like something you’d get as a side dish of greens at your favourite dim sum palace. I meant restaurant (but it feels like palaces of dim sum to me, though).
Here, our feast:
From my side, I very much enjoyed having turnip cake again. I knowingly ate it for the first time in Singapore, in one of those hawkers’ markets. I was planning to visit an outdoors market I had spotted in the marina in front of my hotel, but then a brutal tropical storm came from nowhere, and I decided I’d rather not suffer the rain, warm as it might be, and so I went into the complex network of tunnels downstairs, which spread underground for a long distance and connected multiple shopping centers, buildings, hotels and a train station.
I will also admit that I ordered the “carrot cake” (as it is sometimes called) because I thought it was a literal carrot cake, i.e. the sweet thing that you have with your tea in the afternoon, and I was really confused when I got given the “turnip cake”. I was so confused, in fact, that I asked the guy in the stall: “excuse me, is this the carrot cake?” and he nodded and looked at me as if I was an alien (I probably looked like one, due to the jetlag I was experiencing). And then I ate it and liked it so much that I ordered another portion!
When I came back to London I started researching what went into a carrot / turnip cake and the amount of work put me off. So when Devvers decided to make it, pretty much out of the blue, I was like HELL YES. Thank you, you’re the best (this is why we’re married) 😊☺️
Relatedly, I have found that preparing and steaming all the portion of kale at once is more time efficient than doing it in batches. Once steamed, since it did not have any salt or seasoning, it acts like a blank canvas (except yes, it’s green, but hey). You can add any flavourings or spices you want, and ta-da! You have greens which you can use any time! Classic me, I put them in a box in the fridge and use them as needed.
And so two examples:
1) with rice, tofu and curry sauce:
2) and with sweet corn, spring onions and etc, and more tofu:
I’ve really taken to frying tofu this way (lightly coated in corn flour, salt and pepper) and it’s delicious! So I’m trying to spread the good word about tofu.
🐯 Happy Chinese New Year! (again) 🐯