HONG KONG, China — One of the most spectacular meals in Hong Kong happens every Chinese New Year. Typically around late January or early February (it varies according to the lunar calendar), Chinese New Year is a festive family celebration, often featuring a variety of dishes chosen for their propitious, fortune-bearing names.
For example, in Hong Kong cuisine, some restaurants serve dumplings with pig’s tongue, dried oyster, and black moss for the holiday because their names, in Cantonese, sound like “Lucky Money,” “Good Business,” and “Lots of Profit.” Chinese New Year is full of customs that symbolize good luck: burning red paper scrolls inscribed with blessings, sweeping the house of bad fortune, and eating dishes that represent fertility, longevity, family closeness, and wealth.
Here is one typical dish that is particularly enjoyed in the Southern Chinese, or Cantonese, cooking tradition prevalent in Hong Kong.
Turnip Cake (symbolic of good fortune)
2 1/2 to 3 cups shredded daikon (around 1 1/2 to 2 lbs)
1 Chinese sausage, finely diced
3 dried shiitake mushrooms, finely diced
2 Tbsp small dried shrimp, finely diced
1 - 2 green onion stalks, thinly sliced
2 C rice flour (do not use glutinous rice flour)
1 3/4 C water
salt and white pepper
Soak dried mushrooms and dried shrimp in hot water. You can do this in the same bowl or separate bowls.
Peel and shred daikon. Lightly pack into measuring cups for the most accurate measurement.
Mix rice flour with remaining cup of water.
Heat 2 tsp of oil in a skillet or wok and stir fry Chinese sausage, rehydrated shiitakes, shrimp, and green onion for 2 to 3 minutes. Add daikon, 3/4 C water, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp white pepper. Bring to a boil then remove from heat. Meanwhile, grease a square cake pan or loaf pan and start the steamer.
Stir in the rice flour water mixture then spread into the greased pan. Steam for 50 minutes.
Cool or chill overnight. After cooling, cut the cake into 1/4 in slices and pan fry until both sides are golden brown.
Serve with soy sauce or oyster sauce.