There’s quite a bit of confusion when it comes to the identification of the root vegetable that is found in this dish. In Southeast Asia, we call this a yam cake which will probably mislead all my American friends to thinking it’s like thanksgiving-style sweet yams. Nah-uh. Firstly, yam as we know it in Southeast Asia is really taro. The yam that is used by my Northern Hemisphere friends for thanksgiving is known in Southeast Asia as sweet potato. Confused yet? In Australia, most people know what I’m referring to when I say yam, or taro. And sweet potato is simply, sweet potato.
For the sake of my own sanity (and probably yours too), I’ll refer to this dish as a taro cake. Commonly found in Southeast Asia as a savory snack – steamed, with loads of fried shrimp topping like the one featured here, or sliced up and pan-fried. The latter style is also common in dim sum / yum cha restaurants.
My personal preference is for the steamed version with a generous amount of the crisp topping consisting of fried shallots, dried shrimp, spring onions and red chilies (it’s the best part!!). The dense, savory cake is packed full of cubed taro and more dried shrimp. Best eaten warm with chili sauce and sweet caramel soy sauce (kecap manis).
My mouth is watering as I write this. Darn.
STEAMED TARO CAKE
Recipe from Rasa Malaysia
For the cake:
• 1½ bowls yam, diced into 1-2cm cubes
• 1 bowl rice flour
• 2 tablespoons wheat starch
• 2 bowls water
• ½ bowl dried shrimp
• 5 shallots, finely chopped
• 1 teaspoon five spice powder
• ½ teaspoon salt
• ½ teaspoon white pepper
For the topping:
• deep fried shallots (you can buy packs of ready fried ones in Asian groceries)
• spring onions, sliced finely
• red chillies, sliced finely
• dried shrimps, chopped finely and shallow fried till crisp
(I do not have quantities for the topping, prepare as much or as little as you want (I love it, so I have an abundance of it) – it’s a must-have for this dish. Yummy!
- Heat a pan over medium high heat, and fry the shallots and dried shrimp until they become aromatic. This should take about 3-5 minutes.
- Add the cubed yam to the pan, and fry with the shallots and dried shrimp mixture until cooked and brown. Best way to test – eat a piece of the taro to make sure it’s cooked through and no longer al dente.
- In a separate bowl, mix the rice flour, wheat starch, salt, pepper, five spice powder and water, and stir until it forms a smooth paste.
- Add the flour mixture into the pan slowly, stirring continuously until a thick paste forms.
- Pour the mixture into a heatproof bowl/plate and steam over high heat for 45 minutes, or until cooked.
- To serve, sprinkle generously with deep fried shallots, chopped spring onions, sliced chillies and chopped dried shrimp. Drizzle with chilli sauce and kecap manis.