Yam cake is savory steamed snacks made from taro cubes mixed together with rice flour and then served with fried shallots, scallions and other condiments such as dried shrimps or chopped chili. Yam cake (also known as taro cake) is slightly denser than radish cake which is made from shredded radish and rice flour.
In our city, yam cake is enjoyed in the morning as part of assorted savory cakes served with coffee as well as afternoon snacks served with tea. This is sold in old-style bakery or street side cake vendors. The street side vendors in particular, have wide variety of savory and sweet cakes, and I really wonder how they manage to make them fresh everyday, that must be a lot of work! It has always been a pleasant trip to shop for cakes in those stalls.
My mother makes the best yam cake (don’t we all think the same way about our mothers). She steamed them in high heat for one hour until they solidify into gelatinous mass. The secret for fresh and beautiful yam cake is to “ensemble” them right before serving. The yam cake base is steamed for a while together with the toppings. This way the greens will still be fresh and yet cooked. If it is prepared hours before serving the toppings would be unsightly, soggy and wilting.
They are a lot of work, I have to admit. But they do make the most beautiful hors d’oeuvre, don’t they? Exotic and colorful indeed. They have all the textures you would seek in a bite of cake – smooth (gelatinous rice flour), chewy (yam cubes), crunchy (from fried shallots), nutty (from sesame seeds), spicy (from chopped chili) and wonderfully pungent (from dried shrimps).
Steamed Yam Cake
For cake base
500 g char siu pork (restaurant-bought Chinese-style barbeque pork)
1 1/2 kg yam / taro, peeled and cubed (0.5")
500 g rice flour, soaked overnight with 2 cups of water
10 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup cooking oil
2 ltr water
100 g dried shrimps, coarsely chopped
100 g red chili, seeded and finely chopped
100 g chinese celery, finely chopped
100 g scallions, finely chopped
500 g shallots, finely sliced and deep-fried
50 g sesame seed, toasted
1/2 tbsp sugar
Heat half of cooking oil in a wok or large pan and stir fry half of minced garlic for 4 to 5 minutes till fragrant. Then add the taro cubes, keep stirring.
Add 2 liters of water and cook for another 10 minutes till boiling and stir continuously to prevent sticking.
Then add the soaked rice flour and wait till boiling.
Remove from heat and transfer to heat-proof bowl / casserole dish.
Steam over high heat for 1 hour. Remove and set aside.
Heat another half of cooking oil in the same pan and stir fry the rest of the garlic till fragrant, for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the dried shrimps and sugar, stir fry for 5 minutes
Then add the barbeque pork and stir fry for another 10 minutes.
When everything is mixed well together, remove from heat
When ready to be served, reheat the yam cake base by steaming (A) for 10 minutes, with a covered steamer
Sprinkle (B) generously on top of the cake. Cover and steam for another 5 minutes
Add chopped chili on top, cover and steam for 5 minutes
Lastly, add chopped celery and scallions. Steam for another 5 minutes
Remove from heat
Right before serving, top the cake with toasted sesame seeds and fried shallots
The pork can be substituted with charsiu chicken (Chinese-style barbeque chicken)
To add more color on the cake base, add some finely chopped scallions during (A). I think it is quite unnecessary, but it would be quite attractive to do it.
The base can be refrigerated for days and prepared accordingly (C) and you will always get your yam cake with fresh toppings!