Taro cake, known in this region as yam cake, is one of our favourite tea time snacks because it’s a kuih that is not sweet but savoury. We especially enjoy the different texture and flavour sensations that this dish gives us. In terms of textures, we get the powdery taro, the moist batter, the crispy shallots, and crunchy peanuts. In terms of flavours, we juxtapose salty shrimp with sweet taro, topped with a spicy dipping sauce that has a tang of citrus. What is there not to love about taro cake!
An old family friend taught me how to make taro cake when I was still a teenager. Making it again for this column brings back a lot of fond memories of us cooking together in the kitchen. I hope this recipe is a worthy tribute to Aunty who passed away about 14 years ago.
When getting your taro from the market, choose one that feels light in contrast to its size. This means that the head of taro has fully developed and its moisture drawn out so the taro will get fluffy, powdery and aromatic when cooked.
We like our taro cake with a bit of bite to it, so most of the ingredients are not finely minced but cut a bit more coarsely so that there’s variety in the mouthfeel.
Most importantly, we prepare the head of taro into two different cuts–shredded into strands and diced into cubes. The shredded taro gives structure to the cake and allows its flavour to permeate throughout the batter. The diced taro provides a bite that gives it its distinctively powdery texture and aroma.
Don’t be alarmed by amount of oil used for the cake. You will need that much to fry all the ingredients one at a time, starting with the shallots, then the peanuts, the dried shrimp, the dried mushrooms, and finally the shredded and diced taro. This layering of flavours infuses the oil with a taste profile that distinguishes homemade from store-bought taro cakes.
Be sure to allow the cake to cool down completely before cutting into it because the rice flour will only set when it is cold. You may prepare taro cake a day ahead and keep it in the refrigerator. You can reheat it by steaming for 5 minutes before serving and it will not get soft again.
Then garnish and cut into diamond or square shapes to serve with the dipping sauces. These can be conveniently made with bottled sauces, which makes the work so much easier.
- 750g taro
- 6 tbsp cooking oil
- 200g dried shrimp, rinsed and coarsely minced
- 100g dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked overnight
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 3 cups rice flour
- 6 cups water
- 1 tbsp chicken stock concentrate
- 2 tsp five-spice powder
- 1½ tsp salt to taste
- 4 shallots, sliced
- 2 stalks scallions, chopped
- 2 sprigs cilantro, chopped
- 2 red chillies, sliced
- 100g peanuts
- Hot dipping sauce
- ½ cup Angel Brand Sriracha Hot Chilli Sauce
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 2 tbsp salt
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- Sweet dipping sauce
- ½ cup Angel Brand Hoisin Sauce
- ½ cup light soy sauce
- 2 tbsp sugar
- Soak mushrooms overnight in hot water, squeeze out and dice. Reserve mushroom infusion for later. Rinse dried shrimp in water and chop into a coarse mince.
- Remove the skin of the taro with a vegetable peeler. Cut the taro in half. Slide one half across a vegetable shredder in smooth, singular movements to produce neat, unbroken strands. Dice remaining half taro into 2-cm cubes.
- Heat 6 tbsp oil and fry shallots until crisp. Remove and leave the oil in the wok. Fry peanuts until crispy, remove and leave oil in the wok. Add dried shrimp and sauté until fragrant. Remove about one-fourth to set aside for garnishing.
- To the remaining oil and shrimp in the wok, add mushrooms and garlic, and sauté until fragrant. Add shredded and diced taro and toss well to sear without burning.
- Add water to the mushroom infusion to make up 4 cups of liquid, and season with chicken stock concentrate, five-spice powder and salt. Pour this mixture into stir-fried taro and bring it to a boil.
- Mix rice flour with 2 cups of water. Pour mixture into the wok and bring to a boil. Cook until the batter starts to thicken.
- Brush a round pan measuring 35cm in diameter generously with oil. Pour the thick batter into the pan and press down the batter to an even thickness.
- Steam over boiling water until kuih is set and cooked through, about half an hour to an hour. Leave aside to cool completely, about 6 hours.
- Garnish with fried shrimp, peanuts, shallots, scallions, cilantro and red chilli slices. Then with an oiled knife, cut taro cake into diamond shapes or squares. Serve taro cake with hot and sweet dipping sauces.