Taro cake (yam cake, wu tao gou,芋头糕, 芋頭糕) is a popular Chinese dessert for breakfast and tea break. It is one of such savory delicacies that you can find in the Dim Sum shops serve as breakfast, along with shrimp dumpling, Char Siu Pao, Shumai, and others.
If you want to throw in some Asian flavor for a complete Chinese New Year feast (Yes. it is only less than two months from now! ), prepare this time-honored Cantonese style taro cake for your family and friends. The flavor can be described as out of this world. The rice flour and taro acts as a sponge absorbing all the goodness from ingredients high in umami.
But don’t take my word for it. After all, tasting is believing! This Chinese taro cake recipe will show you how to make taro cake step-by-step.
1. Prepare the taro cubes
You begin the preparation by peeling the skin of the taro, followed by cutting it into slices, then cubes. You can use disposable gloves to protect your hands if the raw taro irritates your skin.
I suggest cutting the taro into small size cubes measures about half centimeter cube. Small cubes are ideal as the taro will soften by the time the rice flour is cooked while steaming. The large cubes will not cook through when the rice flour is set.
2. Prepare the crispy fried shallots
Peel, cut, and slice the shallots. Deep fry the shallots with some oil until golden brown. It has to be done over low heat to avoid over-browning. When it becomes crispy, drain by pouring it through a wire mesh strainer. Set aside the fried shallots for later use. Keep it in a tight container to keep it crispy. Return the shallot oil to the pan to cook other ingredients.
3.Get ready the savory ingredients
There is a standard set of ingredients for the Chinese taro cake. These ingredients provide the familiar savory taste, in addition to the unique texture and mild flavor of the taro. These ingredients are:
Chinese sausage 蜡肠 and cured meat 蜡肉
Chinese sausage is the primary ingredient of the taro cake. You need to remove the sausage casing before cutting it into small dices.
The easiest way to do it is to submerge the sausage into a pot of hot water. The casing you expand and loosen from the meat after keeping in boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove it from the boiling water, and you can strip off the casing easily by hand.
Chinese sausages are available year-round, but cured meat may only be sold during the Chinese New Year period.
The flavor is similar to Chinese sausage but is more aromatic.
If cured meat is unavailable, you can double the amount of Chinese sausage to replace it.
It is essential to cut the Chinese sausage and cured meat into small dices. Otherwise, you may encounter difficulty in making clean cuts when you portion the taro cake into squares. The large pieces of meat embedded in the taro cake will obstruct clean cutting when you slice the cake.
When you purchase the dried shrimps, try to get those free from shells. Otherwise, pick up all the shells visible to you before soaking it in water. After the dried shrimps are softened, which usually take less than half an hour, drained, and have a few rough chops. Set aside. You may also substitute it with dry scallop. more flavor but it is expensive!).
Dried shiitake mushrooms
You also need to rehydrate the dried shiitake mushrooms. Soak it in water until the mushrooms are soft enough to remove the stem and cut into small dices. The time required varies from a few hours for the bigger mushrooms or within an hour for the smaller one in hot water.
Do not toss away the soaking water of the mushrooms and dried shrimps because it is a high umami juice that should be added back to the taro cake mixture later.
Fry the ingredients
Next, give all these chopped ingredients a fry in the shallot oil. Toss in the cured meat and Chinese sausage into the pan to fry until it is aromatic.
Add the dried shrimps and continue frying. Then add the mushrooms and combined. When it is done, remove a quarter of the ingredients from the pan and set aside. This quarter should put on the surface of the taro cake before steaming as a garnish.
Add the taro to the remaining three quarters and season with salt, sugar, five-spice powder, and ground white pepper.
Stir fry over low to medium heat for a few minutes until the taro turns slightly brown. Set aside.
Some recipes suggest using chicken bouillon or chicken broth for seasoning the taro cake. I prefer to keep it simple (after a few tests) by using the above seasonings, as the sausage, cured meat, mushrooms, and dried shrimps are umami-packed ingredients.
4. Constitute the flour mixture
In a separate container, combine the rice flour, potato starch, salt, the umami-rich soaking liquid, and water.
You can also substitute potato starch with cornflour. If you prefer a less sticky texture, omit the starch and replace it with the same amount of rice flour.
Now heat the rice flour batter over low heat and continuously scrape the side of the pot until the batter transforms into a thick paste. The batter will turn into a paste when it is around 60 to 65 degrees Celsius.
Now add the taro, fried shallot, and the remaining ingredients into the flour paste. Combine everything to form a homogeneous mixture.
The reason to half cook the rice flour mixture into a thick paste before adding the taro is to prevent the taro and other ingredients from sinking to the bottom. Mix well.
Line a pan or a glass casserole with a piece of baking paper. Grease the paper and the side of the pan. You may have difficulty to unmold the taro cake if you do not line with baking paper.
Pour the mixture into the pan or casserole . Give it a few shakes and level the surface with a spatula.
Sprinkle the reserved Chinese sausage, cured meat, and dried shrimps on the surface. Cover the cake with an aluminum foil to prevent water from dripping on the taro cake during steaming.
5. Steam the taro cake
Steam for about 35 minutes. To test the doneness, poke a wooden skewer or chopstick deep into the center of the taro cake. The cake is cooked if the skewer or chopstick comes out clean.
Turn the cake upended to unmold the cake. Remove the baking paper.
Leave it in the refrigerator for a few hours or better still overnight until it cools completely. Otherwise, the cake is likely sticking to the knife if you try to cut it into squares. You can serve it directly or pan-fried both sides of the cake slices slightly before serving. Cut it into 1 inch wide slices, and then pan-fried both sides until lightly brown.
It is easier to use a hot knife to cut the taro cake. You can do that by dipping the knife into hot water or heat it on top of the stove. It helps to make a clean straight cut while slicing the taro cake.
You can store it in the refrigerator or freeze it for future consumption.
Note: You will also likely love another similar Chinese dessert called radish cake (蘿蔔糕). Follow this link to get the recipe.
Taro cake (yam cake, 芋头糕, 芋頭糕) is the popular dessert as Dim Sum for breakfast and as a favorite item during Chinese New Year.
- 140g taro (weight after removing the skin)
- 20g Chinese sausage
- 20g Chinese cured meat
- 10g (2-3 pieces) dried shiitake mushrooms
- 20g dried shrimps
- 2 shallots
- 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
- 1/2 tsp five spices powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 120g rice flour
- 20g potato starch (or cornstarch)
- 430ml soaking liquid plus water
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Peel of the skin of the taro. Cut it into small cubes.
- Deep-fry the shallot until golden brown. Drain and keep the shallot oil.
- Cut the Chinese sausage and cured meat into small cubes.
- Soak the dried shiitake mushroom, then cut it into small dice.
- Soak the dry shrimps, drain, and have a few rough chops.
- Fry all the savory ingredients with the shallot oil until aromatic.
- Add the taro and ingredient B. Mix and set aside. Reserve one quarter as the topping of the cake.
- Combine all the ingredients C to form a batter. Cook over low heat until it turns into a thick paste.
- Combine the fried ingredients with the rice paste.
- Transfer it to a greased mold. Spread the remaining quarter of the sausage, curd meat, and dried shrimps on top of the taro cake.
- Cover with aluminum foil.
- Steam for 35 minutes.
- When it is done, store in the refrigerator for a few hours.
- Removed and cut into small pieces.
- Top with fried shallots, and chopped scallions. Served.
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Serving Size:8 pieces
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 119Total Fat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 9mgSodium: 386mgCarbohydrates: 23gFiber: 2gSugar: 2gProtein: 3g
This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix on 12/6/2019
Saturday 17th of October 2020
Dear KP, Is there a magic proportion like your turnip cake recipe, yam: flour: water? Any tips how to choose the right yam to make a good yam cake? Many thanks.
Sunday 18th of October 2020
Hi Lester. The proportion of each ingredient in this recipe works well for me. I just pick yam that is firm when touch, with no cracks, no wrinkled looks fresh. KP Kwan
Friday 3rd of January 2020
Hi. May I use a greased tinfoil container to steam the cake? It seems convenient for me without purchasing baking paper additionally. But I wonder whether it may affect the temperature and the final result.
Saturday 4th of January 2020
Hi Mew, You do not need to make changes, and it is definitely more convenient. KP Kwan
Saturday 7th of December 2019
I am sure your son will love your taro and radish cakes. As I live in Perth I used to do these cakes for Chinese New Year, especially the taro cake. My recipe for taro is more or less like yours except I never heard of using dried scallops.
Wednesday 14th of September 2022
@Lily Chin, Springer fried shallots on top of the cake before steaming and is optional.
Saturday 7th of December 2019
Son used to be in Adelaide and now has moved to NZ. Guess Malaysians who are living overseas will love to have this for CNY.
Saturday 7th of December 2019
Hi, this is KP Kwan. I am happy to see you in this comment area, as you have read through my recipe. I am pleased to reply to any questions and comments as soon as possible.