To test drive Wai Chu’s recipe for Chinese daikon radish cakes, I bought a lot of daikon radish. You never know how much you’ll need and I didn’t want to keep running back to the store. Wai’s luóbo gāo (lok bok gow in Cantonese, 蘿蔔糕) from The Dumpling cookbook worked out like a charm on the first run-through so I had several pounds of leftover radish, some of which were used for Vietnamese daikon and radish pickles (do chua) that I’ll be stuffing into banh mi sandwiches.
Watching Charles Phan compete against Cat Cora on Iron Chef America's battle almond got me thinking about Slanted Door’s vegetarian version of the daikon radish cakes. I recalled Phan proudly telling me in an interview how he infused a lot of umami into the cakes so that people wouldn’t miss the traditional dried shrimp and Chinese sausage. The Vietnamese cooks at Slanted Door who are in charge of the radish cakes said that it’s a perennial favorite; they should know as they’ve worked with Phan for many years. In tribute to Phan and his hardworking staff, I decided to take Wai's recipe and make it vegetarian.