Imagine a pudding … a savoury pudding but without butter, milk or eggs in the mixture. What? No dairy? Yes, most dishes I grew up with don’t include dairy as the ingredient doesn’t play a major part in a traditional Taiwanese diet. This dairy-free and gluten-free steamed rice cake is made from a combination of rice flour and a smaller amount of tapioca flour, the less flour you use the softer the cake. This recipe is something I developed from a traditional Taiwanese street food dish called 碗糕 (wah guay). The ‘starch’ element of the meal is a rad binding agent and is wonderfully light – thus fitting for spring. Even though this traditional Taiwanese dish isn’t as well known, it’s found all over in the street/night markets of Taiwan, and is one of my favourite light meals.
The team at Faithful by Nature invited me to take part in this recipe challenge and competition. The brief is to make a vegetarian recipe from seasonal produce and organic ingredients from their online store. After browsing their pantry, I found all the pantry ingredients required for my dish idea (inspired by the home-style Taiwanese rice cake mentioned above) and the complementary sticky sweet sauce that goes with it.
This dish is something uniquely Taiwanese but there are other variations found in Asia. The traditional version includes braised pork, shiitake mushrooms and salted duck egg (see image here). But for this recipe, I’ll be using a variation of seasonal vegetables and serve it with a Taiwanese Cold Cucumber Salad, making it both organic and vegan.
Steamed Rice Cake and Veg Bowls – Taiwanese-style
4 servings | 1 hour 25 minutes (30 minutes to prepare filling | 45 minutes to steam | 10 minutes to set)
- 2 baby marrow (grated)
- 8 Shiitake mushrooms (sliced in halves)
- 1 C soya sauce
- 2 Tbsp honey
- 2 baby aubergine
- 2 cobs of sweet corn
- A handful of cashew nuts (halved)
- 1 C of rice flour
- 2 Tbsp of tapioca flour
- 2 C room temperature water
- 2 C warm water
- 1 Tbsp peanut oil
- 4 Tbsp of finely chopped shallots (you can also use onions)
- 1 C soya sauce
- 4 Tbsp honey
- 3 Tbsp tapioca flour
- 1 1/2 C water
- 1/2 cucumber
- 1/2 C soya sauce
- 4 Tbsp of honey
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- Handful of sesame seeds from one of my favourite local brands – By Nature
- Prepare the fillings. I chose a variety of fillings for their different textures. Chewy mushrooms, firm aubergine, crunchy corn with the firm porridgy filling. 1. Make a mixture of soya sauce and honey, leave the mushrooms in there to soak. 2. Slice aubergine, salt both sides and allow liquid to draw out on paper towels (this keeps them crisp during steaming). 3. Remove sweet corn from cob. 4. Toast cashew nuts. 5. Grate the marrow … and set aside.
- Mix the rice and tapioca flour together, add room temperature water and mix till even.
- Place the mixture in a small pot, add warm water, mix with a wooden spoon and slowly bring to heat while stirring.
- Mix till a mash potato consistency and immediately remove from heated pot – see here for a short Instagram video.
- Assemble your bowls: Coat the inner walls of two glass bowls with peanut oil to prevent them from sticking. Spoon in a layer of the rice/tapioca paste so the walls are covered. Add a few toppings, and spoon in more paste and repeat – just make sure there aren’t any major air bubbles and that you end off with paste on top.
- Steam them bad boys for 45 minutes. I used a bamboo steamer on top of a boiling pot of water.
- While steaming, prepare the sauce and Taiwanese Cold Cucumber Salad.
- Heat a saucepan with some peanut oil, fry the shallots/onions till golden and crispy then lower the heat.
- Add soya sauce and red roast it by letting the harsh vinegar cook off for a few seconds, then add honey.
- Separately, mix the tapioca flour and water. Pour this into the saucepan while mixing the sauce.
- Remove the cucumber core and break into bite-size chunks.
- Mix a dash of sesame oil, 4 Tbsps of honey and 3 Tbsps soya sauce and toss the cucumber chunks. You’re welcome to add some chilli sauce here too.
- Toast sesame seeds and sprinkle them on top before serving.
After bowls have steamed, allow cooling for 10 minutes so the cake can set. Use a palette knife and slide it between the cake and the bowl and tip them over onto a plate. Smother in sauce, garnish with sliced spring onion and chopped coriander and enjoy.
Styling by Ming-Cheau Lin and photography by my little brother Frank Fadango.