Taro Cake (芋頭糕)

Learn how to make this delicious & auspicious Chinese holiday favorite!

Prep Time
30 min
Total Time
180 min
Yields
4 servings

A Recipe by Daddy Lau

My dad's been cooking Chinese food for over 50 years - as a kid fending for himself in Guangzhou, as the head chef of his own restaurant, and as a loving father in our home.

Hopefully, by learning this recipe, you'll get to experience some of the delicious joy we felt growing up eating his food!

- Randy

I don't think the Lau family has ever eaten dim sum without calling over a few orders of taro cake.

We're not alone - taro cake is one of the most popular dim sum dishes around the world.

Taro cake is also commonly made around Chinese holidays, as a symbol of prosperity in Chinese tradition.

Taro Cake - A Good Omen

Many Chinese superstitions, good and bad, are based on word play.

For the same reason that the number "4" is bad luck because it sounds similar to the word for "death", taro cake and other cake recipes are popular around the holidays because they symbolize higher growth and prosperity.

Particularly for "cake 糕", the word shares the same exact tone and pronunciation as the Chinese word for "high 高" - "gōu".

"cake" and "high" have different characters, but Chinese tradition has come to attribute cakes with higher success, rising happiness, better health, and prosperity.

For me, eating taro cake definitely has a direct effect on my happiness!

Ingredients

Weight: US
oz
g
Volume: US
cup
mL
Servings
4
    Main Ingredients
  • 1.5 lb taro
  • 0.50 lb regular rice flour
  • 1.5 cups water (

    for flour mix

    )
  • 0.50 oz dried shrimp
  • 1 lap cheung (

    chinese sausage

    )
  • 0.25 oz ginger (

    only a little bit needed

    )
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 whole piece green onion
  • 1.5 cups boiled water (

    for cooking taro

    )
  • boiled water (

    about 3-5 cups, enough to fill the wok until water touches the bottom of the plate

    )
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Additional Flavors
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp chicken bouillon
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • white pepper (

    to taste

    )

Choosing Rice Flour

At Asian grocery markets, there are typically two main types of rice flour: regular rice flour, and glutinous rice flour (also known as sticky rice flour).

We want regular rice flour. There are other taro cake recipes out there that use glutinous rice flour, but my dad prefers the firmer texture that regular rice flour yields.

Sticky rice flour is commonly used for many other Asian desserts and recipes, like boba, mochi, and etc.

You can buy the exact rice flour my dad uses on Amazon.

Choosing Taro

If you've never seen taro, it comes in various shapes and sizes. Similar to the potato, taro is a root vegetable primarily grown in Nigeria and China.

At Asian supermarkets, you'll probably encounter a small variety (baseball-sized) and a big variety (similar to the size of a large bottle of soda). For this recipe, we want the big kind.

To select the freshest of the bunch, choose a taro that doesn't look too dry and has few or zero cracks across its skin.

Finding Asian Ingredients

Some of these ingredients are hard to find in a typical grocery store.

If you don't live near an Asian market, most or all of what my dad uses in this recipe can be found on Amazon:

I've also included some other Chinese kitchen essentials, used in many of my dad's other recipes.

These links are affiliate links, which means that if you use our links to purchase these ingredients, Amazon pays my family a small amount for the sale - at no extra cost to you. If you use these links, we really appreciate the support!

Other Supplies + Tools

You'll need a steamer rack, an essential Chinese home-cooking tool.

You'll need a food scale. Since taro cake is one of our more precise recipes, it's important to be able to weigh out exactly what we're using.

You'll need a good wok, which provides a ton of versatility for the classic Chinese cooking methods: steaming, stir frying, deep frying, and etc.

As a precaution, you'll need food-safe gloves to handle taro (more on this later.)

Safety: Use a Towel

To increase the stability of your cutting board, place a hand towel underneath it. Especially because taro is so tough and hard to cut, we want to reduce the risk of injury by preventing our cutting board from moving around.

I can count on more than two hands (too soon?) the number of times my dad came home from the restaurant after a long day of work with bandaids on his hands.

Safety first!

Safety: Handling Taro

Raw taro contains calcium oxalate underneath its skin, which can be toxic due to the mineral’s microscopically sharp needles, and which can cause skin irritation and a burning sensation if eaten raw.

Maybe my dad is just a G, but in all the years my dad has made taro cake, he’s never used gloves. He does wash the taro before cutting it further, which helps wash away some of the calcium oxalate.

To be super safe, definitely do not eat raw taro, and use food-safe gloves when peeling and cutting it.

Don't worry - taro is not toxic after it undergoes some form of cooking.

The first thing we'll do is wash and rehydrate our dried shrimp (0.50 oz).

In a bowl, wash the shrimp in warm water for a few seconds and drain the bowl. Pour hot water into the bowl, and let the shrimp rehydrate for 5-10 minutes.

The shrimp should be soft and tender to the touch when rehydrated.

Next, we'll chop our lap cheung (1), ginger (0.25 oz), garlic (2 cloves), green onion (1 whole piece). For the lap cheung, cut off a few coin-sized slices as garnish for later, and cut the rest into small pieces.

Mince the ginger and garlic, and chop the green onion into small pieces.

When the dried shrimp is fully rehydrated, chop the shrimp into very fine pieces. The shrimp provides an unmistakable potent flavor, and the smaller the shrimp, the more evenly distributed the flavors will be.

As I mentioned before, it's best to wear food-safe gloves when handling taro, and to place a hand towel underneath our cutting board to reduce the risk of injury.

  • Cut off the end of the taro root (we won't be using it for this recipe).
  • Cut off the amount of taro (1.5 lb) we need for the recipe, using a food scale to verify if you have the right amount.
  • Cut away at the perimeter to remove the skin, and wash with cold water.
  • Then, cut the taro into slices, strips, and finally, peanut-sized cubes.

Set the stove to its highest heat setting, and heat the wok for 3-5 minutes as we prepare our regular ice flour (0.50 lb).

Using a food scale, weigh out the rice flour into a bowl, add water (1.5 cups), and mix together for 30-60 seconds.

If you aren't able to get a food scale, you can roughly use 1.5 cups of flour. This conversion really depends on the weight of the flour and how densely you're packing your measuring cup.

After the wok is hot enough (you should see it releasing a tiny amount of smoke), add vegetable oil (1 tbsp) and mix it around the surface of the wok.

We'll be cooking our garlic, ginger, shrimp, and lap cheung for about 2 minutes in total. Gradually add each ingredient, stirring constantly.

Here's my dad's order and approximate timing:

  • Add garlic and ginger, cook for 20 seconds
  • Add shrimp, cook for 40-50 seconds
  • Add lap cheung, cook for 45-60 seconds

The goal is to release the flavors and aromas before we add the taro.

Before we add the taro, start boiling water - enough water for the taro (1.5 cups) + enough water to minimally submerge the plate in the wok as it sits on top of the steamer rack.

Pour the taro into the wok, and stir it around for a minute so that it absorbs the flavors of the garlic, ginger, shrimp, and lap cheung.

Add salt (1 tsp), sugar (1 tsp), chicken bouillon (1 tsp), and oyster sauce (1 tbsp) to the wok, and stir it around for another minute.

Pour the boiled water (1.5 cups) into the wok, stir for a few seconds, and cover the wok until it starts boiling again. Your time may vary, but this took us about 2-3 minutes.

Coat the plate that you'll be using with a little bit of vegetable oil. This is so that when we're done cooking, the taro cake won't stick to the plate.

When boiling, uncover the wok. My dad recommends sampling the taste of the taro with a spoon to see if you're happy with the flavors at this point.

Stir the flour mixture for a few seconds and pour it into the wok, as well as sesame oil (1 tsp).

Stir the wok around for about 90 seconds, so that the flour and taro are evenly mixed together.

Scoop out the taro cake mixture into the plate you oiled earlier, and smooth out the surface of the cake so it's flat.

Once we're done, wash the wok before we start steaming

Place a steamer rack in the wok, and add enough boiling water to the wok so that when the plate sits on top of the rack, the water is just touching the bottom of the plate.

Adding pre-boiled water helps speed up our cook time.

Place the plate of taro cake onto the steamer rack, cover the wok, and steam for about 20-25 minutes.

The thickness of the plate affects the time we need to steam the cake for. If we're using a thicker plate (as shown in the video), we need to steam for 3-5 minutes longer than we would if we were using a thinner or metallic plate.

Once the 20-25 minutes is up, let's uncover the wok. To check if the taro cake is ready, poke it with chopsticks. If it's not ready, the cake will stick to the chopsticks.

Carefully take the plate out of the wok, and add the coins of lap cheung and green onion for garnish.

Let the taro cake cool at room temperature for a few hours. If you want to speed up the cooling, place the taro cake on a bed of ice.

After the taro cake is cooled, you're ready to cut it.

If you'd like to make it even more tasty, add oil to a pan, and pan fry the slices of taro cake for 3-5 minutes on each side.

Call over your loved ones, and enjoy :)

Summary

Taro Cake (芋頭糕)
Learn how to make this delicious & auspicious Chinese holiday favorite!
  • Prep Time: 30 min
  • Total Time: 180 min
  • Yield: 4 servings
    Main Ingredients
  • 1.5 lb taro
  • 0.50 lb regular rice flour
  • 1.5 cups water (

    for flour mix

    )
  • 0.50 oz dried shrimp
  • 1 lap cheung (

    chinese sausage

    )
  • 0.25 oz ginger (

    only a little bit needed

    )
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 whole piece green onion
  • 1.5 cups boiled water (

    for cooking taro

    )
  • boiled water (

    about 3-5 cups, enough to fill the wok until water touches the bottom of the plate

    )
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Additional Flavors
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp chicken bouillon
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • white pepper (

    to taste

    )
Step 1 - Wash and rehydrate dried shrimp↑ Jump to details

Wash and rehydrate the (0.50 oz)dried shrimp (0.50 oz). In a bowl, wash the shrimp in warm water for a few seconds and drain the bowl. Pour hot water into the bowl, and let the shrimp rehydrate for 5-10 minutes. The shrimp should be soft and tender to the touch when rehydrated.

Step 2 - Chop ingredients↑ Jump to details

Chop our lap cheung (1), ginger (0.25 oz), garlic (2 cloves), green onion (1 whole piece). For the lap cheung, cut off a few coin-sized slices as garnish for later, and cut the rest into small pieces. Mince the ginger and garlic, and chop the green onion into small pieces. When the dried shrimp is fully rehydrated, chop the shrimp into very fine pieces.

Step 3 - Cut taro↑ Jump to details

Precautions: wear food-safe gloves and place a hand towel underneath our cutting board.

  • Cut off the end of the taro root
  • Cut off the amount of taro (1.5 lb) necessary, using a food scale to verify
  • Cut away at the perimeter to remove the skin, and wash with cold water
  • Cut the taro into slices, strips, and finally, peanut-sized cubes

Step 4 - Heat wok, prepare flour↑ Jump to details

Set the stove to its highest heat setting, and heat the wok for 3-5 minutes as we prepare our regular ice flour (0.50 lb). Using a food scale, weigh out the rice flour into a bowl, add water (1.5 cups), and mix together for 30-60 seconds.

Step 5 - Cook garlic, ginger, shrimp, lap cheung↑ Jump to details

After the wok is hot enough (you should see it releasing a tiny amount of smoke), add vegetable oil (1 tbsp) and mix it around the surface of the wok.

We'll be cooking our garlic, ginger, shrimp, and lap cheung for about 2 minutes in total. Gradually add each ingredient, stirring constantly:

  • Add garlic and ginger, cook for 20 seconds
  • Add shrimp, cook for 40-50 seconds
  • Add lap cheung, cook for 45-60 seconds

The goal is to release the flavors and aromas before we add the taro.

Step 6 - Boil water, start cooking taro↑ Jump to details

Before we add the taro, start boiling water - enough water for the taro (1.5 cups) + enough water to minimally submerge the plate in the wok as it sits on top of the steamer rack.

Pour the taro into the wok, and stir it around for a minute so that it absorbs the flavors of the garlic, ginger, shrimp, and lap cheung.

Step 7 - Add flavors to wok↑ Jump to details

Add salt (1 tsp), sugar (1 tsp), chicken bouillon (1 tsp), and oyster sauce (1 tbsp) to the wok, and stir it around for another minute.

Step 8 - Add water, cover the wok, bring to boil↑ Jump to details

Pour the boiled water (1.5 cups) into the wok, stir for a few seconds, and cover the wok until it starts boiling again (about 2-3 minutes.)

Step 9 - Coat plate with oil↑ Jump to details

Coat the plate that you'll be using with a little bit of vegetable oil. This is so that when we're done cooking, the taro cake won't stick to the plate.

Step 10 - Uncover wok, add flour mix, sesame oil↑ Jump to details

When boiling, uncover the wok. Sample the taste of your taro, and adjust if necessary. Stir the flour mixture for a few seconds and pour it into the wok, as well as sesame oil (1 tsp). Stir the wok around for about 90 seconds, so that the flour and taro are evenly mixed together.

Step 11 - Transfer to plate, smooth out the cake↑ Jump to details

Scoop out the taro cake mixture into the plate you oiled earlier, and smooth out the surface of the cake so it's flat. Wash the wok before we start steaming.

Step 12 - Start steaming the taro cake↑ Jump to details

Place a steamer rack in the wok, and add enough boiling water to the wok so that when the plate sits on top of the rack, the water is just touching the bottom of the plate.

Place the plate of taro cake onto the steamer rack, cover the wok, and steam for about 20-25 minutes.

The thickness of the plate affects the time we need to steam the cake for. If we're using a thicker plate (as shown in the video), we need to steam for 3-5 minutes longer than we would if we were using a thinner or metallic plate.

Step 13 - Uncover wok, add garnish, and cool↑ Jump to details

Once the 20-25 minutes is up, let's uncover the wok. To check if the taro cake is ready, poke it with chopsticks. If it's not ready, the cake will stick to the chopsticks.

Carefully take the plate out of the wok, and add the coins of lap cheung and green onion for garnish.

Let the taro cake cool at room temperature for a few hours.

Let the taro cake cool at room temperature for a few hours. If you want to speed up the cooling, place the taro cake on a bed of ice.

Step 14 - Slice the taro cake, pan fry↑ Jump to details

After the taro cake is cooled, you're ready to cut it.

If you'd like to make it even more tasty, add oil to a pan, and pan fry the slices of taro cake for 3-5 minutes on each side.

Call over your loved ones, and enjoy :)

Step 15 - Take pictures
Whip out your camera (1). Begin taking photos (1,000,000). Pick your favorites!
Step 16 - Share and tag us on Instagram @madewithlau #madewithlau!
Did you have fun making this recipe? We'd love to see & hear about it. (Especially my dad. He would be THRILLED!)

Enjoy!

I have so many memories eating this dish growing up. In talking with my parents, it was really great to hear that they also had their own childhood memories eating this during holidays with their families too.

Now, hopefully, you can create your own memories with this dish with your loved ones.

Also, I cordially invite you to eat with us and learn more about the dish, Chinese culture, and hang out with our adorable son.

Cheers, and thanks for cooking with us!

Feel free to comment below if you have any questions about the recipe.

Watch on YouTube

About Made With Lau

We started Made With Lau to honor and share the legacy of our wonderful parents, Jenny and Chung Sun Lau.

Our hope is that these posts give you (and our future generations) a glimpse into how great they are!