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Steamed yam cake topped with red chillies, fried shrimp, spring onions and fried shallots

Steamed yam cake topped with red chillies, fried shrimp, spring onions and fried shallots

This is a snack found in South East Asia, each family would most likely have their own special recipes of making the steamed yam cake. I like to think of it as a Straits Chinese (Nonya) dish as I always eat it straight out of my Amah’s kitchen and I’m unashamedly Nonya-biased.

This is a dish that takes some preparation time as well as plenty of practice to get the consistency right. A dry batter would give a tough cake while a wet batter makes for a cake that falls apart too easily. Once you’ve got the basic yam cake, pair it with chilli sauce (my Amah also has a good recipe for this) and top with plenty of sliced red chillies,   fried shallots, shrimp, and spring onions. Coriander works as well too.

Now I have to disclaim, my Amah’s sense of measurement is, like many chinese grannies out there, by agaration (sense of feel, with no particular weight towards using measuring tools). Agak agak all the way. Apparently the amount of ingredients she uses each time changes as well according to my aunt. So this is as close as I could get for proper measurements.



Ingredients (for one turnip cake, enough to feed 10-12)  

  1. 500g dried shrimp, heh bee (soaked overnight in water)
  2. Rice flour (1/2 pack which would be around 300g, Erawan brand – a thai brand)
  3. 1 large yam (make sure its firm not mushy)
  4. Aginomoto (1 tsp)
  5. White pepper (6 shakes)
  6. Salt (1 tsp)
  7. 3-4 bowls water (I suppose this is a soup bowl size? Refer to pictures to agak agak the water content)
  8. Sliced Red Chilli, chopped spring Onions and fried Shallots for garnish
  9. Cake tin

Cooking Instructions

  1. Soak shrimp overnight in water. Drain the shrimp and reserve shrimp water



2. De-skin the yams and cut into chunks. If you’re like me and have never handled yams before, here’s a pictorial:



3. Wash the yams, drain off the water and set aside.


4. Mix the shrimp water, rice flour, aginomoto, pepper and salt along with the bowls of water and stir til combined IMG_6342


5. Deep fry the drained shrimp on high fire with lots of oil to cover it. Doesn’t matter if it bubbles over, make sure its fried long enough so when it cools it is crispy
6. Remove shrimp from the wok and get rid of excess oil, leave enough oil to fry the yams.
7. Fry yams until tender on high fire, make sure there’s enough oil so it doesn’t stick. May want to cover the wok while it cooks
8. Add a helping of shrimp to the rice water mixture
9. Once you’re able to easily break into the yam with a fork, add the rice water and shrimp mixture and lower the fire to a slow burn.
10.  Stir til mixture thickens to a paste, randomly mashing but not overdoing it
11.  Ladle into the greased cake tin once it’s become thick and gloppy
12. Steam for an hour
13.  Serve with fresh red chillies, fried shallots, fried shrimp, chilli sauce and I’d put in coriander as well. It tastes best with homemade chilli sauce and fried shallots instead of store made ones. Will put up the recipe for chilli sauce soon.


And there you have it, a savoury yam cake topped with bright garnishes and sweet spicy chilli sauce. A snack I often ate in the sweltering hot weather under the cooling fan in my Gran’s living room. Nothing beats the homemade flavor.

Steamed yam cake topped with red chillies, fried shrimp, spring onions and fried shallots

Steamed yam cake topped with red chillies, fried shrimp, spring onions and fried shallots