Little known fact: turnips are a good substitute for daikon.

It never occurred to me that turnips were more like a radish than a starch. I always thought of them as a watery, low-carb, astringent-tasting potato substitute. After some home-grown turnips found their way to my countertop, I started doing a little research and found they are often used to replace something entirely different – daikon! (Aka Chinese radish!)

Ahh, of course! They are more like a radish! Once you get over that mental block of trying to make them into potatoes and ultimately being disappointed because, well, they just aren’t potatoes, it opens a whole new world!

beef turnip stew


I wanted to make a stew, but at the same time wanted something different. Eventually, I stumbled onto this popular Cantonese dish. Please bear in mind that Chinese beef stew with turnips usually includes something called Chou Hou sauce. Whelp – sorry guys. I just didn’t feel like searching far and wide for it. I cobbled together a few different recipes and threw in an extra anise star. And you know what? You don’t even miss it. (Especially if you’ve never had it with the sauce before.)

The stew is decidedly Asian in flavor, but not traditionally in that “American Chinese food” wok-fried way. The turnips provided a really nice balance to tamp down the anise flavor. As a result, the stew was a lovely, slightly sweet, slightly salty comforting dish. And, just in time for the Chinese New Year.

In case your 2018 had a rough start with the flu (like mine did), this is your chance for a do-over.  Gong hei fat choy!

Cantonese Style Stew with Turnips
  • 1 1/2 pounds elk stew meat
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 4 turnips, about 2 pounds peeled and chopped
  • 1 inch ginger thinly sliced
  • 8 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 2 cups water or broth
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup sherry or other cooking wine
  • 1 tbsp sugar or to taste
  • zest and juice of 2 clementines or 1 small orange
  • 1 bay leaf
  • chopped green onions for garnish
  • steamed rice for serving
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the meat and boil until the water gets foamy (about 8 minutes). Then drain and rinse. 

  2. Heat oil in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant (about 2-3 minutes), being careful not to let them burn. Add the meat, water, soy sauce, sherry, sugar, anise, orange zest and bay leaf. Bring to a boil then reduce to medium. Let simmer, covered, until the meat is tender, about 60-90 minutes.

  3. Add the turnips and stir to coat. Cook an additional 30 minutes, until the turnips are tender. Garnish with green onions. Serve over rice and with more soy sauce (to taste). 

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