Introduction to Shanghai Rice Cakes:
If you’ve never had rice cakes, today is the day to change that. Rice cakes are chewy, delicious, and absorb sauces very well. The first time I tried rice cakes was when I went to a Taiwanese restaurant called Din Tai Fung. Ever since then, I’ve ordered this dish every time I go there. So this recipe is inspired by the rice cakes from that restaurant which are also titled “Shanghai Rice Cakes.” If you love noodles for their texture, I definitely recommend giving these rice cakes a try since they have a similar chewy texture to noodles.
Breakdown of Ingredients + Possible Substitutes:
- Rice cakes: Rice cakes come in a few different shapes and sizes. For this dish I prefer using the rice cakes that are oval in shape and sliced thin.
- Oil: I recommend using a neutral oil for this dish like canola oil. Sesame oil would be too strong for this dish in my opinion.
- Garlic: Minced or finely chopped garlic is perfect in this dish. Be sure not to overcook or burn the garlic though, as it can make the dish taste bitter.
- Scallions: Typically scallions are added at the end of dishes as a garnish. And while I do add some scallions as a garnish at the end as well, I also like to add some in my stir fry. This is just personal preference though. I think infusing the oil with the scallions and garlic adds a richer flavor.
- Dark Soy Sauce: While it would be okay to use regular soy sauce for this dish if that is all you have on hand, I highly recommend getting dark soy sauce, specifically. Dark soy sauce is much richer in flavor that regular soy sauce and adds a noticeable difference.
- Rice Vinegar: Seasoned rice vinegar adds the perfect touch of tanginess to this recipe. Rice vinegar is less tarte than regular vinegar and has a touch of sweetness. If you don’t have any, you can try using plain white vinegar and mixing it with a little sugar instead. However, if you’re going to use regular vinegar, make sure to use than you would if you were using regular rice vinegar since its much stronger in flavor. Another possible substitute is using lime juice.
- Sriracha: For spice, sriracha is a classic. Chili garlic sauce could also work well. I recommend adding only a little to the sauce but then serving with more sriracha or chili garlic sauce on the side.
- Brown Sugar: It is essential to balance out stir frys, noodle dishes, and other recipes which use soy sauce with a touch of sugar. Don’t worry, it won’t make the dish sweet! It will just even out the saltiness of the soy sauce.
- Veggie Broth: To make sure the rice cakes are covered evenly in the sauce and cooked well, adding veggie broth is very important. Adding the veggie broth increases the quantity of the sauce and makes it spread more evenly over the rice cakes. The broth also adds some needed moisture to this dish and prevents the rice cakes from sticking or burning to the skillet. I like to use the kroger brand of veggie broth; it is light yet flavorful.
- Veggies + Protein of Choice: To add more substance to this dish and make it more filling, feel free to add veggies and some protein. I love adding bok choy and baked tofu. I just chop my extra firm tofu into cubes and then bake it at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
Process + Keys to Success
The best part about this dish is that it is so simple and quick to make. All you have to do is heat up some oil in a skillet over medium heat, and then toss in your garlic and scallions and sauté for about thirty seconds or so until the mixture is fragrant.
While you’re working on the sauce, make sure to have your water boiling so you can cook your rice cakes. There are a few different techniques for making rice cakes. I typically just follow the package instructions which say to boil the rice cakes for 3 minutes.
Keep in mind though that the rice cakes will also cook further in the sauce. So, make sure not to over-cook the rice cakes and to rinse them in cold water after you’ve drained them.
I also recommend mixing up all of your sauces: dark soy sauce, rice vinegar, sriracha, brown sugar, and veggie broth, in a separate bowl beforehand while you are prepping your ingredients. This way, you can easily toss the sauce mixture into your pan during the cooking process. Individually measuring out each sauce gets a little stressful and can make it easier for the mixture to burn.
Once your garlic and scallions are fragrant, add in your veggies and protein of choice. Stir fry these for about a minute. Then, add in your sauce and rice cakes. Cook the entire mixture for a few minutes on medium-high heat. Let the sauce thicken and absorb into the rice cakes. Once the sauce is fully absorbed, garnish with more scallions and serve. Add more sriracha or some chili garlic sauce if desired!
Shanghai Rice Cakes
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 tbsp chopped garlic
- 1/4 c scallions
- 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 1 tsp rice vinegar
- 1 tsp sriracha
- 1/2 tsp brown sugar
- 2 tbsp veggie broth
- 250 g rice cakes
- veggies and protein of choice (I like bok choy and tofu)
- Sauté garlic and scallions in oil for 30 seconds or so.
- Add in your veggies and tofu and stir fry for a minute or two.
- Boil rice cakes for 3 minutes (or according to package instructions).
- Add in your boiled rice cake and all sauces: soy, rice vinegar, sriracha, brown sugar, and veggie broth.
- Sauté everything together well until the rice cakes absorb all of the sauce.