Cantonese Cha Guo Delight: A Journey Through Taste and Tradition

An Introduction to Cha Guo

The delightful Cantonese Cha Guo, frequently referred to as “tea cakes”, are culinary wonders crafted from glutinous rice flour. Inside these treats, there’s an alluring filling of dried shiitake mushrooms, dried shrimp, and fresh daikon radish.

The Hakka Legacy

These flavorful cha guo rice cakes hold a special place in the hearts of the Hakka Chinese community, known as kè jiā, translating to “guest families”.

A Nostalgic Bite

Imagine a young me, gleefully clutching a cha guo in one hand and festive red envelopes in the other. The very taste of these cakes stirs cherished memories of vibrant Chinese New Year celebrations, intimate family gatherings, and the yearly excitement of those lucky envelopes. This dish, once a cornerstone of our traditions, seems to slowly fade with time, cherished by only a few.

Rediscovering a Family Gem

Recreating the perfect cha guo meant piecing together snippets of advice from my elders, sifting through childhood kitchen memories, and countless experimental batches. Finally, as the Lunar New Year approached, I refined this age-old recipe. Now, another beloved dish finds its place in our family cookbook.

Precision is key. Hence, I recommend a digital kitchen scale for accurate measurements, ensuring a consistent delightful taste.

Join me, as we recreate this taste from the past.


For the Wrap:

  • Bamboo Leaves (zong): 6 pieces (Alternate: Parchment paper cut into 24 4-inch squares)

For the Filling:

  • Dried Shiitake Mushrooms: 5 pieces (approx. 15g)
  • Dried Shrimp: 1 ounce (25g)
  • Vegetable Oil: 5 tablespoons (75ml, keep some aside)
  • Ground Pork: 4 ounces (115g)
  • Shaoxing Wine: 2 teaspoons (10ml)
  • Freshly Grated Daikon Radish: 24 ounces (680g)
  • Finely Chopped Scallions: 2
  • Seasonings: 1/2 tsp sesame oil, 2 tbsp oyster sauce, 2 1/4 tsp salt (split), ½ tsp sugar, 1/8 tsp white pepper

For the Dough:

  • Glutinous Rice Flour: 5 cups (600g, with a bit extra for rolling)
  • All-Purpose Flour: 1 cup (125g)
  • Tapioca Starch: 1/3 cup (35g)
  • Boiling Water: 2 cups (470ml)


  • Toasted Sesame Seeds

The Creation Process:

  1. Preparation of Bamboo Leaves: Submerge zong leaves in water and soak them overnight. Clean them and then segment each leaf into four 3- to 4-inch squares. Parchment paper works as an excellent substitute if bamboo leaves are unavailable.
  2. Rehydration: Place shiitake mushrooms in hot water, ensuring they’re covered, for about 30 minutes. Remove and dice the mushrooms, keeping the soaking water aside. Similarly, hydrate the dried shrimp in hot water, rinse, and chop them finely.
  3. Cooking the Filling: In a wok or frying pan, heat the vegetable oil on medium-low. Reserve about 2 tablespoons of this heated oil for later. Toss in the dried shrimp until aromatic. Introduce the ground pork until it turns whitish, followed by the mushrooms and Shaoxing wine. Incorporate the grated daikon radish, scallions, and the mentioned seasonings. Let it simmer gently until the radish softens. Mix cornstarch with the mushroom water, avoiding any sediment. Add this to the pan and cook till the mixture thickens. Let it cool.
  4. Dough Creation: In a sizeable mixing bowl, blend the flours and starch. Slowly pour in boiling water, mixing continuously. Once cool to touch, knead this mixture into a dough, adding extra rice flour if it’s too tacky. Allow the dough to rest for about 20 minutes.
  5. Shaping Cha Guo: Divide the dough into 24 portions. Flatten each to form a disc, ensuring the disc’s edges are slightly thinner. Place a set amount of filling in the center of each disc, making sure there are no air gaps. Carefully seal each disc and ensure the filling is well-encased.
  6. Steaming: Lightly oil a zong leaf or parchment square with the reserved oil. Place a filled disc on it and press gently to flatten a bit. Arrange these in a bamboo or metal steamer, keeping some space between each. Steam for about 10 minutes.
  7. Finishing Touch: Once out of the steamer, sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds on each cha guo and lightly brush with the reserved oil.
  8. Serve and Store: Enjoy these delectable cakes warm. If saving for later, cool them completely, layer with plastic or parchment paper, and freeze.

Culinary Tip:

Remember, the prep duration doesn’t account for the bamboo leaves’ soaking time.


Each bite of these delectable tea cakes is a trip down memory lane, wrapped in layers of tradition, love, and culinary excellence. Happy eating!

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