This is a blog about how to make Nian gao a quick and easy method at home. It simply means New year’s cake in Chinese. It is normally served during the Chinese New Year. Also, it is eaten all over most Chinese communities and is not just a regional dish. Once someone said Chinese New Year must-have it.
Traditionally it is made from white sugar, water, and glutinous rice. The glutinous rice is soaked overnight to soften then it is blended down to a fine-grained/ powdered form. It needs a special machine to do this. Then white sugar is added blended in nicely. Then it is steamed overnight so to caramelize the sugar naturally on a low heat charcoal stove. Cooking for a long time also requires a lot of attention to the heat and the stove.
Nian gao quick and easy method
Nowadays, due to time constraints, one can easily make it at home in a much less short time. The taste is not affected by this method. It can be kept in the fridge for 1-2 weeks. Otherwise, it will go moldy. It can be kept in the freezer for much longer something like 3-6 months or even longer.
If banana leaves can not be obtained many use alternatives like baking parchment. Banana leaves are much more of a South East Asian Nian Gao style. Many don’t use banana leaves at all. I use ramekin pots for steaming as it fits easily into the steamer. Feel free to use another size like an aluminum pan or even old tin cans as long it fits into the steamer.
It is best eaten when steamed with some desiccated or raw grated coconut flesh. Otherwise, it is great served as a sandwich with sweet potato and taro. It is then fried in an egg batter. The soft gooey texture of heated up nian gao goes with the taro and sweet potato.
Nian gao is also used for the altar for prayers during Chinese Festival time. It is so the nian gao can be left outside and if it goes moldy or bad don’t eat it.
Nian gao (chinese new year cake)
- ramekin pot, aluminium baking tray, used tin cans
- aluminium foil
- 300 grams glutinous rice flour
- 300 grams water
- 200 grams dark brown sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla essence or pandan leaves/ essence (optional)
- a few banana leaves
Mix the nian gao batter
Mix the batter ingredients together.
Before mixing the batter prepare the tins by lining the tins or containers with banana leaves. Soften the banana leaves first if using fresh ones or the banana leaves is too stiff to mold. This with mold the shape of nian gao
Cooking nian gao
Once everything is ready heat up the steamer. Pour the batter into the containers or pans. Then steam it for about 1 hour on medium to low heat. Cover it with aluminium foil so that the moisture from water vapour don't get on the surface. In return, this will make the nian gao moldy. The Nian gao is ready when it changes colour, when it batter becomes transluscent.