Chinese / Dessert

Nian Gao (Lunar New Year Glutinous Rice Cake)

Lunar New Year Glutinous Rice Cake- Yes to CookingLunar New Year is just around the corner and many families are getting ready to welcome an auspicious new year of good fortune and prosperity.  This year, we’re making Nian Gao (年糕) which is a glutinous rice cake traditionally served during Chinese New Year.  It is considered good luck to have Nian Gao because the name serves as a homonym for “higher, better year.”

This tried and true recipe comes from an Auntie of mine who has been gifting these rice cakes to family and friends for years.   Serve the steamed cake as is and served in thick slices. Another variety of serving this cake is to pan-fry the thick slices, after they have been coated in beaten egg.  When fried, the outside becomes slightly crispy while the inside still remains chewy.

From our kitchen to yours, wishing everybody a Happy Lunar New Year!

恭喜發財! 祝大家年年高升, 龍馬精神, 心想事成!

Time: 4.5 hours

450g (or 1 bag) glutinous rice flour
245g brown sugar
2 cups hot water
dried red dates (optional), washed and towel dried
1 tsp. oil

1) Oil all sides of a 8-inch round pan and set aside.
2) Break brown sugar into smaller pieces with the edge of a knife.  In a small bowl, dissolve the pieces in hot water.  Let mixture stand until completely cooled to room temperature.
3) In the meantime, prepare a large steamer pot with boiling water.
4) Place glutinous rice flour in a large bowl, and gradually add in half of the sugar water.  Knead with hands until a ball of dough can just be formed (Note: you may gradually add in more sugar water to form the dough).  Continue kneading dough for approximately 15 minutes.
5) Add in the remaining sugar water in 2 batches, while continuously kneading the dough.  After all the sugar water has been added, the consistency should be a runny paste.
6)Use a spatula to slowly cut into the paste.  This will help to remove any air bubbles.
7) Gently pour the paste into the prepared 8-inch round pan.  Tap the pan to bring any air bubbles to the top.  You may also use a toothpick to poke any air bubbles that are on the surface.
8) Place the pan in the steamer.  Reduce the heat to a small flame (the lowest possible flame to maintain a simmer) and steam for 4 hours.
9) Remove the cake from the steamer.  (Optional) At this time, decorate the top with a red date.
10) Lightly coat the top of the cake with oil and set aside to completely cool.  To remove the cake from the pan, gently pull at the sides of the cake to free it from the pan.

Nian Gao- Yes to Cooking

Nian Gao- Yes to Cooking

Lunar New Year Glutinous Rice Cake- Yes to Cooking

Lunar New Year Glutinous Rice Cake- Yes to Cooking

Lunar New Year- Yes to Cooking

Lunar New Year- Yes to Cooking

Lunar New Year Glutinous Rice Cake- Yes to Cooking

It is important to maintain a low flame while steaming the Nian Gao.  The low heat and slow steaming process ensures that water would not condense onto the top of the Nian Gao, which helps the top to remain nice and smooth.

13 thoughts on “Nian Gao (Lunar New Year Glutinous Rice Cake)

    • That’s a new way of eating it that I’ve never seen before! I usually just pan fry it, or eat it as is if the Nian Gao is fresh and hasn’t been refrigerated. But this new idea with the hot and cold sensation seems awesome! I will definitely try it out 🙂

    • Me too! Any sighting of these traditional lunar new year foods makes me think of my family 🙂

      Wishing you and your family a happy and prosperous new year!

    • If the rice cooker is large enough to fit the cake pan, then it should work. Just remember that you may need to refill the rice cooker with boiling water to maintain the water level and get consistent steaming. Hope that helps!

      • I started it out in the rice cooker but water was condensing on top of the cake. I took it out and used the grid that came with my rice cooker to hold things off the bottom in a small wok that has a good tight lid. That way I could put more water in at a time and control the heat better. I think the rice cooker was too hot. I can hardly wait to slice this up and dip it in egg/flour mixture and fry it for my Lunar New Year celebration on Friday with my first and second graders. Thanks so much for putting this recipe out here.

      • Yes, maintaining a low, consistent steaming temperature is key to avoiding the condensation. It’s great that you’re sharing this, since it can also teach the younger generation of different traditions/cultures!

        Happy Lunar New Year to you and your family!

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