An important announcement to make before anything else: I’m featured in a food magazine! The January issue of nourish! magazine is now available for sale. I’m waiting for my own copy, but if you see one on the stand, do get one. It’s more than just an ordinary food magazine, I can promise you that.
With Chinese (Lunar) New Year around the corner, I’d like to share a few CNY related recipes. I’m not huge on celebrating the occasion anyway because all my family members are scattered around the country (and out of the country), but I do like to join in the fun by cooking/baking. The first recipe would be the sticky goodness that is synonymous with Chinese New Year itself: Nian Gao.
Nian Gao (年糕) or Chinese New Year’s Cake is an auspicious food item made during the Chinese (Lunar) New Year period. It has been around for more than 3000 years. There are many regional variations, even Korean and Japanese have their own versions but essentially this is made with glutinous rice and sugar. It’s believed that eating Nian Gao can bring us good luck because ‘Nian Gao’ is a homonym for “higher year”, thus symbolises promotions, prosperity or simply for kids: growing taller. Now that I don’t need to grow any taller, prosperity and progression in my career is what I wish for.
I’ve always thought that making Nian Gao is difficult due to the caramelised sugar. But turns out all you need is a little patience and a pair of watchful eyes. I’ve consulted my mum for the family recipe, and referred to Sonia’s recipe on her blog. The version I made is probably closest to Cantonese or Hokkien version. It’s simple, a little time consuming, but guaranteed to taste better than what you’ll get from the stores.
Makes three ramekins. Feel free to increase the ratio to 500:500:500 (or more)
350g Glutinous Rice flour
350g Sugar (I used 250g brown sugar and 100g caster sugar)
2 tablespoons peanut oil (you can use lard too, but no thanks for me)
3 Red Dates
Place glutinous rice flour, water, oil and 250g of sugar in a big bowl and stir to mix well.
In a small saucepan, add 100g caster sugar and cook until sugar is fully caramelised. You will need to watch it carefully once the sugar starts to melt and stir the sugar around to distribute the heat. Once ready, turn off the heat immediately and pour into the flour mixture. Stirring to combine and then pass through a sieve to remove any lumps.
Line the ramekins or steaming bowls with banana leaves. Pour the mixture to just below the brim. Steam on medium heat for 2 hours. Watch the water level and add more when needed. Place a red date on top of nian gao halfway through. You’ll know that it’s done when the surface is quite firm.
You can definitely enjoy it freshly steamed. The texture will be super gooey (I’ll admit that I stole a few spoonfuls).
It won’t be easy to unmold for the first couple of days or so. But after storing in the fridge for more than 5 days, it starts to firm up more. I took one of them out today to have a look.
The banana leaves peel off easily. And it’s suitable to be lightly pan fried with egg (you won’t be able to do this when it’s still fresh… it will just disintegrate into sticky sugar syrup). Pan frying with egg adds that extra savoury note and not to mention the crispy coating. I’ve been eating them this way since I was a child.
It’s really easy. You just cut a few slices off (either with kitchen string or knife), dip each slices in beaten egg, and pan fried both side until crispy. Remove from pan and drain on absorbent paper. Enjoy while hot!
Yes, it is indeed a little on the greasy side, but not less so than the deep fried version!
So, how’s your Chinese (Lunar) New Year preparation coming along?
I am submitting this post to Chinese New Year Delights 2013 hosted by Sonia aka Nasi Lemak Lover.