Nian Gao is a traditional Chinese New Year dessert. It is a sticky rice cake which requires long hours (7 hours!) of steaming. It is eaten in Chinese New Year because its pronunciation is a homophone for “a more prosperous year, higher position, grow taller, etc, year after year”. For example, businesses to grow more prosper, working class people to go higher in their career path and for kids to grow taller.
I do have a baked version which takes less than 1 hour to make.
Nian Gao can be kept for a long time. It just need to be re-steamed to regain its soft texture.
For the golden syrup:
2 slices lemon
For the Nian Gao:
300g glutinous rice flour
4 tablespoons golden syrup
banana leaves or parchment papers for lining tins
To make the golden syrup, put all the ingredients into a pot. Bring it to a boil over high heat till the sugar dissolved. Turn to low heat. Cook for 50 minutes.
After 50 minutes, a thick golden syrup will be formed. Set aside to let it cool.
Line tins with banana leaves. I tried one with parchment paper. One lesson I learnt is that you need many layers of banana leaves so that the batter will not leak out during the steaming process and form some sticky cake outside the banana leaves.
If you are using parchment paper, use a few sheets to line. You have to use a whole sheet, i.e. without joints as the batter will leak out to the outside. I learnt it the hard way because I had a hard time taking the Nian Gao out from the tin due to the leakage.
To make the Nian Gao batter, combine the glutinous rice flour, sugar, golden syrup and water. Mix well, heat over low heat, until the flour and sugar completely dissolved.
Pour mixture into lined tins. Fill only 3/4 of the tin as the batter will rise during steaming. Arrange tins on steamer tray. Bring water in steamer to a boil, place tray into steamer. Line the steamer cover with a kitchen towel to prevent condensation water from dripping back onto the cake. Steam over medium low heat for 7 hours. Remember to top up the steaming water every 2 hours.
The Nian Gao will turn golden brown when it’s ready. Here, chowtimes wishes everyone a prosperous new year.