Our family has embarked on virtual travels to various countries and regions. To explore these countries and their cultures, we have followed along with the festivals, cooked and eaten traditional foods, learned of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves. Chronicled here are some of these activities.

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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Recipe - Nian Gao

You can find all our posts on Chinese New Year HERE
Photo Credit: Choo Yut Shing
Nian Gao, or sticky rice cake, means new year cake, and rhymes with "higher year", therefore symbolizes reaching your dreams and ambitions. In traditional households, they are placed around the house throughout the new year season as "weights", to ensure solidity in the coming year. They are also offered to the Kitchen God, as a bribe for a favorable report, or sticky deterrent to an unfavorable report.

We followed the recipe found at The Asian Grandmother's Cookbook which corresponds with the various recipes I have found. We did prepare it in a slightly different way - rather than making one large cake, we made smaller ones that fit in ramekins. We also lined our ramekins with banana leaves, for a more traditional look. Having said that, I forgot to purchase peen tong (Chinese brown/black candy) and had to use the substitution of brown sugar.

One banana leaf is as tall as Elle!

Banana Leaves & Glutinous Rice Flour from out local Asian Grocery
Banana leaves are not edible

 As a substitute for the peen tong, I used 2/3 cup of brown sugar, and let it dissolve and cool in 1 cup of boiling water. While it cooled, I washed the banana leaf (one is more than sufficient), and cut it in strips. I layered two strips of banana leaf for each ramekin, so that all sides were covered. I poured the sugar syrup into the flour, and kneaded. You will need to use your hands for this, it gets quite thick (As I'm writing this, I see that I forgot to add the extra cold water the recipe calls for...). Eventually you will have a solid mass (especially if you forget the extra water). Press some down into each ramekin - the recipe makes enough for four. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and a little bit of oil, and they are ready to steam. I used our stackable bamboo steamers, and was able to steam two at a time. Leave overnight before tasting.

We haven't tried one yet, but did offer one to the Kitchen God. I have read, repeatedly, that the cake tastes much better when sliced, battered and reheated. You can take a few slices, steam for 5-10 minutes until soft, and immediately coat in shredded coconut, or dip slices in beaten egg and fry.
Nian Gao sold at market stall
Photo Credit: Choo Yut Shing


We finally got around to tasting our Nian Gao - first, with a small slice just as is, and it tasted alright. We enjoyed it much more when battered and fried - Pea asked for seconds and thirds. I beat one egg, into which I added a little sugar (1/2 tsp). Dipped the slices of Nian Gao into the egg, and fried in a frying pan coated with peanut oil. This brought out the sweetness, and the texture was nice and gooey.

You can find more cultural activities at the Culture Swapper linkup:

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