Nian Gao: Chinese New Year's Rice Cake

Impress your New Year’s Eve guests with these beautiful rice cakes!

Nian Gao is enjoyed year round, but it’s traditionally popular during Chinese New Year. It is believed to bring good luck, because “nian gao” sounds like “year high”. So it symbolizes rising higher in the new year. And fish is popular because it sounds like surplus in Chinese (“yu”). So if you want to rise and shine with an abundance of wealth, then be sure to eat this New Year’s rice cake! ;) The great thing is that it’s beautiful, yet super easy to make!

It’s best to prepare the rice cake the night before you plan to present it.

Preparation time: 40 minutes

Ingredients for 18 pieces:

  • 200g glutinous rice flour
  • 100g low-gluten wheat flour
  • 25g rice flour
  • 160-180g sugar
  • 400ml coconut milk
  • 150ml water
  • 1 Tbsp corn oil
  • Orange and black food coloring

Kitchen tools:

  • Fish-shaped molds

How to make it

Boil water with sugar and let it cool off. In the meantime, sieve all flour together in a mixing bowl. Add coconut milk and stir well. Add the sugar water and oil to the flour mixture. Place half of the batter in a separate bowl and add a little bit of orange food coloring to this bowl.

Grease the fish mold with a bit of oil. Drip the food coloring in the parts that you want in orange. Fill the “eyes” of the fish with black food coloring. Steam it for 3 minutes. Then add the batter and steam it for 30 minutes on high heat. Note: don’t let the mold come in direct contact with metal. Instead, steam using a water bath.

Repeat until you finish all the batter. Don’t use the mold to steam for hours. Stick to the 30-minute limit, then let the mold cool off. Let the nian gao cool off in the mold overnight at room temperature. Don’t store it in the fridge, because the fish might crack.

The next day, remove the fish with the end tail, carefully support it and peel the rest of the body away from the mold. Place the fish on the serving plate directly. Don’t move it from plate to plate, as the fish will crack.

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