About Me

Whitefella Australian learning how to be gwai lo (鬼佬) in Hong Kong

Monday, February 7, 2011

Green Gourmet Nian Gao?

First ever Nian Gao
This post is in honour of my good friend Johanna, who has been diligently blogging the best of vegetarian and vegan cooking over at her blog since April 2007. Since that time she has blogged many hundreds of recipes, and become a damn good amateur food photographer into the bargain. Rarely a morsel seems to pass her lips (well, okay, perhaps the odd bowl of cereal) without it being blogged for posterity, and for the benefit of readers everywhere.
So this may be the first and last time I post a recipe, but Johanna, this one's for you. This being my first Chinese New Year living in Hong Kong, I wanted to try and embrace some of the traditions of the place, and where better to start than food. I've been seeing lots of Year Cake, aka Nian Gao (年糕) being sold in shops - and often they had samples to taste! Apparently it is traditional to cook this after the evening meal on New Year's Eve (this year 2nd February) with your family.
So even though M was tired and wanted to sleep, after a big day down in Central, I twisted her arm to make her come and at least watch while I made my own version of Nian Gao. There seem to be almost as many versions of this as there are people in China, so I have felt free to give it my own twists, always trying to stick within the New Year theme. My Nian Gao is probably closer to the Guangdong () style, which is appropriate, as I am in a Cantonese-speaking town.
Given the very limited kitchen equipment we brought to this country, the most creativity went into working out exactly how I could make it with what I had. Traditionally it would be cooked in a small cake tin, which is then steamed within a wok. I currently don't have a wok or a cake tin, at least not one that will fit within any of the pans we have. So, I got my metal sieve, lined it with a clean tea towel, which I then lined with some baking paper, wrapped it all up, and steamed it within one of the saucepans, with only a little steam escaping out of the sides! It actually worked beautifully, as you can see, and made for almost a Christmas-pudding shaped creation.
So how did I make it? I took a cup of boiling water, and dissolved about 3/4 cup of sugar in the water (add more or less, depending on your taste. Then add glutinous rice flour ( it needed about 4 cups of flour, but just add until it is a reasonable firm consistency). Then add dried fruit and/or nuts. I used various festive things that are being sold for Chinese New Year, like fresh cumquats (I removed the seeds and pith, and chopped the rind into it), a few cashews, chopped, some dates (these seem to be the most traditional), a few sultanas, and some crystallized sweet potato, coconut, lotus seeds and things that are all being sold as New Year delicacies at the moment. They all worked well, so add what you like. If the dates are too dry, I would advocate soaking them, but why would you be using old dried-up dates anyway, rather than yummy fresher ones? I also added 1/2 teaspoon of cardomon (because I like it), and  1 egg, beaten, because a few of the recipes I looked at seemed to have eggs in, though many didn't. Steam for 50 minutes or until a knife inserted in the centre comes out dry (it may take longer). Some recipes add vegetable oil, or similar, though I don't know what this would add to the recipe. It can be served cold, or heated up, often by slicing it, and gently heating the slices in a frying pan. Perhaps I'll go and have a piece now...

1 comment:

  1. Happy New Year Yaz and thanks for my virtual slice of cake (and your kind words) - wish I could share it with you but might just have to try making it another year