Fried Nian Gao and Yam Dessert (Sticky Glutinous Rice Cake)

Monday, February 25, 2013

I don't often post a dessert recipe and I am glad to get this one up. 

There are all sorts of traditions, folklore and beliefs about nián gāo (粘 糕) or sticky glutinous rice cake and I will leave you to google or wikipedia it. 

All I know is that as a child, this sticky dessert was always around during CNY. Living in a row of terrace houses at Jalan 22/23 (Petaling Jaya), just a few doors away, there was a house which makes it. I could see stacks and stacks of it in their living room. And the glorious smell coming out of that house.... I can still remember that.

The thing about nián gāo is that on is own, it does not make for great eating. However it tastes great when fried with slices of yam and/or sweet potato.

Get a good quality nián gāo, which is less sweet. As for yam, get the powdery type if you can. Those who make yam cake often will recognize the different types of yam. Generally, those from Thailand are good. Ask your veg seller for advice.

Slice into squares (or whatever shape you like). Slice the yam or sweet potato and steam it for 4 minute. Sandwich the nián gāo in between two slices of yam.  

As for the batter, I use self-raising flour. water, table salt and a bit of Eno salt. The fizzy Eno will help to lighten and crisp the batter, doing what beer will do for the batter for fish and chips. This is the ratio flour : water : eno : salt - 1 : 1 : 0.1 : 0.1. Make sense? i.e. 5 Tbps of flour, 5 Tbps of water, 1tsp of Eno, 1 tsp of salt. Mix the them altogether (use fork or a beater), adding the Eno last. If you mix it together lightly, the fried batter will be more "stringy."It looks less tidy but makes for a great crunch. If you prefer good looks, smoothen the batter for a more regular result. Up to you. The batter is best prepared just before frying. It needs to be fresh. (By the way, these batter making principles apply for good Tempura too)

Set up a pan with some oil. When the oil is hot enough, dip the yam/nián gāo sandwich into the batter and pan fry till the batter is golden in color. About 1-2 minutes will suffice.

It is best eaten while it is warm. Now, you can choose to omit the yam. Just dip nián gāo in the batter and pan fry.

If you have bits and pieces of add shape nián gāo, you can also eat them coated with fresh diced coconut meat. Just microwave the nián gāo for 20-30 secs on medium heat. It will melt and become pliable. When cool, shape it roughly into smaller pieces and coat with the fresh coconut. This is a simple and quick snack.

Another way of eating it: Coating with fresh coconut 
Rather then having your nián gāo sit on the shelf and gather dust, this is one way to turn it into a delicious dessert.

As for the batter, you can of course use the recipe for goreng pisang (fried banana fritters) as well. I like the batter as it is crisp and light.

Do have some sticky fun doing something with your nián gāo.

Ingredients for the batter
Batter - this is a smoother variation
Pan frying
The Leaning Tower of nian gao

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  1. Now that looks so good and I think it can be made at home very easily.

  2. A Taiwanese colleague fried it with bean curb skin.

  3. Bean curd skin? Savory and sweet. Sounds good and interesting.