Nian gao is a popular Chinese New Year dessert. It is considered good luck to eat nian gao during this time because nian gao is a homonym for "higher year." The Chinese word 粘 (nián), meaning "sticky", is identical in sound to 年, meaning "year", and the word 糕 (gāo), meaning "cake" is identical in sound to 高, meaning "high or tall". As such, eating nian gao has the symbolism of raising oneself taller (do better) in each coming year (年年高升 niánnián gāoshēng).
It is also believed that nian gao was an offering to the Kitchen God. He would eat it until his mouth is stuck with the sticky cake and he cannot badmouth the human's family to the God of all Gods.
There are many ways you can serve nian gao, traditionally it is sandwiched with taro or yam and deep fried. However, my favorite way of eating it is really simple and requires NO deep frying - simply pan fried until the outer layer is crisp while still sticky and soft inside, and then coating it with freshly grated coconut. The nian gao used in this recipe is courtesy of Hilton KL. For the past two years, they have presented us with carp nian gao for the occasion. They're not too sweet and texture is just nice.
I like to pan fry the nian gao with a teeny bit of salted butter, to give it a tinge of saltiness which will go well with the sweet cake and freshly grated coconut. How long you pan fry it depends on how "cold" and "hard" your nian gao is after taking out of the fridge and also how thick you slice it, but as a general rule, 2 minutes each side or until the nian gao looks soft. This is best served warm, but it always disappears really quickly off the plate as it is really good.
Have you got a favorite way of eating niao gao? Do share. :)
Pan fried nian gao with freshly grated coconut
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 10-15 minutes
350g nian gao
1 tbsp butter
1/3 grated coconut
1. Remove nian gao from fridge, and cut into thin slices. I usually slice them about 1 cm thick.
2. Heat some of the butter in a frying pan over medium low heat. The butter should just be enough to coat the pan. You may need to cook them in several batches.
3. Place the nian gao in the pan, without overlapping. Cook for 2 minutes each side, there will be "bubbles" forming on the skin - this is normal and will give the nian gao the "crisp" texture.
4. Remove from pan and repeat with remaining nian gao until all are cooked. Serve immediately with freshly grated coconut.
* I am submitting this post to Chinese New Year Delights 2013 hosted by Sonia aka Nasi Lemak Lover.
*This recipe was featured on Asian Food Channel's Facebook page on 1 February 2013.