Sunday, January 27, 2013

Recipe: Pan Fried Nian Gao with Grated Coconut

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
Serves 4-6

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.


  1. Very nice presentation! I love to pan fry the nian gao too and also steam together with grated coconut .

  2. Not a fan of that. We usually deep-fry it, coated with egg. Still don't like it much. I find it hard to swallow...

  3. I just love pan-fried nian gao ! Love your presentation as well :D

  4. I adore nian gao! I love it when it's nice and crispy on the edges! :D

  5. The nian ago sounds good, never had it with coconut before.

  6. Huh Yen, I prefer the steam version.... healthier reason. :)

  7. Back at home, we have nian GAO sandwiched with yam or sweet potato.This way of eating nian GAO always taste good!

  8. nice lesson about the background of nian gao. i'm a bad chinese, i didn't know all its history or meaning/significance, heh :D

  9. Very simple dish to cook ehh!! Butter , nian gao and \grated coconut, that's it!!! ;P But I still prefer to sandwich with yam and sweet potato leh!;P

  10. My mum used to steam it, then put grated coconut on top. I told Mr Mah I will to make that for him to try; that was since few years ago till now....hahahaha

  11. You know my favourite way of eating it: pan fried with egg! I've never tried it deep fried with yam and potato.

  12. Pan-fried nian go is how we eat it too! Except with dip it in egg first..I like it most when it's cooled down just a little bit so that it's slightly chewier =)

  13. Nian Gao taste the best served like that!

  14. I have never heard of nian go and am very cuirous to know what is it made of? Looks very tempting!


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