Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy Chinese New Year!

Gung hay fat choy (congratulations and be prosperous)! Today is Chinese New Year, the start of the Year of the Ox.

I'm very pleased with myself, because this is the first year in a long time that I remembered the holiday before it happened, and was able to stock up on a few traditional New Year foods and snacks to celebrate the day.

New Year was the primary Chinese cultural tradition my family practiced. I vividly recall large gatherings of family and friends, vast amounts of delicious Chinese food, receiving money in red envelopes from grandparents, and the traditional lion dance and firecracker celebration. Chinese really do know how to ring in their New Year.

Another memory I have is the nian gao, the sticky rice cake dessert traditionally served during Chinese New Year. Nian gao is given to family and friends; the stickiness is believed to symbolize the holding or binding together of family. Also, because of its round shape and sweet taste, it is said to bring good fortune and sweetness to one's life.

Nian gao is traditionally steamed for 4-5 hours, but there are also the baked and microwaved varieties. I used a quick, microwaved version from my mother. It was so simple to make - just mix the ingredients, and pop in the microwave! Surprisingly, this gao had just the right taste, color and consistency, and reminded me of the dessert I grew up with.

Nian Gao
1 pound dark brown sugar
2 cups water, boiling
1 pound mochiko (glutinous rice flour)
1 12-ounce can coconut milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
sesame seeds, toasted

Dissolve brown sugar in boiling water. Stir in mochiko gradually. Add coconut milk and oil, and beat to smooth out ingredients. Pour mixture into a greased 8-cup microwave dish. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Microwave on HIGH for 18 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with sesame seeds. Let stand uncovered for about 30 minutes. Pull gao from sides of dish and invert onto a platter.

18 comments:

  1. Oh, the red envelopes! I've always felt strongly that red envelopes of money should be incorporated into the January 1st New Year as well!

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  2. happy new year! and nian gao sounds delicious!

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  3. Your gao is delicious! Definitely something our little guy on the way will be enjoying this time every year. (Not to mention the li see...)

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  4. wow never heard of a microwave recipe for gao. Will try this recipe one day thanks!

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  5. that looks SO good. i wish i had thought of it and bought some when i was in chinatown on saturday.

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  6. I love nian gao! I got my mom to bring me some when they came over for the 'end of the year' dinner this past weekend! I also tried the baked variety the same day. It was a lovely day for my Chinese tummy :) Hope your little guy is enjoying his little share from inside your tummy, too!

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  7. Larissa, thank you very much for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment. I came to see yours here:) Nice blog. Nian gao sounds very interesting. I don't think I've ever tried anything like this before. Sounds yummy!

    Happy New Year to you!

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  8. I made the version with the yams this year. It let's me justify eating it all day long because it's "healthy."

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  9. update: i couldn't help myself. after reading your post last night, i drove over to chinatown and bought me one. and then fried it and ate it with will. i was savoring every bite. ;P

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  10. Bad, bad, bad ME! I did not remember, and only when I noticed the cartoon ox dancing around the top of Yahoo's homepage did I realize how sucky my memory is compared to that of an elephant.

    I wish I had been in Honolulu to celebrate this. I'm sure it was not as cold as it is here!

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  11. I haven't had Nian Gau in over 10 years. The gau I had growing up was always moist and chewy, like mochi. But when I make it, it becomes rock hard after. What am I doing wrong? lol.

    Thanks for the recipe!!!

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  12. Nicole, hmmm...usually hard gau is the result of either too high of a cooking temperature, or possibly needing to increase the liquid. Every time I make gao, it seems to turn out a bit differently every time!

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  13. I just found your site and am going to try your pretzel and gao recipies.

    Thank you!

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  14. How do you store the gao after finishing? In a tupperware?

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  15. Yes, store in an airtight container at room temperature. Don't refrigerate, or it will harden!

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