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Cook up a storm #6: New Year Cake (Nian Gao)

Cook up a storm #6: New Year Cake (Nian Gao)

Traditionally prepared with pounded glutinous rice and water, the New Year Cake, or nian gao (or leen gou in Cantonese) is one Chinese New Year treat that can be enjoyed either sweet or savoury form.

This versatile dish can be easily adapted to suit one’s taste and that is exactly what Madam Choy has done in her book, Madam Choy’s Cantonese Recipes—she even throws in gula melaka and fresh coconut milk, to put a local spin to the nian gao. 

Note: Madam Choy used to line the cake tins with banana leaves, but the batter would leak, so she switched to plastic sheets instead. 


Makes 3 cakes

What you need
Gula Melaka, 400g
Water, 2 cups (400 ml)
Glutinous rice flour, 600g
Castor sugar, 200g
Coconut milk, 1 tbs
Round tins, 10cm diameter, 5cm deep (lined with plastic sheets cut from plastic bags), 3

How to make
Dissolve the gula melaka in 2 cups of simmering water in a pot over medium heat. When all the sugar has dissolved, pour the liquid through a sieve to remove the impurities.

Mix the coconut milk with the gula melaka liquid to make about 3 cups of liquid.

Place flour into a large pot. Add a tablespoon of sugar and mix well. Add the coconut milk ½ cup at a time and stir after each addition until smooth. The final mixture should be quite thick but can still be poured.

Pour the batter into the prepared tins about 80 percent full. Steam over medium low heat for 4 hours.

Cool completely before removing from the container. Trim the edge of the cake and the plastic sheet, wrap tightly and keep in the fridge.

To serve, cut into ½ cm thick slices, steam to warm through, coat with grated coconut and serve.


If you're interested in this and other heritage dishes, check out in the Heritage Cookbooks series, which includes Madam Choy's Cantonese Recipes, along with others such as Uncle Anthony’s Hokkien Recipes, Madam Krishnan's South Indian Recipes, Robin's Eurasian Recipes and Irene’s Peranakan Recipes. 

Cookbook offer! Order any Epigram cookbook and get 20% OFF. Offer ends Feb 12. Get them here.

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