Kung Hei Fat Choy! Happy Chinese New Year everyone! What did you all do to celebrate? Since most of my family is overseas at the moment, I just had dinner with family and relatives at our place on the weekend. We've never been too traditional when it comes to celebrating Chinese New Year - there is no extensive cleaning of the house prior to the day, no buying of new clothes or getting haircuts, and no new year temporary vegetarianism. There is however, lots and lots of food and the giving and receiving of red packets.
Though my family doesn't engage in a lot of Chinese New Year festivities or practices, I've been lucky enough to be introduced to some of the more delicious ones through friends. A few years ago, Queen Chu introduced me to Chinese New Year's Cake (nian gao or neen gow). This is a sweet and sticky glutinous rice cake which is an auspicious food at Chinese New Year since the word 年糕 sounds similar to "high year", symbolising an advance towards higher achievements and increasing prosperity each year.
I had a go at making my own this year and found it was surprisingly easy to make with very few steps (most of it was just waiting time). You can eat it as is but I like to pan fry it by itself, or dip it into some beaten egg and pan fry it. This not only warms it up but makes it deliciously crispy on the edges while retaining a soft, pasty texture on the inside. During Chinese New Year, it's usually served alongside other similar yum cha dishes such as radish cake and taro cake.
Chinese New Year Cake (recipe from here)
1 cup water
200g brown sugar in pieces (片糖)
80ml (1/3 cup) coconut cream30g oil, plus extra for greasing
200g glutinous rice flour (糯米粉)
70g wheat starch (澄麵粉) (I omitted this since I didn't have any and it turned out fine; it just makes the texture a bit more chewy)
1. Bring water to the boil in a saucepan and add the brown sugar. Stir until completely dissolved, then add the coconut cream and 30g oil and stir. Strain through a fine sieve and leave to cool.
2. Sift the glutinous rice flour and wheat starch twice together, then gradually add to the cooled sugar mixture. Stir constantly as you add in the flour until it is well combined. You may need to use a whisk to get rid of all the lumps of flour but try not to incorporate too much air into the mixture. If you want a very smooth batter, strain through a sieve again.
3. Pour batter into a greased 5 inch cake mould (I used 3 smaller moulds about 10cm in diameter) about 3/4 of the way up. Transfer to a wok filled with boiling water and steam on a rack covered for about 60 minutes. To obtain a smooth surface, place a piece of baking paper on top of the moulds so that water droplets don't touch the surface of the cake. It's difficult to tell when it's cooked through because the cake is sticky and will stick to a skewer inserted through the centre even when cooked; as long as you can't taste raw flour then the cake is ready.
4. Remove from steamer and allow to cool. Place in the fridge for 3 hours or overnight to solidify it - this will make it easier to unmould and slice. To serve with egg, whisk one egg and dunk slices of the cake into it before placing on a frying pan. Fry on medium heat until both sides are brown.