Thursday, January 12, 2012

Nian Gao Recipe-Fish Shaped

Hello everybody,

This year, Chinese New Year (the year of the Dragon!) falls on Jan 23rd, 2012, which is fast and furious, coming on the heels of Christmas and the holiday season. I am very excited to welcome this year with our new line of nian gao molds at

Nian Gao, or Chinese New Year cake, is made from glutinous rice flour. It is now enjoyed year round but is traditionally popular during Chinese New Year. You will hear nian gao sometimes called “rice cakes.” It is considered good luck to eat Nian Gao during Chinese New Year because “nian gao” is a homonym for a “higher year.” It carries the symbolism of rising higher in the coming year.

Why the symbol of rising higher? Well, I suppose, we all have to start somewhere. When I first started blogging, the food photography was so atrocious that I questioned if anybody would want to read it. The quick answer was, no. My old blog in 2006 rarely had any visitors, except for my sister and family members. Then, we would laugh at the terrible pictures together. 

Fast forward to now, and I feel that I have gotten a handle on blogging. Our blog has been featured in the Top 10 section of Foodbuzz a few times, and I feel that I am now blogging at a "higher" level than than where I started. That is exactly the kind of improvement that a nian gao ritual is supposed to emulate.  HIGHER, more achievement, improvement. But it is never JUST about an achievement, it is what you have had to overcome in order to achieve something.  To me, an achievement is not an achievement unless it is accompanied by overcoming something, rising up to a challenge, crossing a chasm- all leading to an improvement.  Nian gao is a yearly reminder of this, to rise higher, overcome and to improve. 

A lot of people think that nian gao is hard to make.  But, again, it is one of those things that because we are used to buying it, we never think that it would be easy to make at home.  I have made it easy for you.  Whether you are looking to make a few nian gao shapes, a big batch to give away to friends, or because it is unavailable where you live, I hope you will give this recipe a try.

Rise higher in the New Year!

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200g or (1-1/2 cup + 1/3 cup) Glutinous Rice Flour
100g or (1 Cup) Wheat Starch (aka Ungluten Wheat Flour, or Tang Mien Fung)
20g or (1/4 Cup) Rice Flour
160 g or (3/4 Cup) Sugar
400 ml or (14 Fl oz or 1 Can) Coconut Milk
150 ml water
1 tbsp vegetable oil (I used peanut oil)
Vegetable oil (For greasing the mold)
2 Black Kidney Beans (For the "eyes" of the fish)

1) In a large bowl, sieve together the glutinous rice flour, wheat starch and rice flour.
2) In a sauce pan, add 150 ml of water. Combine the sugar and heat on medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. This will yield a simple syrup.  Set this aside to cool to room temperature.
3) Add the can of coconut milk to the sieved flour mixture and stir to mix.
4) Next, add in the simple syrup solution and oil into the flour mixture. Fold quickly with a spatula. The batter will be quite liquid, but do not overmix.
5) Remove 1 cup of the white batter. Tint this 1 cup with orange food coloring.  (You can mix orange food coloring by combining red and yellow primary colors- Add about 6 drops of each color- more if you want to achieve a more saturated color).
6) Grease the fish mold by rubbing a little oil on a piece of paper towel and then rubbing the surface of the mold.
7) Using a small teaspoon, add the orange color to the "dorsal fin" of the fish, side fins and tail.

8) Gently add the white mixture, slowly pouring on top of the orange color mixture.

9) Steam on gentle steam for 40 mins.
10) Insert black beans into the eye areas.

Note: The plastic mold can withstand temperatures up to 120C. Steam is 100C. It is important not to let the mold come in direct contact with metal. It is better to steam using a water bath.

Unmolding Tips:
Let the nian gao cool completely or even overnight before attempting to remove it.   Remove the "fish" with the end tail, carefully supporting it and peeling the rest of the body away from the mold.  If the mold has been greased properly, the release should be perfect. 

It is best to make the fish nian gao the night before you plan to present it.  If stored in the fridge, the fish may crack.  In most circumstances, it is ok to store the nian gao at room temperature for up to 2 days.
This recipe will yield 1 fish, with some batter left over.

Final note: This finished steamed "nian gao" is not ready for serving. To serve, cut up the nian gao in 1/2 cm deep pieces, batter it with egg and flour and pan fry it.  The instructions will come separately in a different post.

Source: Do what I like Blog + With detailed tips by Julie

Resources: Nian Gao Fish Mold

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