~ Pan-fried Steamed Nian Gao (Chinese New Year Sweet & Sticky Glutinous Rice Flour Cake) ~
Nian Gao is commonly known to me as Nin Gou in Cantonese as I inherited food terminologies from my mum, who got it from her late mum, my late grandmother, a Cantonese. It is a type of sticky cake that is made and served during the Chinese New Year festival. There are 2 cooking processes required to enjoy the final product. Preparing Nin Gou from scratch to being served involves 2 cooking processes as follows :
- steam for long hours till cooked and keep till firm and
- steam, pan-fry or deep-fry (just to name a few) in the form and flavour, with or without the combination with other ingredients, of choice.
So, I have my Nin Gou cooked twice! Different ethnic group have different tradition in consuming Nin Gou. Therefore, there are really a vast variety of ways on how the basic steamed Nin Gou can be eaten. Some might even ditch right in immediately after they were steamed and completely sticky!
I consider myself the generation which do not fancy so much of traditional delicacies or “kuih-muih” but Nin Gou is a once a year, must have. In the previous years when I celebrated Chinese New Year at either my parents in law or my parents’ hometown, there is no preparation required at home for the festive season. Ever since I have a young child where travelling is not as convenient during the peak season, I thought I must insist on some of the Chinese New Year customary at our own home. With a child at her curious pre-schooler age, I intend to introduce Nin Gou as one of the many good ways to educate her on the Chinese New Year festivity food custom and culture.
Nin Gou is typically consumed on the second day of Chinese New Year, known as “Kai Nian” in Mandarin and “Hoi Nin” in Cantonese. This is because Nin Gou is offered in prayers for many ethnic groups on that day. For family like mine which practises simplicity, it does not really matter. Regardless, it is such an amazing snack or tea time idea for the festival as we can prepare the basic block 1-2 weeks or longer before the holiday comes when time is more preciously spent on meeting friends and family for many other possible activities, rather than cooking in the kitchen for long hours. When all eateries are closed or when you are busy hosting guests at home, the basic firmed block of Nin Gou can be harvested on Chinese New Year day with minimal cooking to be enjoyed together. It is saviour when tummies are growling during the holiday season.
I keep my Nin Gou over a long time, from as short as 3 days to as long as 3 months, in the refrigerator. If they happen to be mouldy on the surface, usually by the end of 3rd day or from the 4th day onwards, I will discard the mouldy part by cutting them off, clean the Nin Gou block under running tap water and consume the rest. After all, we do not consume steamed Nin Gou as is. The simplest way to prepare them in our family’s practise is to slice them thinly, coat them with beaten egg and pan-fry with little oil. This is the method that I am sharing in this recipe. For any other methods on how you may consume Nin Gou, feel free to explore! There are countless ways.
By the way, glutinous rice flour has very low amylose content with tightly packed molecular structure making it difficult to digest. Therefore, it is not recommended to eat too much Nin Gou at a time. Be cautious on what you feed yourself and your family during this very merry festive season where family and friends gather and have lots of fun and laughter.
Pan-fried Steamed Nian Gao (Sweet & Sticky Glutinous Rice Flour Cake) Recipe (Yield 8 AMC Magic Bowls/8.8cm Diameter Ramekin Bowls) :
A. Steamed Ingredients :
- 500 grams Glutinous Rice Flour
- 1 tablespoon Oil
- 350 grams Red Date Brown Sugar
- 10 pieces Pandan/ Screwpine Leaves (cut 2 inches)
- 500ml Water (to melt brown sugar)
- 1 pack Banana Leaves, may vary depending on quality of banana leaves. (to line Magic Bowls)
- 1 litre Water (to soften banana leaves)
- 200ml Water (to steam Nin Gou batter)
B. Pan-fried Ingredients :
- 2 blocks Steamed & Firmed Nin Gou (cut into 8mm thin slices)
- 1 Egg (beaten)
- 3/4 Cooking Oil
AMC Healthy Cooking Method :
A. Preparing the Nin Gou Syrup
- With an AMC 20 cm 3.0 litre Pot, bring brown sugar, pandan leaves and water to boil. Switch on Navigenio to automatic mode, “A”. Turn on Audiotherm, place on knob, indicating “Carrot Window”or 80°C and set 30 minutes to simmer.
- When Audiotherm beeps, turn off both Navigenio & Audiotherm. Set aside brown sugar syrup to cool.
B. Lining the AMC Magic Bowls
- Meanwhile, wash banana leaves with care under running tap water to clean. Place banana leaves vertically into an AMC 24cm 8.0 litre Pot and cover with a Dome Lid. Switch on Navigenio to automatic mode, “A”. Turn on Audiotherm, place on knob, indicating “Carrot Window” or 80°C and set 2 minutes to soften banana leaves.
- When Audiotherm beeps, turn off both Navigenio & Audiotherm. Remove the banana leaves from pot and place on a large cloth to pad-dry.
- Cut and line then banana leaves into the AMC Magic Bowls (8.8cm diameter ramekin bowls). Handle the leaves with gentle hands as they break easily.
C. Steaming the Nin Gou
- Mix glutinous rice flour into the syrup prepared in A above. Ensure they are well incorporated until there are no lumps in the mixture. Pour the mixture into the ramekin bowls. Strain if necessary to remove lumpy mixture.
- In an AMC 24cm 6.5 litre Pot, add 200ml of water to the Pot unit, place the ramekins bowls at the bottom and stack up the second layer of ramekin bowls on top layer separated by a tripod. Cover Pot unit with the AMC Secuquick Softline lid. Switch on Navigenio to automatic mode, “A”. Turn on Audiotherm, place on knob, indicating “Soft” pressure setting to steam at 103°C to 113°C for 45 minutes.
- When Audiotherm beeps, turn off both Navigenio & Audiotherm. As pot depressurised, remove lid.
- Keep the steamed Nin Gou for 1 to 2 weeks or until firm. Decorate it with some red papers and place at the living hall as an auspicious decorative until you wish to consume them.
D. Pan-fying the firmed Nin Gou
- Remove steamed and firmed Nin Gou done in C above from the ramekin bowl. Remove the banana leaves wrapped around the block of Nin Gou. Cut them into 8mm thin slices. Beat an egg in an AMC 20cm Combi Bowl unit. Chuck in all Nin Gou slices into the bowl and coat well.
- Preheat an AMC 24cm 3.0 litre Hot Pan unit with Navigenio heat level “3” to 50°C or “Meat Window”. Use Audiotherm as an indicator by turning it on, place on lid knob/Visiotherm, indicating 50°C or “Meat Window”.
- When Audiotherm beeps, it indicates readiness for pan-frying. Turn off Audiotherm, turn Navigenio heat level to “2” and remove lid. Add oil followed by egg coated Nin Gou slices into Pan unit.
- Cover Pan unit with lid. Activate Audiotherm, place on lid knob/Visiotherm, at 50°C or “Meat Window” for 90°C or “Turning Point” indication.
- When Audiotherm beeps the second time at 90°C indicating “Turning Point”, remove lid and turn the Nin Gou slices to pan fry the other side.
- Cover pan with lid. Activate Audiotherm at 50°C or “Meat Window”. When Audiotherm beeps for the second time at 90°C, remove lid and turn off Audiotherm. Serve warm with a good pot of Chinese Tea.
- You may prepare section break down the method sections into 3 parts. I prepared section A up to section B.2 on one day and section B.3 onwards up to C on the following day. Section D was prepared only at a time when you would like to consume the Nin Gou.
- DO NOT pressure cook the Nin Gou in ramekin bowls with the AMC Secuquick Softline Lid on “Turbo” pressure setting as the temperature of 108°C to 118°C is too high to steam cook this delicate flour mixture and the end product may not come out smooth and glossy. Use the “Soft” pressure setting, which will cook at the temperature range of 103°C to 113°C.
- If not consumed after 3 days and mould has started to grow, store in the refrigerator for as long as you are comfortable with. It is really a very individual practise whether one can accept consuming slightly mouldy Nin Gou after the mouldy part is removed.